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Intersex Inclusion?

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If the queer community is know for one thing, it’s our ever-changing acronym. LGBTQIAP – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual/Agender, and Pansexual. If you look closely you can see that one of these things is not like the other: intersex.

What is intersex?

To be intersex, one must have intersex traits which the Organization Intersex International defines as

“chromosomes, genitals, hormones and/or gonads that do not fit typical definitions of male or female.”

These can result in variations of secondary sexual characteristics such as muscle mass, hair distribution, breast development and hip to waist ratio and structure. Just as there are infinite variations of being trans (as shown through gender expression and identity), intersex is also not cut and dry. There may be subtle variations including individuals that fit societal gender norms for how men and women present themselves.

Many members of the intersex community acknowledge that “male and female bodies” are not trans inclusive, and terminology needs to be changed. It is important to remember that being intersex, for most folks, is a purely biological and bodily experience, not related to orientation or identity. Phrases like “male and female bodies” show the need for the scientific community to make a change in their vocabulary, and does not reflect on the intersex community.

Should intersex fall under the LGBTQ umbrella?

Just like any issue, there are pros and cons to both sides.

Pros:

  • Similarities in queer and trans medical history

Intersex bodies are pathologized and erased in a way that is similar to how homosexuality has historically been treated within psychiatry.  From this point of view, intersex is just another sexual minority that is pathologized and treated as “abnormal.”¹

Counterpoint: Many other things are treated as ‘abnormal’, such as wisdom teeth coming in sideways. Being incorrectly labeled as ‘abnormal’ doesn’t mean it makes sense to categorize intersex under the LGBTQ umbrella.

  • Similarities in being directly affected by homophobia and transphobia.

Another reason that surgical treatment for intersex conditions is heavily encouraged is caused by homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny. Western medicine defines “functional” male and female genitalia in terms of its ability to participate in heterosexual intercourse.²

Counterpoint: Homophobia and transphobia are dangerous, and associating intersex folks with the LGBTQ community could increase the probability that homophobic and transphobic parents would allow and encourage cosmetic infant genitoplasty. For the sake of intersex children, not including the “I” with LGBTQ would be wise. Homophobia and transphobia are two issues that need to be addressed, and would be best addressed separately from the invasive medical procedures intersex folks have been through.

Cons

  • Affected directly by homophobia and transphobia

Association with the LGBT community could drive away homophobic and transphobic parents of intersex children who would otherwise seek out information and resources about intersex conditions. Worse, the misperception might push parents to demand more surgeries to ease their concern about the child’s future sexuality or gender identity.³

Again, homophobia and transphobia are horrific and dangerous. So much so that they could influence a parent’s decision to allow irreversible cosmetic surgery on their newborn. These mindsets need to be addressed, but it might be better to discuss them on LGBTQ forums, rather than ones focused purely on intersex.

  • Lack of intersex resources

Being combined with LGBT might prevent intersex from getting its own visibility, or make it hard for intersex people to find intersex-specific resources. If you were to search “LGTBQI”  most of the results will revolve around LGBTQ issues, making including the “I” seemingly pointless and actually unhelpful. Adding the “I” would make it appear as if intersex people need the same thing that LGBT people need. For example, adding intersex to a hate crime law is completely insufficient to address the human rights issues faced by intersex people, AND it gives the false impression that intersex people’s rights are protected.*

  • Incompatible organizing methods

People with intersex conditions generally do not organize around the “identity” or “pride” of being intersex; “intersex” is a useful word to address political and human rights issues. In other words, adding the “I” does not necessarily make the organization appear more welcoming to intersex people. For many people, “intersex” is just a condition, or history, or site of a horrifying violation that they do not wish to revisit.**

Being intersex is often compared to the percentage of people who have red hair, where intersex folks make up 1.7% of the population, and redheads make up 1%-2%. This is a similar analogy used in the LGBTQ community to show the prevalence of LGBTQ folks and how our orientation/identity isn’t a choice. A common goal intersex activists and organizations have is advocating for body autonomy rights for infants, children and youth, condemning irreversible cosmetic infant genitoplasty. These do not correlate with the LGBTQ community, thus creating more confusion and potential harm for intersex individuals.

To include or not include, that is the question

According to Intersex Initiative “If adding the ‘I’ will help you become a better resource for people with intersex conditions, then do it. Adding ‘intersex’ to an LGBT group must mean a commitment to take concrete actions to address the specific needs of intersex people; anything less is tokenism, or a mere fashion statement, which will not benefit the intersex movement.”

As a community, we do not need to add the “I” to be allies and activists for the intersex community. We don’t need to pat ourselves on the back by adding another letter to our ever changing acronym when we choose to stand up for a group of individuals that are often violated and abused. Now is the time to be active allies, without expecting a gold star in return.


¹ http://www.intersexinitiative.org/articles/lgbti.html

² http://www.intersexinitiative.org/articles/lgbti.html

³ http://www.intersexinitiative.org/articles/lgbti.html

* http://www.intersexinitiative.org/articles/lgbti.html

** http://www.intersexinitiative.org/articles/lgbti.html

Originally posted 2017-10-02 18:55:25.


Also published on Medium.

Sara Whittington is a genderqueer artist raised in Central Louisiana, but currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. They have had the good fortune to be able to travel across the country, as well as abroad. Some of their favorite trips thus far have been adventuring across Iceland, spending summers on Lake Michigan, and a family celebration in Mundesley, England. In their spare time, Sara enjoys writing letters to loved ones.

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Tell It Like A Lesbian

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My mother refuses to refer to my partner as anything other than a friend. We’ve been dating for three years and my mother still won’t acknowledge our relationship. Am I crazy for being angry about this and wanting to confront her? I feel insulted and it really upsets my partner. –Clarke

Dear Clarke, You’re not crazy for being upset at your mother. It sounds like you have every right to be angry, especially if after three years your mother can’t even acknowledge your relationship. If talking to her gently about it hasn’t worked after all this time, it may indeed be time to confront her more forcefully, as your partner’s feelings are also being hurt by this behavior. If you decide to confront her and her attitude remains unchanged, it may be time to cut ties. After all, your happiness is what matters most in this situation, regardless of whatever is causing such denial from your mother. You must put the health of you and your partner’s relationship first, and eventually, your mother may come to realize what she is losing because of her denial.

__________

Dear Tell It, Do you have any suggestions for handling depression? I’ve been really struggling with loneliness and I have no energy for anything, even stuff I usually enjoy. I feel like I have no one to turn to. –Otto

Dear Otto, Depression often causes the loneliness and sense of isolation that you are feeling. It’s important that you recognize this as a symptom of your depression and do your best not to isolate yourself as a result. Because depression can take a lot of energy, remember that your brain and body need time to recover. And remember that focusing on self-care is not selfish. Depression is an illness just like the flu and other diseases and should be treated with the same care.

On bad days, make a warm drink that you enjoy, read your favorite book or watch a show or movie you love. Spend some time by yourself to recharge, and then contact a friend or family member to let them know what you’ve been feeling. Make a plan to spend time with them, even if it’s only for an hour or two, preferably away from your house. Getting outside and into a new environment is an excellent way of resetting your brain. While I wish I could tell you otherwise, depression doesn’t just go away. You will likely go through phases of good and bad, and it’s important to learn the symptoms that are specific to you. If you have suicidal thoughts, don’t hesitate to ask for help. The suicide hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. Hang in there, and remember that there are people who care.

__________

Have questions for Tell It Like A Lesbian? Let me answer them! Submit your questions below (you don’t have to use your real name unless you want to), and see your question answered on our website!

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Originally posted 2017-10-26 14:10:06.


Also published on Medium.

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In December, This Round-The-World Cruise Visits 35 Countries

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Imagine being able to visit 66 ports in 35 countries over 141 days.  Such a trip has never been offered in the past, but now Viking Cruises, based in Los Angeles, is planning one.  

The Viking Sun will set sail on 15 December 2017. Furthermore, Cruise Critic has named Viking Cruises as one of the top 10 cruise lines for gay and lesbian travelers because it frequently partners with LGBT travel agencies and past travelers have reported good experiences.  In fact, the 2017 CRUIZIE Awards for LGBT Cruise Travel awarded Viking River Cruises the ‘Best River Cruise Line for LGBTQ Passengers.’  

So what is this journey going to look like?  Let’s have a look:  

Day 1: Depart From Miami

Miami

On 15 December 2017, the Viking Sun will leave Miami, the international city in Florida.  If you are embarking on this trip and are here in Miami, appreciate the barrier islands and Miami beach.  Here, find colorful buildings, surfside hotels and white sand.  If this sounds good, then spend a few days here, before making your way to the Viking Sun. 

Days 2 to 20: The Caribbean, Central America and Los Angeles

The Caribbean

On day 2, cruise the Caribbean Sea,  which covers an area of approximately 1,063,000 square miles. The deepest area in this sea is the Cayman Trench between Cuba and Jamaica.  Between day 3 and day 5, explore the city of Cienfuegos in Cuba, where a walking tour is offered.  This traveler explored gorgeous flamingoes, boat houses and more attractions.  

Between days 6 to 17, visit other countries lying in the Caribbean and South and Central America: Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Then briefly visit  Mexico and Los Angeles, before cruising the Pacific Ocean.   

Days 30 to 43: French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji

Nuka Hiva, the largest of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia

French Polynesia, an overseas French possession, consists of more than 100 stunning islands, stretching across more than 2,000 kilometers. Start cruising the South Pacific and visit Taiohae, the main town of Nuka Hiva (pictured above) in French Polynesia.  You will also visit Tahiti and Bora Bora, known for its scuba diving.  

The 15 gorgeous islands that make up the Cook Islands could provide a hint of paradise.  Warm tropical waters, crystal clear waters and aquatic life are just a few of the treasures that can be found here. Then in Tonga, discover white beaches, coral reefs and tropical rainforest.  Continue this tropical holiday in Fiji, which also has beaches and coral reefs.  

Days 44 to 113: New Zealand, Australia and Asia

New Zealand

In New Zealand, go on an extensive tour that includes the Bay of Islands, an enclave of more than 140 islands with beaches and water activities. Find an abundance of wildlife, including penguins, dolphins, marlin, whales, and gannets.  There’s even a camping ground here.

Go on to cruise the Tasman Sea, and discover several attractions in Australia. The Great Barrier Reef, located in northeastern Australia, consists of golden beaches, thousands of reefs, and hundreds of Islands with dolphins, sharks, and colorful fish.     

Then cruise the Timor Sea and start exploring the culture and beauty of Asia. See Indonesia, and then go on to visit Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, China, Hong Kong , Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore and India.  During this journey explore Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, which has beautiful islands topped with rainforests.  

Days 114 to 131: The Middle East, North Africa and the Central Mediterranean

Malta in the Central Mediterranean

Cruise across the Arabian Sea, and tour several countries in the Middle East and North Africa: Oman, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia. There is also a stop at Malta, located in the Central Mediterranean.  See wildflowers, plants, prehistoric sites, and walk to discover Malta’s natural beauty.  

Days 132 to 141: Europe

Murcia (Cartagena), Spain

See Portugal, England, and explore the beaches and hiking trails of Sardinia, the Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. In Spain, Murcia is a university city with beaches, water sports, wine, and historical sites.    

Want to explore these countries, and Interested in this cruise? Call Viking at 888-850-6260 or find out more here.

Originally posted 2017-10-26 14:08:07.

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Same-Sex Marriage in the US: A Decade of Change

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On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court announced the decision to make same-sex marriage a right in all 50 states. People all over the country celebrated, pride flags were flown, and for the first time, the White House was lit with rainbow lights. The decision was a landmark victory for the gay-rights movement, but behind it all was decades of litigation, activism, and advocacy.

In 1996, a law called the Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It defined marriage as “the union of one man and one woman” in the United States constitution. Individual states were able to recognize same-sex unions, but on a federal level, the words wife, husband, and spouse, were reserved specifically for heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples were also denied social security survivor’s benefits and were unable to jointly file taxes. For almost a decade, the DOMA remained.

After 40 years of being together, Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer traveled to Toronto to get legally married in 2007. A year later, their union was officially recognized by their home state of New York . In 2009, Spyer passed away at the age of 77. She left her entire estate to her wife, Windsor. Because of DOMA, the federal government did not recognize their union as a marriage and Windsor was required to pay over $300,000 in taxes on her inheritance. Windsor decided to challenge this because she was legally married and should have therefore qualified for an unlimited tax deduction on the inherited estate. After approaching several gay-rights advocacy groups, she was repeatedly denied and was unable to find representation.

Finally, Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP agreed to take on the case. In 2010, her case was filed and made its way through the circuits and in 2013 it had reached the United States Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled in favor of Windsor and announced that DOMA had been unconstitutional. By the same margin, the Supreme Court would legalize same-sex marriage three years later.

In September of 2017, Windsor passed away at the age of 88. She left behind a legacy of activism and change, and hope. At her funeral, Hillary Rodham read a eulogy. “Because of her, people came out, marched in their first pride parade, married the love of their life. Thank you, Edie,” reported the New York Daily News.“Thank you for being a beacon of hope, for proving that love is more powerful than hate.”

Edith Windsor has helped to change the lives of thousands of LGBTQ couples and her legacy will continue to live on. Do you have a story of how legalizing same-sex marriage changed your life? Tell us in the comments!

Originally posted 2017-10-25 13:58:13.

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