Intersex Human Rights: The Fourteen Days of Intersex

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ON the Second Day of Intersex we draw your attention to intersex human rights the complete lack of rights for intersex people. For intersex to have any rights at all we are required to submit to the myth that we are wholly male or female. We must allow our differences to be surgically or hormonally removed so that an external pretence that we are “normal” can be achieved.

What is intersex?

Intersex people are people who, as individuals, have congenital genetic, hormonal and physical features that may be thought to be typical of both male and female at once. That is, we may be thought of as being male with female features, female with male features, or indeed we may have no clearly defined sexual features at all.

What rights do intersex people have?

Intersex people have no human rights if we insist that our intersex is real. In anti-discrimination law only males, females and, in most states of Australia, transgender people are protected against discrimination. Intersex Australians have no legal protection in any state, nor do we enjoy anti-discrimination protection at the federal level.

Australian society, in tune with all Western societies, believes that there are only two possibilities when it comes to people’s sex – male and female. To keep this notion alive, intersex – people who are born as neither male nor female – must be rendered invisible. This is done in a variety of ways including infant genital mutilation (IGM), enforced gendering and social opprobrium for those who will not or cannot conform to acceptable sex/gender stereotypes.

As a consequence of the invisibilizing of intersex we have no rights at law or protection in legislation unless we conform to social expectations and act as if our differences do not exist and that somehow we are, in essence, really male or female.

Where we do enjoy rights by accepting the pretense that our differences do not exist, those rights may be removed at the whim of a court or government department if it is decided we really do not qualify for a benefit or service because our sex is unknown or unprotected.

OII Australia is currently engaged with the Federal Government in the Anti-Discrimination Consolidation Act so that we will have some rights and protections at least in federal law.

Intersex people must be protected in both sex discrimination, where our anatomical differences are the issue, and in gender identity law where our sex role is the issue.

Gina Wilson
Chairperson, Organisation Intersex International Australia Limited (OII Australia)