On April 12th, Workplace Pride member Reed Elsevier hosted a Connecting Members Event on Intersex individuals. Presenter, Miriam van der Have, cofounder and director of the Nederlands Netwerk Intersekse/DSD (NNID), began by explaining that Intersex isn’t always understood by people; in fact, many people believe it relates only to having various genital structures. While this is sometimes true, the spectrum that is intersex reaches far beyond this basic understanding.
Intersex people have varying structures in relation to chromosomal pairs, hormonal variations, and physical differences. The important thing to remember however is that intersex is not a sexual orientation, its not a gender identity, and its not the same thing as being transgender, which seem to be common mistakes.
Intersex is a social sciences term that focuses on a lived experience and aims to change society through acknowledging diversity and seeking inclusion; most importantly, the term intersex and the initiatives around it are led by intersex people.
In contrast, DSD, or Disorders of Sex Development, is a medical term that seeks to define “normal”, and therefore “not normal”, aiming to change patients by focusing on a binary dichotomy of gender, and attempting to “fix” intersex people. This is led by health workers, and often leads to increased discrimination and a denial of gender diversity. While the conception of intersex can be explained as “the experience of people who are born with a body that does not meet the normative definition of male and female”, DSD is a highly medicalised terms that relates to disorders.
There is a huge stigma when it comes to being intersex, be it due to the medicalisation and abnormalization from the medical field, or from the misunderstanding and ignorance of the general population. This results in:
In the workplace the topic is discussed even less, but it clearly has an important impact on all aspects of the lives of intersex people. Just as with the rest of the LGBT community, and everyone for that matter, not being able to be yourself at work has profound consequences; most of them not good!
Right now intersex people are largely ignored, lack funding to promote educational and other aims, and lack rights in most countries around the world. The notable exception is Malta, being the first country to outlaw nonconsensual medical intervention. Intersex people are therefore often left behind when it comes to “hot topics” of gender and sexuality. Thanks to Miriam, many participants got to ask questions and enjoy hearing personal stories to increase their understanding of what intersex means.
Thanks also to Reed Elsevier for hosting this very informative and useful Connecting Members event.
For more information about the intersex movement, go to: http://nnid.nl or https://oiieurope.org