It appears I may finally be on the right track when it comes to educating the LGBTI community about Intersexuality without making some people defensive or confused. After my last article, published several months ago, I received a lot of praise for being effective in educating on Intersex. I had to ask myself was it my method of educating that had improved or my determination to reach people of color? The answer is simple; I am determined to educate people of color on Intersex issues.
There are a lot of different organizations that have taken on the responsibility of educating John Q. Public on Intersexuality. But sometimes the methods used to educate white America aren't helpful to people of color. I refuse to assume that people of color have come to accept that a baby born Intersex should not be turned over to doctors to be 'fixed.' I know for a fact that if you ask 10 whites and 10 people of color what is Intersex most white people will give the correct answer, while most people of color are clueless. Could it be the term that is used, Intersex? Is the term Intersex intimidating, or does it sound a little too freaky for people of color?
Let me tell you, the term Intersex is a term that the Intersex community has come to accept rather than the term Hermaphrodite. When someone hears the term Hermaphrodite they automatically assume that the person has to be born with both sex organs, a penis and a vagina, which is rarely the case. While the term Intersex is more inclusive. Intersexuality is a set of medical conditions that features a congenital anomaly of the reproductive and sexual system. A person with an intersex condition is born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia, or an internal reproductive system that is not considered 'standard' for either male or female. To break it down further, that means that a person does not have to be born with both a vagina and penis to be Intersex (Hermaphrodite).
In the year 2004, Intersex Activists and organizations across the globe are coming together to form the first 'Intersex Awareness Day' (see the Web site www.intersex-awareness-day.org/modules/newbb/). While I think this is a fantastic idea, I also feel that if something isn't done to educate and encourage more people of color to come out I may be one of the few Intersex women of color from the Midwest to participate. Given the fact that 1/2000 babies born are born Intersex, and that there are at least 2-1/2 million people of color in Illinois, I know for a fact that I am not alone.
The 'Intersex Awareness Day' will hopefully turn out to be an annual event of grassroots action to end shame, secrecy and unwanted genital cosmetic surgeries on Intersex children! We are hoping to create a 'day of action' similar to Take Back the Night, National Coming Out Day, or International Women's Day in that it will focus on grassroots action organized by local activists. The event will be national—perhaps even international in scope—but will be marked, celebrated, witnessed, and honored in different ways by diverse groups at a local level. The question is, how much diversity will there be if there are very few people of color in attendance?
I will be working with other activists and allies in and around the Chicago area to help make 'Intersex Awareness Day' in Chicago a great success. See www.isna.org, or www.intersex-awareness-day.org/modules/newbb/. If you don't have a computer go to the public library where you can surf the internet for free! While you are there feel free to email me at email@example.com .