Intersex people are born with certain sex characteristics, including genitals, chromosome patterns, and gonads, that don’t conform to the typical definitions given for male or female bodies.
Intersex persons are much more likely to have a nontraditional sexual orientation, such as gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual, than those who are not classified as intersex people. Over 50% of intersex individuals identify as non-heterosexual, many experience gender dysphoria, and some identify as cisgender or heterosexual.
Intersex people are often considered LGBTI people due to the harmful mutual experiences they share with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people, and other members of this community. Gender norms and societal sex domination can be highly damaging to the mental health and wellbeing of intersex people.
Despite the inclusion of intersex individuals under the broader LGBT umbrella term, many intersex activists reject and criticize this incorporation and consider it a distraction from intersex issues.
What Does It Mean To Be Born Intersex?
Intersex is best described as an umbrella term rather than a single gender classification. Intersex people are born with a physical, biological sex, genetics, or hormones that aren’t exclusively male or female but rather a combination of the two, or neither male nor female. Intersex is not a sexual orientation nor necessarily a gender identity. Instead, it is used to describe people born with hormonal, genetic, or physical features that do not conform to the traditional gender binary.
Some of the more common variations of intersex can be detected prenatally via genetic screening. Thus, an individual is born intersex and truly has no control over this identity, just like other LGBTI persons.
Sometimes intersex traits become notable during the onset of puberty or when intersex people attempt to conceive.
The Main Human Rights Issues For Intersex People
Intersex issues regarding human rights are significantly complicated and particular, and medical and technical knowledge is required to comprehend them fully. It is all-around evident that intersex people face vast human rights violations. This injustice does not exclude intersex children, as they are often forced into medically unnecessary surgeries to correct a condition their parents consider not to fit typical binary notions.
Intersex babies’ human rights are frequently defied from the moment they are born. Medical professionals often dictate that “corrective” surgery needs to be performed, so the babies’ sex assigned on their birth certificates and their sex characteristics conform to either male or female. These treatments and surgeries often result in irreversible sterilization and transition to a different sex from what the adult may identify as later in life.
Intersex people further experience discrimination in struggling to obtain legal recognition of the sex stated on their birth certificates. The European Commissioner of Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, said that intersex people are entitled to have full legal recognition from the moment of their birth and that amendments to their gender classification or sex should aid in reflecting what the intersex individuals identify as in their adult lives.
The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner claimed that intersex individuals face the following human rights violations in their daily lives:
- Many intersex people are disowned and mistreated by their own families.
- Discrimination toward intersex people based on sexual orientation/gender identity in health care, employment, and education.
Intersex people are frequently targets for physical attacks, including violence, torture, sexual assault, and murder.
The Correlation Between Intersex And The LGBT Community
The relationship between intersex and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities is complicated. Intersex people are often included LGBT individuals to form the LGBTI community.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that although intersex people form a distinct and unique population, they share similar human rights abuses with LGBT people. Additionally, they express that intersex people are subjected to human rights violations even when they are still merely intersex children who cannot accurately identify their own gender identity, sexual orientation, or even just if they identify as the same sex they were told they have.
Intersex person Julius Kaggwa of the SIPD Uganda states that although the gay community provides intersex people with a safe place, they remain oblivious to the specific needs of intersex persons. Moreover, Mauro Cabral wrote that transgender people wrongly associate and treat intersex issues as though they were the same as trans issues, including using the term intersex to explain what it means to be transgender. There needs to be a collaboration with the intersex movement to clarify that this approach is completely unjustified.
The incorporation of the I to LGBTQA has benefits and disadvantages. This representation may lead to increased funding for the intersex movement, while it may be detrimental to intersex children due to the common stigma associated with the LGBTQA community.
Others may be of the opinion that some intersex persons are attracted to the same sex, while others are heterosexual, but LGBTI activism has been fighting for the equality and human rights of all people who fall outside the expected gender norms and binary sex classifications.
The Russian intersex organization issues a statement urging that the abbreviation LGBTI not be used in countries where widespread violence and prejudice is prevalent toward individuals based on their gender identity and sexual orientation.
Many organizations such as ILGA-Europe are actively addressing human rights violations that intersex people face, as many LGBTI and intersex activists fight for the rights of people who don’t conform to gender norms and binary sex. Although some intersex people are queer or LGBT, some do not feel like they belong to the LGBT community despite sharing many similar life experiences with LGBT people.
There is a widespread awakening of intersex activists and groups, including national human rights institutions working toward equality and specifically dedicated to intersex issues. LGBTI people are united by common struggles and the desire to eliminate inequality based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and indifference between identity and sex assigned at birth.
Whether your sexual orientation/gender identity is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, female, male, or non of these, you have most likely experienced one or another form of discrimination or harassment, leaving you with scars and resentment. Gender identity and sex characteristics should never be a motivator of unjust behavior. LGBTI people have a communal fight to rectify wrongly directed attitudes of civil society. The longstanding activism that aims to instate equality for LGBTI people in medical services, employment, and legal recognition aligns with the validity of the fight for intersex rights.
Discrimination And Risks Faced By Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex People
Lesbian women have a higher risk of being victims of gender-based violence, rape, and honor crimes, commonly executed by close acquaintances, family members, and friends. Depending on their cultural heritage and location, these women often find themselves unable to seek help and justice from authority figures. An astonishing number of women are still forced into heterosexual marriages and compelled to have children with a person to which they feel no attraction regarding sexuality or emotions.
Gay men frequently live more public lives than most queer or lesbian people, exposing them to a wide range of potential threats. In many countries, same-sex conduct is still entirely unacceptable, and individuals participating in related activities are prosecuted without mercy. Homosexual men in these countries are understandably reluctant to report any violence or sexual abuse they may have been subjected to because it will lead to bigger issues concerning the reason for them being targeted. As a result, social injustice and physical harm toward gay men are frequently tolerated and endured because of fear of transparency.
Bisexual people face the persisting issue of bi-erasure, and they largely remain invisible. It is common for these people to be perceived as gay or lesbian by civil society, which is, in fact, not the correct term to describe their sexual orientation. Both heterosexual and non-heterosexual people stigmatize the bisexual community because their sexuality is generally viewed as a choice. This is because many people wrongly believe that one cannot be equally attracted to men and women.
Trans individuals are frequently subjected to violence and verbal abuse. State authorities continuously practice discrimination toward such people and deny them basic human rights. Apart from general neglect and hatred from the community and family, trans people are frequently excluded from housing, education, and employment, often causing them to engage in sex work in order to survive. They often lack the medical help and coverage that most people gain without hassle.
Intersex individuals face persecution because their sex characteristics, or other factors relating to genetic sex, do not conform to the generally accepted gender expectations. Some societies view intersex people as having physical disabilities when they possess atypical sexual anatomy. It may seem unlikely, but ritualistic abuse directed at intersex people is more prevalent than one might expect. This occurs in cultures where physical diversity is considered evil. This group is frequently exposed to forced surgeries, which include sterilization, without any consent. These surgeries are intended to “correct” their “birth defect.”
Evidently, recognition of the discrimination and challenges faced by LGBTI people is incredibly urgent. LGBTI people do not have to fight this fight alone. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to ensure the eradication of discrimination.
A Note On Terminology
The acronym “LGBTI” stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people. This and other terms are often used to describe a person with diverse gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, or sex characteristics.
Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of variations in body anatomy, including sex characteristics, that do not conform to either a male or a female body exclusively. Intersex sex people do not necessarily have sexual orientations or gender identities that align with that of the LGBT community. Instead, it is their body chemistry and anatomy that set them apart.