Sunday, 24 April 2016

Bathroom bills and the invisible nature of intersex

I regularly frequent the local hackerspace here in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany. Since this hackerspace does not have its own toilet facilities, we use those of the business centre it is located in. Nothing special about that, I'd say, except for one detail which pleasantly surprised me when I first had to frequent these facilities back in 2013.

On the doors leading to these bathrooms (two of them), it lists the usual 'men' and 'women', as well as 'boys' and 'girls'. Still nothing exciting there, were it not for the fact that then both door then also list 'intersex'. That's right, as an intersex person I have the official right at this business centre to use whichever toilet I wish.

Both seeing it listed so prominently there and the knowledge that people at this centre know about intersex and care enough about it still makes me feel very welcome today. Even if nobody would be able to tell that I am not a regular woman while I keep my pants on, the psychological effect is very positive and most welcome.

It then saddens me that in the recent 'debate' about recently introduced 'bathroom bills' by US states (HB2 in NC), apparently neither law makers, nor journalists, nor anyone else involved ever mention intersex people as being affected as well, beyond hidden, hurtful references such as "children born with gender-related genetic disorders" [1].

Why do these bills affect intersex people, you may ask? Because for most of us both our biological sex and gender are rather fluid or completely up for debate. Pray tell, what would be my own 'biological sex' as a hermaphrodite? My birth certificate used to say that I was male, but now it's been changed to female without me undergoing any type of genital mutilation or other type of surgery.

Back when I was a young teenager in the Netherlands and still convinced that I had to be male, I already had people send me out of public male bathrooms because they thought I was female. I must say that those experiences fuelled my self-exploration and the discovery of me being intersex, years later.

I guess it is a sign of the cluelessness and ignorance which still surrounds biological sex and gender that they would refer to it as an 'LGBT' issue, when only transsexuals and intersex people are affected by it. Just aim a shot in the general direction and assume you'll be fine with one's reporting.

With intersex being much more prevalent than transsexuality it seems astounding that we intersex individuals are not reported on and practically invisible. The sad truth seems to be that it's all part of the general trend to either ignore intersex or to mark it as a disorder.

Personally I think that's much worse than worrying about which bathroom one can use.



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