By Lotte Williams
While 2015 was a pretty great year for increased awareness and acceptance towards the transgender community, there is another ‘term’ that 2016 is definitely not so familiar with. So we caught up Susannah Temko, a 24-year-old political strategist, intersex advocate and total boss who lives in London to tell us all we need to know about the intersex community.
What does intersex mean?
Intersex is an umbrella term describing people born with variations of internal and/or external sex anatomy resulting in bodies that can’t be classified as the typical male or female. We’re usually taught that sex is merely black and white, ‘male’ or ‘female,’ but that’s not true. Intersex-bodied people make up approximately 1.7% of the world’s population (about as common as red hair or twins).
How do we know the gender of a child with an intersex condition?
Intersex individuals will identify as female, male, man, woman, or a multitude of other identities, just as non-intersex individuals do. Some examples include genderqueer, non-binary, agender, third gender, and it definitely doesn’t stop there. We really don’t know a child’s gender until they are old enough to tell us, so generally we say to assign the child a gender based on the best prediction and allow the child to work it out for themselves once they are old enough to do so. Essentially, pick a gender at your best guess, but realise that you might be wrong!
How do you identify yourself?
I identify as an intersex woman. On the side, I also identify as a peanut butter/red wine Fan, and Tina Fey admirer.
What are the human rights issues surrounding the intersex community?
The keys issues right now are the right to one’s body, to give informed consent, to have the same civil rights and equality as everyone else. In addition, intersex people face discrimination and prejudice, challenges in civil equality (like the right to marriage and ability to correct one’s birth certificate and identity documents later in life). But the international community is gradually rallying around intersex people and intersex activists work incredibly hard to make themselves heard.
What can I do to help raise awareness?
Be an intersex ally! First off, listen and and be an active friend. Much of the problem for intersex people is coping with shame and stigma, though be mindful that someone may want to maintain their privacy. Educate yourself: there are some great resources and inspiring intersex advocates out there. Be intersex inclusive: use the LGBTI and LGBTIA acronyms when you can. Increase the visibility of intersex: like and follow intersex organisations, like IntersexUK and XYSuZ; share articles, blogs, and videos about intersex people.