Seriously. The two aforementioned events were wonderful, far beyond anything I had consciously hoped for. For those of you supported Intersex Awareness Day in NYC this year - whether in person or in spirit - a sincere thank you to you. <3 The Tuesday night film-and-Q&A was really kind of magical for me in that an honest dialogue about intersex was generated. I'd never been in the same room with so many people that were eager to ask (non-stigmatizing!) questions and offer perspectives on many issues related to intersex. There wasn't a whole lot of discussion about the film itself, One in 2,000, but I was more than content with that. We participants were so engaged in discussion that we ran 45 minutes over the event's end time, and some stayed on longer yet as we moved to a close-by restaurant for a light-fare, conversation-heavy end to the evening. It was simply so great to speak openly and candidly about a wide range of intersex issues, and I'm eager to have more of that in the future. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to do so, since between this event and the next, I made contact with some individuals interested in continuing these conversations elsewhere. Yay for future activist events - woo!
The Wednesday night presentation-and-Q&A at Bluestockings was equally successful. I gave an "introduction to intersex," explaining what it was, and how our perspectives on intersex inform the human rights abuses committed against intersex individuals.
Hida Vilora discussed her experiences as a participant in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) discussions held in Switzerland less than two weeks ago, aimed at determining whether intersex athletes should be allowed to compete in the Games or not. Although I discussed aspects of some of these points in a previous post, Hida did a great job articulating them in no uncertain terms. They are as follows:
1) Creating an "intersex" competition category (in addition to "male" and "female" competition categories) won't solve any problems, since not all individuals identify as intersex, there are many types of intersex, not all individuals know they have intersex bodies to begin with, and there are few intersex competitors in the Games. Thus, making an "intersex 100-m dash" won't magically result in fair competition for all.
2) Not all intersex individuals are conferred with physical advantages just by virtue of their intersex. For example, CAIS people naturally produce heightened levels of testosterone, but their bodies can't process ANY OF IT, so they don't receive any phsyical advantages by its excess production.
3) Even if one's intersex does confer physical advantages resulting in increased athletic performance, these attributes are NATURAL. One would not require Michael Phelps to receive surgery to make his naturally long arms and large feet smaller, since they contribute to his prowess in the pool. Instead, we all say, "Wow! What a gift!" because Phelps was BORN with these things. But since intersex is synonymous with something ambiguous that needs fixing, the more common sentiment is, "Wow! That's unfair! Put 'em on hormones to make it a REAL competition again!" But this sentiment is really misguided - if the IOC reqired individuals to alter their bodies so no one had any athletic advantages over others, every competition would result in a tie. (And even if we didn't give a crap about human rights, if for no other reason, the Games would be hella boring to watch if this was done.)
4) As relates to the previous criticism, supporters of altering intersex bodies to make competition "fair" state that they can still compete - they just have to go on hormones for a required length of time! This is akin to saying, "You can get married if you're queer! You just have to marry someone of the opposite sex!" (I have a lot to say regarding queer marriage, and think we should be focusing our efforts on socioeconomic justice for ALL queers, REGARDLESS of whether they enter into this state-sponsored institution and not ONLY if they do. Nevertheless, the comparison is apt.) This ignores one's rights to compete as THEMSELVES, and requires those who have developed their natural talents to modify them them through unnatural means (e.g., hormones). Does that seriously make any sense?
Tricia Madison then shared a personal story, discussing how she eventually learned of her intersex a few years ago, and how knowledge of her intersex has affected her relationship to herself and those around her.
A lot of individuals attending the Bluestockings event commented that our different presentation topics and styles were really complementary, and that made for a good event. Well, thanks, everyone! I wish we could say that we planned it out deliberately that way from the start, but our approach to collaboration was more fluid than that. It turns out not to have been a bad thing. ;)
I'd like to end this post with a question asked by one Bluestockings event participant, who asked something to the effect of, "Now that I know about intersex, how can I be an intersex ally in my daily life?" Hida answered that the best way to contribute to intersex activist causes is to TALK ABOUT IT. Get in conversations. Raise awareness. It's a corny phrase, but "information is power" is still kickin' around for a reason. (Or maybe only I still say that, and it's not really kickin' around so much after all. Meh.) Individuals can only speak out against intersex abuse if they know what intersex is, and that this abuse is ongoing. Point them in the direction of books, websites, and blogs (!) on intesex, or to future intersex events. If there's not any of those things in your area, you can start one up yourself. Emi Koyama authored a wonderful handbook for intersex allies (read: you're supporting intersex individuals and activist issues, but just aren't intersex yourself) on how to do precisely this - check it out!
I was happy to gain permission from both Tricia and Hida to post some pictures from the event!
The photo above features Tricia (left), me (center), and Hida (right) inside Bluestockings after the event. I am still so stoked to have met them! Tricia and I were also uniquely excited, in that this was the first time either of us have met another openly intersex person! Unbelievable, right? One of my favorite memories of Tricia staying with me was a subway ride we took together, when she poked my arm seemingly out of the blue. When I looked at her quizically, she responded, "I just wanted to make sure you were real. Another intersex person!" So great.
This photo features Hida (left) and me (right) wandering around in Times Square, following the book launch of photographer and mixed-media artist Rebecca Swan's gender-bender-y work, Assume Nothing. (It was fantastic!) I love how stereotypical New York it is! I don't love that I neglected to bring my coat, and it was coooooooold out. (Womp, womp.)
Anyone that attended either of these events that wants to add more pictures to this post, send 'em my way, and I'll post them!