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Intersex "Inclusion" in Non-Discrimination Policy

it misses the point and trivializes real experiences

Forum: Letter to The Daily Illini
Date: 03/10/2003

Dear Editor,

It's interesting that after years of seeing "bisexual" and "trans" mentioned along with "gay and lesbian" without addressing any specific needs of bisexual and trans people, we are now seeing "intersex" (people born with atypical reproductive and sexual systems) being mentioned alongside "transgender/transsexual" in pretty much the same way.

According to the article, "members of the LGBT community" are demanding that "intersex status" added to the University's non-discrimination policy along with "gender identity," because intersex people, like transgender people, "might face more discrimination" than others in the LGBT community.

While LGBT activists' desire to advocate for intersex people is welcome, "including" intersex category in non-discrimination policies does little to protect the rights of intersex people.

This is because the intolerance of intersex people takes a very different form than that of transgender people: instead of being excluded from opportunities or assaulted on the street, intersex people are routinely surgically and hormonally "corrected" throughout childhood, often resulting in emotional, physical and sexual trauma, in the society's attempt to make them appear "normal," that is, non-intersex. Thus, addressing "discrimination" as a major issue facing intersex people would not only be inaccurate, but also trivialize specific experience of intersex people, which is about erasure rather than rejection.

In order to truly address the needs of intersex people, we must push for children's and patients' rights to self-determination and for social and psychological support, rather than creating non-discrimination policy. That is not to say that non-discrimination policy should not include intersex, but we need to recognize that the inclusion of "intersex" in non-discrimination policies is highly inadequate in securing intersex people's rights.

Emi Koyama
Intersex Initiative Portland