Intersex Awareness

So, I haven’t been able to figure out if today is being celebrated anywhere except for New York City, but in New York City today, October 28th, it is Intersex Awareness Day.

Intersex isn’t strictly an LGBTQ-related topic. In fact, some people who are intersex aren’t really comfortable with being lumped into that movement, because that might imply that it has something to do with sexuality, which it doesn’t. Or it might imply that intersex is an identity, which for some intersex people can be troublesome for a variety of reasons.

I chose to include it today because it is the last week of LGBTQ History Month and it is another sex- and gender-related minority that’s often erased and misunderstood, and the intersex community is also fighting for awareness and human rights.

So, what is intersex? People who are intersex have genetic, hormonal, or physical differences that may be thought to be typical of both male and female at once.

First of all, intersex does not mean that what’s in your pants (again, not the Nerdfighter forum) is any different from anyone else’s. There are dozens of different intersex conditions! A lot of them are primarily hormonal. They might not even cause differences that anyone else would ever notice.

Because there are so many variations of intersex, all intersex people identify in different ways. Some of them don’t even identify as intersex because they don’t feel that there’s anything different enough about them to need a second label, which is beyond valid, in my opinion.

As many as 4% of the population are predicted to be intersex, so it’s not rare at all.

Not all intersex conditions make themselves apparent at birth. I think there’s a big misconception that when an intersex baby is born, the doctors have no idea what to do and they assign it a gender that might end up being different from the baby’s true gender identity. And this certainly happens, but it’s not the most common scenario.

A word that might be running through your head as I’m describing what intersex is might be “hermaphrodite.” Take that word out of your head! “Hermaphrodite” is a completely out-of-date word. Don’t ever say it.

It’s based on the Greek god Hermaphroditus, who is the child of Hermes and Aphrodite, and essentially was turned into half-male, half-female by some Naiads. So just from that origin, this word causes enough problems in and of itself because it implies that intersex people are half-female and half-male, which is just not true.

But the word itself is also rife with social stigmas and scientific and social discriminations, so just don’t say it. The correct term is intersex.

So intersex people are just people. They might identify as intersex, they might also or exclusively identify as male, or female, or transgender, or genderqueer…

And most importantly, whether or not someone is intersex has nothing to do with you. So if you find out someone you know is intersex, respect their privacy. Would you ask your other friends about their medical history, or what’s between their legs? Hopefully not! So give intersex people the same courtesy.

I’m thinking maybe I’ll make this a recurring segment. Maybe once every other month we’ll have an HPGay video and we can talk about things like this.

I do want to say as a disclaimer to these and possible future videos that I am not an expert. What I say in these videos is just my personal experience and what I’ve learned so far.

So let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in making HPGay a recurring segment, and also let me know what you’re dressing up as for Halloween, if you celebrate Halloween, and what you’re gonna do! I’m going to be Legolas and I’m going to the Village Halloween Parade and I’m very excited about it. So I want to hear what you guys are doing!

Leave any questions in the comments, and I will see you next week.

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Lauren Bird is the Spokesperson and Digital Content Strategist for the nonprofit activist organization The Harry Potter Alliance. She regularly posts videos on their YouTube channel about the group’s various campaigns and humanitarian efforts. Lauren also posts videos about traveling and waffles on her own YouTube channel. Follow her on Twitter @laurenthebird.