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Image credit: Jonathan Leggette

How you can honor Intersex Awareness Day and fight back against the Trump Administration

October 26, 2018

To all intersex allies: we need your help now more than ever.

Intersex Awareness Day (IAD) is October 26, a day on which intersex people and allies from around the world come together to celebrate and uplift the intersex community. IAD has its roots in radical action against institutional forces that sought to normalize our bodies by forcing us into narrowly defined categories of “male” or “female.” To celebrate being intersex is a triumph over these institutional pressures. This year, it comes just a week after the news broke that the Trump administration aims to enact a federal definition of sex, basing it on sex assigned at birth.

Much of the press around this memo describes it as an act of violence against the transgender community: an attempt to write trans people out of existence by erasing the complexity of sex and gender. However, many of these criticisms have failed to include the fact that the effects of this memo are themselves are even further reaching. Defining sex so narrowly doesn’t just erase trans people—it erases nonbinary, gender non-conforming, and especially intersex people, who are often left out of the conversation around LGBTQ rights. As intersex people, our lives exist outside of binary gender.

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. What the memo’s initiative asks—that we identify as male or female according to our birth genitalia—is literally impossible.

We cannot allow this hateful initiative to move forward. This is the moment that our communities need to come together, but to do that we must acknowledge all of the communities that are affected by this memo. As an intersex nonbinary trans person, I feel outraged, scared, empowered, strong, and a calling to show up and show out not only for myself but my ancestors, my communities, and the future youth.

Intersex and trans history has been intertwined for centuries. Even though these identities are distinct, there are some experiences that do overlap. Both of our communities are deeply affected by binary and heteronormative values that seek to regulate our bodies and conform them to performative mainstream expectations. Where trans folks are systematically barred from accessing affirming healthcare, intersex people are frequently subjected to gendered procedures often kept from our trans siblings. We cannot keep teaching our youth fundamentally wrong things based in biological essentialism.

Intersex people exist, illustrating that the sex dichotomy that our society tries so hard to keep alive is wrong. I am a living embodiment that this idea is factually untrue: I am intersex, I was born with ambiguous genitalia, and my body does not fit into the two sex categories. So where does this leave me and so many people like me?

Right now, Malta is still the only country that has legislation banning intersex surgery on infants and children before the age they can consent to surgeries if they choose to pursue them. Intersex individuals in the USA and many other countries around the world are still fighting for their right to bodily autonomy. Without solidarity and action from our allies in the LGBTQ community and in medical institutions, especially doctors and surgeons, intersex lives and bodies will continue to be erased.

Legislation that seeks to codify a rigid definition of sex can and will harm countless numbers of people. Will this now lead to the further medicalization and pathologizing of my body and future generation’s intersex kids? Does this lead to pushing forward the eugenics movement to eradicate future intersex babies by in-utero genetic testing? We cannot allow this to happen. Discriminatory actions like the ones undertaken by the Trump administration places intersex people at risk in ways that are immediately tangible.

I urge you, if you are in New York City, to come out to protest against nonconsensual intersex surgeries and in support of intersex human rights on Saturday, October 27th at the corner of York Ave and E 61st St. from 2pm-4pm. Follow intersex advocacy groups on social media, and if you can, please donate to intersex-led organizations like Intersex Justice Project and InterACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth. You can also find more information at 4intersex.org to learn about some of the actions you can take to show up for intersex human rights.

Additional reading:

Jonathan Leggette is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and senior 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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