Gina Wilson president of Organisation Intersex International Australia (OII) writes about why they are against having an ‘intersex’ option on birth certificates, as proposed by a Canberra law council this week.
As an organisation with extensive experience with our membership in countries where third sex options are available, we note that such options only serve to marginalize and further discriminate against those categorized as neither male nor female.
Given the current two-sex system is used to discriminate against around 50% of the world’s population we do not see how further categories will relieve discrimination against anyone.
The need for further sex categories has the feel of a middle class exercise in do-good engagement without any experience or understanding of the issues.
OII advocates the right of all people to opt-out of the sex categorisation racket and all of the bigotry and prejudice that accompanies it. By not specifying sex on documentation we retain our right to silence on the issue and the opportunity to disembark from this particular adventure.
If a category such as 'intersex' was allowed on what basis would one qualify? Would one need medical proof thus pathologizing the category and further legitimizing the current pathologies that support non-consensual surgeries on infants and treatments for adults that are not supported by evidence or longterm studies?
Who would be the gatekeeper of 'intersex'? Another International Olympic Committee (IOC) like exercise in deciding who is male and who is female, potentially privileging some over others especially if some benefits were attached to winning an 'intersex' certificate.
Would it boil down to the odious exercise of trans-spotting? Outing those who could not produce evidence and whose bodies have already had all traces of their intersex erased by infant surgeries and effectively vilifying them in the process.
What of XX Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) folk who would have to battle against the current trend by parents, friends and doctors who steadfastly declare CAH is not in any circumstances intersex? So who decides just what diagnosis is ‘in’ and which is ‘out’? Will people who have lived with the stigma of a non-conforming sex anatomy suffer the indignity of inspection and proof.
How will the issue of secrecy, lack of access to documentation and records, long a plague on intersex individuals and widely reported on by academics and intersex organisations (see Katrina Karkazis’ Fixing Sex for examples) be addressed?
The Western world has been endeavouring to fix the discrimination and stigma that accompanies the certification of a human being as female for the better part of two hundred years and still struggles to remedy the problems. Why on earth would another category fare any better?
Then for those who are not: intersex, not male, not female not trans, not twin spirit, not androgynous, not non-gendered, not bi-gendered… ? You get the drift - the possibilities are endless. The descriptors are only limited by human imaginations.
It is time to stop the rot of the inventions of endless categories to provide human beings with access to full human rights and identity. Simply barring discrimination on the basis of sex characteristics will suffice.
For those who want descriptors: have a fill-in box instead of tick boxes, where anything one desires to describe their ‘gender’ may be written. A person's freely-given indication would be sufficient to qualify them for the descriptor.
Indeed in an equal society there is no reason for sex designators to be included in the vast preponderance of documentation. The real necessity right now is only for census like information to be gathered so marginalized peoples can be identified and resources can be allocated.
If we were not the subject of discrimination and unfair treatment, only our lovers (and then not always) and our medical practitioner would have a legitimate reason to enquire about our sex parts.
The government and society needs to get their noses out of our underpants.