Lately some LGBTI human rights activists have been stating their desire for a whole new acronym to replace LGBTI, an acronym based on attributes used in law reform. Two such acronyms are being mooted – SOGI and SOGIB.
What is SOGI?
SOGI stands for the often conjoined human rights law reform attributes “sexual orientation and gender identity”. These attributes became popular after they were endorsed by the Yogyakarta Principles. Neither attribute includes intersex although intersex people have a sexual orientation and a gender identity of some kind, just like everyone else. Indeed, intersex people have no protection under equality legislation, no human rights and no protection against discrimination anywhere, with the exception of South Africa.
The Yogyakarta Principles do not include intersex although the word intersex is used once in the preface. The so-called “intersex paragraph” in the Principles themselves might be taken to refer to non-consensual intersex genital mutilation but its existence has had no effect on ending this very common practice against intersex people.
OII Australia’s position is that non-consensual cosmetic surgeries on infants must cease.
What is SOGIB?
SOGIB stands for “sexual orientation, gender identity, body” and is apparently being mooted as a way of including intersex via the word “body”. The problem with this idea is that a body is an object and not an attribute. Bodies have attributes but they are not themselves attributes.
The principle behind attributes is that everyone can have them in one form or another. Thus everyone has a sexual orientation of some kind, even if that sexual orientation is to be asexual. Likewise everyone has a gender identity even if that gender identity is to be without a gender altogether.
Given that “body” is not an attribute the desire for it to be a third attribute cannot succeed. The same applies to a variation of SOGIB – SOGIBI – where the BI stands for bodily integrity but again there are problems with this idea. What is precisely meant by “bodily integrity” and how does it apply to a person whose body’s integrity has been already compromised by illness, disability, surgery, accident or voluntary modifications?
An intersex-inclusive attribute that works
The nation that has made the most advances towards equality for its intersex citizens so far is South Africa. Sally Gross of Intersex South Africa is the major force behind these law reforms. She took the approach of including intersex in South Africa’s sex discrimination law by defining intersex as an aspect of sex, where intersex people have sex characteristics in the same manner that non-intersex people have sex characteristics, but different ones.
Given that sex and sex characteristics are attributes of all people, are intersex inclusive and the fact that intersex people are homophobically oppressed due to our sex, it makes sense to add sex or sex characteristics to “sexual orientation and gender identity” as the attribute that secures intersex inclusion.
“Sex characteristics, sexual orientation and gender identity” may be too much of a mouthful, but “sex, sexual orientation and gender identity” is not too much to ask for.
One letter or a whole new acronym?
Experience tells us that taking the line of least resistance rather than overturning the whole cart and horse works best in some things. SOGIB, SOGIBI, SOGIBE and even SSOGIEB – which some activists are advocating to stand for “sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and body” – is a bit too much to expect of a public still digesting the meaning of LGBT and LGBTI.
Add I for intersex to LGBT and you have the comfortable addition of one letter to signify a large minority of the human population who have been ignored and excluded until now – the 1.9% to 4% of us who are intersex. Add sex to make “sex, sexual orientation and gender identity” and you have done the same thing by adding just three letters.