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Genuine Inclusion of Intersex at Creating Change

past patterns resulted in inclusion as an afterthought

Forum: Letter to NGLTF Creating Change
Date: 03/25/2003

Hello Sue + Lisa,

This is Emi Koyama from Intersex Initaitive Portland (and former staffer for Intersex Society of North America). I understand that there was a recent exchange between ISNA's new director Monica Casper and Sue about the intersex content in this year's Creating Change conference, and I thought I'd throw in my input.

A little historical background:

Last July, I received an email from Lisa about the pre-conference institute for Creating Change 2002, "Gender Splendor." She was at the last stage of designing the institute at the time, and needed to know whether or not to include intersex in this institute, and if so, how. According to her, the first Gender Splendor took place at the Creating Change 2001, mostly addressed transgender issues, then tacked on intersex as an afterthought--"oh yeah, and also intersex people shouldn't have unwanted genital surgeries"--and she was eager to avoid that for the 2002 conference.

We eventually agreed that the focus of "Gender Splendor" was already pretty specific to transgender people, and that including intersex at that point would have to be an afterthought. We decided that it was better to make intersex issues more prominent in the rest of the conference rather than trying to squeeze it into this institute. I felt as if I was expected to give the permission for NGLTF not to include intersex, but I was satisfied hearing its commitment to addressing intersex issues elsewhere in the conference.

Then later I heard from people organizing "Gender Splendor" in the local committee that they decided to add intersex because they felt it was important to iclude it. I do not know how the institute ended up, but I'm guessing that it was pretty much similar to the 2001 institute: intersex inclusion as an afterthought, rather than a genuine collaboration between trans and intersex.

Which brings us to the year 2003: how can we make intersex inclusion in pre-conference institutes and conference--and, NGLTF itself--genuine? Sue suggested that intersex activists submit proposals to present, which we are planning to do, but there seems to be a need for more. What do you think, for example, about designing an institute around other issues that many intersex people relate to, rather than just "gender"? For example:

- Abuse Survivors' Empowerment. Many intersex people are sexually and emotionally traumatised by repeated exposure to invasive medicalization, regardless of the motives of those who perform medical treatments; here, we can make connections to other survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse, etc.

- Body Politics. Could involve people with disabilities, fat activists, trans people, pro-choice activists, and many others, along with intersex people.

- Queers and Medicalization. Again, people with disabilities, psychiatric survivors, people living with HIV/AIDS, and others.

These are just examples I came up with on top of my head, and there can be more. I believe that intersex people's needs can be better met with any of these "institutes" than with an institute whose focus is gender. Gender theories are useful in analysing the pervasive concealment of intersex bodies/people, but it's not useful in advocating for intersex people's civil rights, which is what I expect NGLTF to do.

Please let me know what you think... You can call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX (home, confidential) if you want to chat directly. Thanks,

Emi Koyama
Intersex Initiative Portland