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Image credit: Jonathan Leggette

Not invisible: Debunking 10 Intersex myths

April 3, 2018

As a Black, queer, non-binary, intersex person, I feel as though my intersex identity is often forgotten or misunderstood in many of the LGBTQIA spaces that I navigate. These spaces are where I, as a queer person, should be able to thrive and be my full self. If I ignore or minimize parts of my identity, including the fact that I'm intersex, then I am not being my authentic self - and no one should ever have to hide any part of their identity.

It’s essential to recognize that intersectional identities are important to who we are as people. We can’t leave behind a single piece of us. In order to make sure that more people have a better understanding of what intersex means, we have to start on the same page and sometimes that means unlearning the misconceptions we’ve been taught.

Intersex identities are often misunderstood and underrepresented, so in case you are not sure what intersex means, InterACT Advocates for Intersex Youth defines intersex as an umbrella term that refers to people who have one or more of a range of variations in sex characteristics that fall outside of traditional conceptions of male or female bodies.

I'm debunking 10 myths to make sure all intersex LGBTQ people feel seen and supported by our community:

1. Not all intersex people identify as a part of the LGBTQIA community. However, those of us who are LGBTQIA need our community to better understand our needs and accept us. But don't assume every intersex person identifies as LGBTQ.

2. Intersex people and transgender people are not the same thing. Some intersex people can also be transgender, but not all intersex people are trans. Intersex and trans people may have some similar experiences but there are important differences.

3. There is more to being an intersex person than just genitalia. Intersex traits can involve genitalia, chromosomes, hormones, and other secondary sex characteristics. 

4. Intersex people are as common as natural born redheads in the world. Intersex people make up approximately 1.7% of the world’s population.

5. There is no way for you to tell if someone is intersex by just looking at them. Don't try to figure someone out!

6. Contrary to mainstream depictions of intersex individuals, not all intersex people are white and femme. Intersex people exist all around the world, from all different races and walks of life.

7. There is no such thing as THE single intersex experience. There are 35+ intersex variations which means there is no monolithic intersex identity and even though we experience many of the same challenges as a community, not every intersex person has the exact same experience.

8. Intersex people do not all have the same bodies. NOTE: When we celebrate body positivity, we often times forget to talk about the diversity of bodies, especially intersex bodies, so let’s do that next time!

9. Do not refer to intersex people as "hermaphrodites." This label is an out-of-date term used to pathologize our bodies and only adds to the confusion about the reality of being an intersex person.

10. You don’t personally need to know an intersex person to be a good ally in our fight against erasure and intersex genital mutilation (IGM). You can be an ally by reading articles like this and making sure spaces that you are present in have resources for intersex people.

The I in LGBTQIA should not stand for invisible. I believe as an LGBTQ community we need to make sure that we are constantly making an effort to learn about diverse experiences in our own communities, especially ones that are not talked about or given a platform. The human rights of intersex infants and children around the world are being violated every day. In order to make sure that this does not continue, we need to come together to learn more about each other and uplift each other through outreach, education, and community building.

 The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members. – Coretta Scott King

To take action in your community, please continue to check out our student-activist-led campaign, revamp, as GLAAD’s Campus Ambassadors share insights on how to make your campus activism more inclusive and effective.

Jonathan Leggette is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and a junior at The Evergreen State College. Jonathan works as a New Student Mentor and a Peer Advisor at the Trans and Queer Center at Evergreen State. Off-campus, Jonathan serves as an interAct youth advocate and speaker, bringing intersex awareness education to schools across the country.

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