Sunday, February 23, 2014

Adding the "I," Revisited: A Call to Action for LGBT-Only Organizations

Since this blog began all the way back in 2009 (has it really been that long?! – and I have the gall to balk that I’m already turning thirty this year…silly me), many intersex activists like myself have moved past wondering if the “I” should be included in the LGBT acronym to firmly advocating that being intersex-inclusive is extremely important. I’ve recently written a guest post for the fantastic blog, Autostraddle, on just this topic.

I won’t go through a detailed analysis of everything discussed in the Autostraddle post, so check it out! What I WILL say is that despite the fact that there are a multitude of reasons why the intersex-inclusive LGBTI acronym should be embraced, few organizations in general – and certainly very few in the United States – actually use the LGBTI acronym, even if they occasionally raise awareness about intersex issues or talk about how understanding intersex issues is important.

I am challenging organizations who truly think that being intersex-inclusive is important, who advocate on behalf of intersex people, and whose members consider themselves intersex allies, to officially change the names of their organizations to include the “I” or the word intersex in their name.

Any advocacy on behalf of intersex people and issues is absolutely fantastic, and organizations who are doing this – thank you, you are fantastic for doing so, and I appreciate this from the bottom of my intersex heart. I also think that, if you truly care about intersex people and issues, it sends a strange message to hold events and talk about the fact that, “Intersex is important!” while the actual name of your organizations serves to keep us invisible and forgotten by not explicitly including us.

If you currently work at or volunteer at an LGBT center or organization in your community, in your school or college or university, at your place(s) of employment, etc., I encourage you to inquire why your LGBT organization isn’t an LGBTI organization, and what the members think about this. You may encounter people who don’t know much, or anything, about intersex people. People might have heard of intersex, but don’t know that intersex issues very clearly fall in with the broad goals of the LGBT movement and activism, and need to be included in LGBTI efforts and organizations. People might be aware of some of these issues, and may be intersex allies, but never actually considered that if intersex issues and people are worth caring about, then that care should be reflected in the name of the organization. State that many organizations in the US (or your home country) and worldwide are adding the “I” to reflect increased awareness about intersex issues. Indicate (if you do) that your organization should seriously consider adding the “I,” and taking the steps to do so.

On a practical level, it’s not only the fact that the visibility of being included in an organization clearly makes people think about intersex issues – and understand that evidently, intersex issues and people are important, and that one needs to get educated about intersex issues (and not doing so is unacceptable). It’s also about the fact that many LGBT organizations that receive internal or external funding to do the important work that they do are required to ONLY spend that money on activities that include L, G, B, and/or T issues. Legally, many places that would like to use money on intersex issues may run into trouble with administrative and/or funding bodies, because from their perspective, that money for the LGBT organization isn’t strictly being used for L, G, B, or T things – it’s being used for I things. Organizations may get into trouble, they may need to give money back, and it could even hypothetically reflect poorly on them when they apply for money during the next funding cycle. If your organization cares about doing I things, having the “I” in your name – and gaining money to not only do L, G, B, or T, but also I things! – may allow you to do those I events without getting into trouble.

I would love to see all the LGBT organizations out there eventually make the needed shift to proudly declare themselves to be LGBTI organizations. Will your organization be among the next ones to make that change? I hope so! <333

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