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GLAAD

Why we need to keep the "I" a part of the LGBTQIA conversation in politics

October 26, 2019

October is a special month for the LGBTQIA community. Within this month alone, our community celebrates National Coming Out Day, National Bullying Prevention Month, Spirit Day, Asexual Awareness Week, Intersex Awareness Day, and LGBT History Month. But even in a month that is dedicated to the diversity of our community, many of us still get left out of the biggest moments of visibility and celebration.

Earlier this month, I attended the 'LGBTQ Town Hall' hosted by CNN and Human Rights Campaign (HRC) at The Novo in Los Angeles, California. Unfortunately, many of the communities I wanted to hear from, like Black transgender people, those from indigenous communities, and intersex people, were not chosen to appear on stage or ask questions from the audience. As a Black trans intersex femme, I felt like the Town Hall didn’t represent me as it didn’t include my communities thouroughly in the conversation. In fact, there was only one single mention of the “I” in the LGBTQIA acronym, which stands for intersex. Don Lemon, an anchor for CNN, spelled out LGBTQIA+ to refer to our community but the rest of the program participants went on to continue saying 'LGBTQ' the remainder of the broadcast. 

This may seem like semantics, but when it comes to representing our community, the words and letters we use to abbreviate them matter. The "I" (intersex) and "A" (asexual) often get left off of the acronym and left out of the conversation. Many - if not most - asexual people and intersex people identify within the LGBTQ community and have been marginalized because of it. As LGBTQIA issues become a part of the national human rights conversation in the 2020 election, we cannot continue to allow some of our most vulnerable communities to be invisible or unintentionally left out of these spaces.

That type of invisibility, whether intentional or unintentional, is called erasure. Erasure is a form of symbolic violence towards these communities, as it indicates negligence over solidarity and action. When we know that trans and intersex bodies are inappropriately regulated and harmed by medical institutions and governments around the world, it is especially important we discuss the issues that effect these communities. For many intersex people, this election is a very big deal as we are fighting to not only be recognized by and protected within the LGBTQIA+ community, but also fighting for our human rights to be recognized worldwide. Everyday there are intersex babies born that are subjected to irreversible and non-consensual surgeries that usually aim to “normalize” their genitalia or remove pieces of the reproductive system because many intersex bodies do not meet cis-heteronormative standards that the medical system has put in place. This leads to many intersex people being reliant on medication such as variationsof hormone replacement therapy.

These surgeries have been deemed human rights violations by the United Nations. Despite that, to this day, there are only a few places in the world that recognize the immense level of harm these surgeries have on intersex people and their families, especially in countries like Malta, Portugal, and in Tamal Nadu, a state in India. This denial of human rights is why it is so important to include our most vulnerable communities in the conversation and formation of public policy. Through being a part of the conversation, online or on world stages, we can uplift trans and intersex folx, especially the people of color within these communities. 

If you want to do your part in uplifting the intersex community, there is no better time than right now! Saturday, October 26 represents a very important day for the intersex movement: Intersex Awareness Day (IAD). This is a day where we lead protests in the fight to #EndIntersexSurgery as well as uplift the stories and history that our community has experienced around the world.

On IAD, it is very important that we uplift the voices of the intersex community, but we can do this everyday. Here are some ways you can join the fight to end Intersex Surgery!:

  • Follow organizations such as the Intersex Justice Project and InterACT on social media and help amplify the work and organizing that is happening 
  • Follow intersex activists such as Pidgeon Pagonis, Sean Saifa Wall, Anick and follow more of my work here.
  • Check out the #4Intersex webpage to learn more about the issues facing the intersex community and how to take action.
  • Write to your legislators and tell them to stop these surgeries in your community/state. 
  • Host a showing of films/documentaries like 'Intersexion,' 'Arianna.'
  • Bring an intersex advocate, like me or the advocates above, to your campus or organization.

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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