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This is one of three articles that will appear in the upcoming issue of Side By Side, the RC journal about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, queer, and Transgender liberation.

Intersex and LGBQT Liberation

Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of bodily variations. In some cases intersex traits are visible at birth. In others they are not apparent until puberty. Some chromosomal intersex variations may not be physically apparent at all. Some people may not become aware that they are intersex unless they receive genetic testing.

According to medical statistics, intersex occurs in about one in fifteen hundred to one in two thousand births. But a lot more people than that are born with more subtle variations, some of which show up later in life. According to some experts 1.7 percent of humans are intersex, which means that from five million to a hundred and twenty million intersex people are in the world. In many countries, mistreating an intersex person is a serious human rights violation.

Intersex people have a lot in common with LGBQT people. Like LGBQT people we struggle for the right to be who we are and have space among people, and against expectations to behave according to one’s assigned sex.

Intersex liberation is often mixed with Trans liberation. There are similarities—and differences. Intersex liberation is a lot about respecting biology; respecting one’s body as it is. It is also about questioning society’s roles for men and women, which are often thought to depend on one’s biology. Mutilating the genitals of intersex people and giving us hormonal treatments are often justified by the idea of the “normal” or even “natural” female or male body, which is thought to lead to “normal” women’s and men’s behavior.

Intersex brings up issues that are usually hidden in the society: rigid roles for women and men; the illusion that our bodies, and body parts, are similar; normality; and cosmetic surgery (including genital surgery with no medical need).

Most intersex people are assigned to be either a girl or a boy. This false sex identity is deliberately imposed on us—at the same time that our physical characteristics are being “treated” with surgery and artificial hormones. Intersex people experience harsh oppression later in our lives, but we need the most awareness and protection when we are infants.

Well-meaning efforts to include intersex in the LGBQT movement can fail to address the specific human rights issues of intersex people. Such efforts may create the impression that intersex rights are protected by the same laws that protect LGBQT people or that intersex people’s needs and struggles are addressed by campaigns promoting LGBQT rights. Well-meaning people may demand that intersex people assume an LGBQT identity, which many of us do not have.

Yet it can be important for intersex people to be included in the LGBQT community. Even if that community does not fully understand our struggles and is not addressing them in its work, it may be the safest place for us to be open about our lives and the oppression.

From the perspective of discharge and re-emergence, I think that it makes sense to include “I” (for intersex) in LGBQT. Intersex people need a community in which we can tell our stories, figure out our role in society, and discharge and talk about the body, sex, and growing up with a different story than most people’s. LGBQT RCers have often discharged on sex, bodies, and early sexual memories, which can make their community the safest one for us to discharge in.



Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00