THE first Intersex Awareness Day (IAD) came about when the American intersex group named Hermaphrodites with Attitude (HWA) teamed up with American trans group Trans Menace to picket an American Association of Paediatrics (AAP) conference in Boston on 26th October 1996.
Those picketing this event were outraged that the doctors attending the conference were recommending and conducting infant genital mutilation (IGM) surgery on intersex kids in order to make them more “normal”. Many of those protesting had been subjected to those kinds of surgery when they were infants.
Intersex Awareness Day seeks to make as many people as possible aware of what intersex is and that intersex people everywhere lack that most fundamental of fundamental human rights, the right to autonomy over our own bodies.
Intersex people are people who have physical differences of sex anatomy other than brain sex alone. Our anatomical differences might include genetic, hormonal or genital differences or differences in our reproductive parts.
Jinsiangu is a Kenyan-based group that was formed to increase safe spaces for and enhance the well-being of Kenyan intersex and transgender people. As the LGBTI community in Kenya focuses largely on issues of sexual orientation rather than gender identity, the issues of intersex and transgender (IT) people have historically been relegated to the backburner. IT people face discrimination both from within the LGBTI community and from the society at large where they are considered to be abnormal. Jinsiangu works to provide IT people with information and psycho-social support, to enable them to overcome these challenges.
Intersex Kenyans continue to face numerous challenges in society. We have had cases where intersex children have been chased from schools because of their identity and because of the challenges they have with their genitalia. One intersex child has had several surgeries to try and correct their urination problem to no success. This therefore leads to the child experiencing a lot of pain during passage of urine and frequently wetting themselves. Because of this, the child can barely stay clean and the urine smell puts other children off. Additionally, the child suffers from gender dysphoria: a situation where they are not sure whether they are male or female due to the appearance of their genitalia being ambiguous.
A brave intersex Kenyan took to court to challenge the existing laws discriminating against him as an intersex person with regards to placement in prison. The prison had placed him in a male prison and as a result he was assaulted by fellow inmates once they discovered his intersex identity. The court did grant him damages for what he underwent but failed to make clear declaration supporting his plea for the system to add an additional gender marker on legal documents that would cater for him and other intersex Kenyans like him.
These are but a few of the challenges that intersex Kenyans face everyday. We call upon the general public to consider the humanity of intersex persons before treating them as bad omens, as taboos, or as mistakes. We are not mistakes. We love our bodies the way they are and when necessary, we should be allowed to have corrective surgery to ensure we live fulfilled lives. We urge Kenyans to respect us.
We especially urge parents of intersex babies not to conform to current archaic medical notions that claim intersex children must have some sort of surgery in order for them to be one gender or the other. We insist that unless surgery is absolutely necessary towards the infant (for example, where the urethra is closed up), no surgery should be performed on intersex children whatsoever. We urge parents to let their children grow until such an age where the child is old enough to choose for themselves what gender they are comfortable with. We insist that this is in no way traumatising to children; as long as parents instil values of love and respect to their children, they will learn to love and respect themselves. Unless we listen and try to learn from one another, even those who are different from us, this world can never change.
For more information about intersex persons, their issues and their lives, please contact us on
firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and online at http://jinsiangu.wordpress.com.