Today is Intersex Awareness Day. Protect every body!
Today it is Intersex Awareness Day. Today we acknowledge the shame and secrecy so many intersex people have to live with on a daily basis. Today we condemn the unnecessary genital surgery that is forced upon intersex children, with all its consequences. Today we celebrate the beautiful diversity of intersex people!
As a trans person I am very much aware of the dichotomy in our understanding of sex and gender. Although I notice a (slow) shift, the vast majority of our western society still thinks in two sexes and two corresponding genders. This idea is a myth.
A myth that only exists in our Christian, western culture. All other civilisations I have heard of or I have read about acknowledge at least three genders: men, women and others. For example Islam recognises seven genders and the Talmud mentions eight genders. (Please find more information about other genders in show note number 6 of our Episode 11: We always have Loki.) Apparently, Christianity is the odd exception with two genders only…
Islam recognises two forms of what we nowadays describe as intersex conditions: Mamsuhs (persons who lack either male or female genitals) and khunthas (persons who possess both male and female sex organs or genitals).
In the Talmud even four of eight genders are forms of intersex conditions: Androgynos (having both male and female characteristics), Tumtum (lacking sexual characteristics), Aylonit hamah (identified female at birth but later naturally developing male characteristics) and Saris hamah (identified male at birth but later naturally developing female characteristics).
Both Islam and Judaism show a deep understanding of the reality of human diversity!
Today it is Intersex Awareness Day. Intersex is an unfamiliar topic for most people, even within LGBTQI+ communities – despite the presence of the I. Intersex is connected with a lot of shame and secrecy. It also is connected with a lot of misinformation. Many people feel uncomfortable talking about it.
In 2013, I have seen an impressive movie at TranScreen, the Dutch Transgender Film Festival: ‘Orchids, my intersex adventure’ (2010). It is a roadmovie made by the Australian intersex film maker Phoebe Hart, about her life.
Phoebe was raised as a girl. As a child she had surgery, but was never told what it was for. She thought she had some sort of belly problems. Her family never talked about it. When she hit puberty and her body didn’t develop as expected, her mother told her to act as a ‘normal girl’. Years later, she was already in her early twenties, she discovered her sister Bonnie is intersex too. It was never spoken about at home.
This movie tells about her trip to visit other intersex people in Australia. She also visits Aboriginal intersex people, who welcomed her as one of their own. And she talks to intersex people who had had so many surgeries that their genitals are completely destroyed. She also talks to more fortunate intersex people who didn’t have any genital surgery, who are really happy with their ambiguous bodies and identities.
I will never forget this movie!
Today it is Intersex Awareness Day. What can we as heathens do? We could acknowledge the struggles so many intersex people face, every day again. We could explicitly welcome intersex heathens into our groups. And today in particular we could be good allies and celebrate the beautiful diversity of intersex people!
PS. Thanks to Intersex UK for borrowing their slogan.