The Soapbox: An education in gender

Justin
Justin Crann
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I didn’t know what the term intersex meant before I attended Moose Jaw Pride’s Celebrating Diversity living library.

Justin Crann

The event, held at the Moose Jaw Public Library on Thursday, encouraged people to sit down with individuals within the LGBTQ community — or allies of the community — to discuss with them, one-on-one, their lives and the issues that confront them.

The goal was to educate, and in that respect, it was successful in at least one case.

When I walked out, I had a firm grasp of its meaning and some sense of the issues facing the intersex community.

To be clear: I am by no means an expert on sexuality, the intersex life and the challenges that community faces, or the steps that could be taken to find a solution to the problems they deal with on a daily basis.

But I do have a better understanding of those things, and I have that understanding because I sat down for a conversation with Leo Keiser, an intersex rights advocate and the executive director of the University of Regina Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity. vKeiser was an open book — the irony of that term, in the context of the event, is not lost on me — about the intersex life and the issues their community deal with on a regular basis.

According to Keiser, an intersex person is someone whose gender falls between the conventional labels of male or female — someone born with genetic traits that make them unable to conform to just one of the two genders, or someone with a hormonal balance or physical appearance that doesn’t follow the gender binary.

The major issue intersex people face is the systemic treatment of individuals who are born intersex to make them conform to a specific gender, male or female.

This treatment, Keiser explained, is often done without consultation or with the consent of parents who aren’t properly educated about the potential harmful impacts it can have on their child.

The issue seems complicated on first pass, but is actually deceptively simple.

It is such because the treatment of intersex people isn’t organized by any central authority. There is no Institute of Gender Conformity. It’s systemic, and systems can be changed a lot easier than ideologies.

Keiser doesn’t have any delusions about the uphill nature of the battle, though — and said that change could be a long time coming.

Intersex rights is an area still in its infancy, Keiser explained, and could take 10 years or more to become policy.

The quickest way to achieve the goal is activism. But activism requires activists, and not many have wrapped their heads around the idea of intersex individuals.

The best way to create more activists is education. And in that respect, Keiser is doing a good job.

Justin Crann can be reached at 306-691-1265 or follow him on Twitter @J_Crann

Organizations: Moose Jaw Public Library, University of Regina Pride Centre for Sexuality, Institute of Gender Conformity

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  • Emily
    May 23, 2014 - 09:50

    Glad you learned something! Point of correction: being intersex has to do with biological sex, not with gender. Plenty of intersex people conform to typical gender roles.