October 26/13 is the 17th Intersex Awareness Day

by Howie Fiedhior and Gina (of OII Australia) edited for 2013
also see:

Intersex people are people who have physical differences of sex anatomy other than brain sex alone. Their anatomical differences might include genetic, hormonal or genital differences or differences in our reproductive parts.

Happy Intersex Awareness Day to the small number of persons here in Jamaica, however here is a post I hope both intersex and non intersex persons will find informative as we do not forget to include the “I” in LGBTI agitation wordwide.

The first Intersex Awareness Day (IAD) came about when the American intersex group named Hermaphrodites with Attitude (HWA) teamed up with American Trans group Trans Menace to picket an American Association of Paediatrics (AAP) conference in Boston on 26th October 1996.

Those picketing this event were outraged that the doctors attending the conference were recommending and conducting infant genital surgery on intersex kids in order to make them more “normal”. Some of those protesting had been subjected to those kinds of surgery when they were infants.

The central message of Intersex Awareness Day (IAD) is the de-medicalisation of natural variations in a person’s sex anatomy. Intersex is not a disease, a disorder, a medical “condition”. The use of stigmatising language such as this has led to poor mental health, marginalisation even invisibilisation, and exclusion from social institutions for Intersex people.

On this day we hope to make as many people as possible aware of what intersex is and that intersex people everywhere lack those most fundamental human rights, the right to autonomy over our own bodies, the right to a life without discrimination, the right to a life without shame and secrecy.

In short it is a call for our right to an equal place in society.
Intersex is difference in the same way that eye colour or right- or left-handedness are differences or human biological variations. As with handedness or sexual orientation, societies have, in the past, looked upon human variations through the lens of prejudice and then sought ways to “cure” or eliminate that variation.

At a fundamental level homophobic bigotry, intolerance and ancient superstitions underpin contemporary mistreatment of intersex people.

Intersex people are subjected to forced gendering and surgical alterations to our bodies to “disappear” our differences in a society that regards difference in sex anatomy as deeply suspicious.

More on What is intersex?

Intersex refers to a series of medical conditions in which a child’s genetic sex (chromosomes) and phenotypic sex (genital appearance) do not match, or are somehow different from the “standard” male or female. About one in 2,000 babies are born visibly intersexed, while some others are detected later. The current medical protocol calls for the surgical “reconstruction” of these different but healthy bodies to make them “normal,” but this practice has become increasingly controversial as adults who went through the treatment report being physically, emotionally, and sexually harmed by such procedures.

Beside stopping cosmetic genital surgeries, what are intersex activists working toward?

Surgery is just part of a larger pattern of how intersex children are treated; it is also important to stop shame, secrecy and isolation that are socially and medically imposed on children born with intersex conditions under the theory that the child is better off it they didn’t hear anything about it. Therefore, it’s not enough to simply stop the surgery; we need to replace it with social and psychological support as well as open and honest communication.

What’s so significant about October 26?

On October 26, 1996, intersex activists from Intersex Society of North America (carrying the sign “Hermaphrodites With Attitude”) and our allies from Transexual Menace held the first public intersex demonstration in Boston, where American Academy of Pediatrics was holding its annual conference. The action generated a lot of press coverage, and made it difficult for the medical community to continue to neglect our growing movement. That said, events related to Intersex Awareness Day can take place throughout October and does not necessarily have to be on the 26th.

Important to Remember:
INTERSEX is not a part of transgender because intersex is not about gender. Intersex is about anatomical differences in sex.
Below are some of the differences in the experience of trans and intersex individuals
Trans:
Self-identified gender does not match apparent sex at birth.
Some human rights protection. In NSW this is limited to “recognised transgender” or people thought to be “transgendered” – 36B Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 in Australia.
Can change cardinal documents, but usually requires irreversible surgeries usually involving sterilization and applicants must not be married.
The right to marry someone of the opposite legal gender.
A full and functional reproductive system.
Physical differences limited to brain anatomy.
Transsexual people have an effective medical protocol that produces a 98% effective outcome with long-term studies and follow-ups.
The right to choose the time of surgery with extensive peer support.
The ability to participate fully and in an informed manner in their surgical and hormonal options.
Transsexual people generally have a strongly defined sense of gender – man or woman.
Can compete in sport up to and including Olympic level through established protocols.
Many effective and extensive organizations worldwide, with some NGOs attracting government funding (e.g. NSW Gender
Centre).
also see:
Advertisements

Coming Out Day – tips and suggestions

Today is otherwise known as US National Coming out day but as per usual when they sneeze we catch a cold and so follow the lead as the template is set, it may be difficult to come out fully in Jamaica especially those on the lower socio economic strata who are far more exposed to the earthy homo-negative responses as the national psyche still has not fully come accustomed the ever expanding sexuality spectrum. The University of Illinois provided this wonderful list of how to come out which I found most applicable to our local scenario.

Also see our diva Diana King’s coming out story on sister blog GLBTQJA: HERE

Coming out Transgender: HERE

and Making a Coming Out Plan: HERE

Coming Out

For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people, coming out is a process of understanding, accepting, and valuing one’s sexual orientation/identity. Coming out includes both exploring one’s identity and sharing that identity with others. It also involves coping with societal responses and attitudes toward LGBT people. LGBT individuals are forced to come to terms with what it means to be different in a society that tends to assume everyone to be heterosexual and that tends to judge differences from the norm in negative ways. The coming out process is very personal. This process happens in different ways and occurs at different ages for different people. Some people are aware of their sexual identity at an early age; others arrive at this awareness only after many years. Coming out is a continuing, sometimes lifelong, process.While some anxiety related to sexuality is common among college students, the problems facing LGBT people are often more difficult than those facing others. Because positive role models are often difficult to identify, LGBT people may feel alone and unsure of their own sexual identities. Fear of rejection is greater among LGBT people due to the prejudices in society against them.

Coming Out to Oneself

Recognizing your own sexual identity and working toward self-acceptance are the first steps in coming out. First, concerning sexual identity, it helps to think of a sexual orientation continuum that ranges from exclusive same sex attraction to exclusive opposite sex attraction. Exploring your sexual identity may include determining where you presently fit along that continuum.

Concerning self-acceptance, it can be very helpful to focus on the positive aspects of LGBT culture, for example, its music, art, theater, books, events, and groups. It is also very helpful to seek out positive, well adjusted and comfortable role models among LGBT people. Building on the positive does not mean that you pretend that our society is past its discrimination, fears, and negative myths concerning LGBT people, or that these things do not have any effects on LGBT people. However, these negative things are better understood as externally based rather than inherent to your identity or your orientation. Part of developing a positive sense of self is understanding that your own homophobia is also externally based, the product of societal prejudices and anti-LGBT biases that have impinged upon you for much of your life.

There are many things to think about when considering coming out. Some of the positive outcomes may be increased self-esteem, greater honesty in one’s life, and a sense of greater personal integrity. In addition, there is often a sense of relief and a reduction of tension when one stops trying to deny or hide such an important part of his/her life. Coming out can lead to greater freedom of self-expression, positive sense of self and more healthy and honest relationships.

One safe means of beginning to come out to yourself is through reading about how others have dealt with similar issues. There are many books and periodicals available on all facets of LGBT life, from clinical studies on LGBT people to collections of A coming out stories.

Coming Out to Other Lesbians and Gay Men

Often, after spending some time getting in touch with one’s own feelings, the next step is to come out to others. It is usually advisable to come out first to those who are most likely to be supportive. LGBT people are a potential natural support system because they have all experienced at least some of the steps in the process of coming out. Sharing experiences about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can help you decrease feelings of isolation and shame. Furthermore, coming out to other LGBT people can help you build a community of people who can then support and assist you in coming out to others in your life. Many LGBT communities offer a number of helpful resources, including local coming out groups, switchboards, social outlets, and political and cultural activities and organizations.

Coming out to other LGBT people does not need to happen quickly. Also, choosing to do so does not mean that you must conform to real or presumed expectations of the LGBT community. What is most important is that you seek your own path through the comingout process and that you attend to your unique, personal timetable. You should not allow yourself to be pressured into anything you are not ready for or don’t want to do. It is important to proceed at your own pace, being honest with yourself and taking time to discover who you really are.

Coming Out to Heterosexuals

Perhaps your most difficult step in coming out will be to reveal yourself to heterosexuals. It is at this step that you may feel most likely to encounter negative consequences. Thus it is particularly important to go into this part of the coming out process with open eyes. For example, it will help to understand that some heterosexuals will be shocked or confused initially, and that they may need some time to get used to the idea that you are LGBT. Also, it is possible that some heterosexual family members or friends may reject you initially. However, do not consider them as hopeless; many people come around in their own time.

Loss of employment or housing are also possibilities that some LGBT people face. In some places it is still legal to discriminate against LGBT individuals for housing, employment and other issues. You should take this into consideration when deciding to whom and where you “come out” .

Coming out to others is likely to be a more positive experience when you are more secure with your sexuality and less reliant on others for your positive self-concept. The necessary clarification of feelings is a process that usually takes place over time. It may be a good idea to work through that process before you take the actual steps. Usually it is not a good idea to come out on the spur of the moment. Make coming out an action, not a reaction.

In coming out to others, consider the following:

  • Think about what you want to say and choose the time and place carefully.
  • Be aware of what the other person is going through. The best time for you might not be the best time for someone else.
  • Present yourself honestly and remind the other person that you are the same individual you were yesterday.
  • Be prepared for an initially negative reaction from some people. Do not forget that it took time for you to come to terms with your sexuality, and that it is important to give others the time they need.
  • Have friends lined up to talk with you later about what happened.
  • Don’t give up hope if you don’t initially get the reaction you wanted. Due to inculcated societal prejudices mentioned earlier, some people need more time than others to come to terms with what they have heard.

Above all, be careful no to let your self-esteem depend entirely on the approval of others. If a person rejects you and refuses to try to work on acceptance, that’s not your fault. Keep in mind that this initial refusal may get reversed once the individual gets used to the idea that you are LGBT. If time does not seem to change the individual’s attitude toward you, then you may want to re-evaluate your relationship and its importance to you. Remember that you have the right to be who you are, you have the right to be out and open about all important aspects of your identity including your sexual orientation, and in no case is another person’s rejection evidence of your lack of worth or value.

Summary

The decision to come out is always personal. Whether to come out and, if so, when, where, how, and to whom are all questions you must answer for yourself. Taking control of this process includes being aware in advance of potential ramifications so that you can act positively rather than defensively. Coming out may be one of the most difficult tasks you confront in your life, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. Coming out is one way of affirming your dignity and the dignity of other LGBT people. Remember that you are not alone; there is a viable LGBT community waiting to be explored, and more heterosexual “allies” are willing to offer their support than you might have first imagined.

Need Additional Help?

Some suggested readings to help you throughout this process are:

  1. Now That You Know. Betty Fairchild & Robert Leighton. New York, NY. Harcourt Brace and Jovanovich, 1989.
  2. Beyond Acceptance. Carolyn Welch Griffin, Marina J. Wirth & Arthur G. Wirth. New York, NY. St. Martin’s Press, 1997.
  3. Straight Parents/Gay Children. Robert A. Bernstein. New York, NY. Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1995.