Monday, July 15, 2024

Life is not black or white, it is a rainbow

| June 13, 2024 1:00 AM

There are people unknown to many whose sex is not clearly defined at birth.

Intersex, also known as “differences of sex development,” is not as uncommon as people might believe. Intersex includes varying differences relating to genitalia, chromosomes, internal anatomy and hormones not considered what is typically the male or female sex. Beginning in the 1950’s, doctors began performing surgeries on intersex babies assigning which sex should develop to “fix” these “abnormalities,” sometimes without parental consent and never with the child’s consent. Advocacy groups throughout the world including American medical groups, Human Rights Watch and the World Health Organization have recommended delaying surgeries at birth to allow intersex people to make the best decisions later in life for themselves. 

As sex, gender and medical interventions have become political issues, some lawmakers are working to prevent individuals and their families from making their own best critical life choices. While state lawmakers introduce bills to prohibit youth from receiving gender-affirming care, potentially harmful surgeries on intersex babies are legal, often covered by insurance considered to be “corrective” procedures.

In July 2020, the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago made a statement on intersex care stating, “We recognize the painful history and complex emotions associated with intersex surgery and how, for many years, the medical field has failed these children. Historically care for individuals with intersex traits included an emphasis on early genital surgery to make genitalia appear more typically male or female. As the medical field has advanced, and understanding has grown, we now know this approach was harmful and wrong.”

Many intersex individuals suffer with serious health disparities and often shame from experiences of trauma and stigma. More studies are needed to understand the health & development of intersex throughout their adult lives. 

Varying hormone levels and genetic influences are evident in sports. When female athletes began to participate and excel in sports so did sex verification by “anatomy checks.” At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, US runner Helen Stephens went through a forced sex test. The shameful body tests were later replaced by genetic tests which did not reveal any male imposters but did verify DSD in women who most frequently faced discrimination and disqualification to compete. 

Many people in the LGBTQ community historically share a common bond of living in secrecy or “in the closet,” hiding from unjust bias and hate and to escape discrimination and inequality. 

During WWII, the U.S. Armed Forces established a policy to discharge homosexuals from serving their nation regardless of behavior. In 1981, the Department of Defense’s policy of prohibiting gay and lesbian military members resulted in 17,000 service members being discharged of their duties over a decade. In 1983, the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy forced the gay community further into the closet, allowing them to serve as long as it was in secrecy. 

On June 28, 1969, after years of police brutality, injustice and harassment toward the gay community, a riot broke out following a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. This event has been widely marked as the beginning of the modern gay movement to stand for equal rights.

Hate against LGBTQ continued to take its toll and cause harm. The brutal death of Matthew Shepard in 1998 shed light on much-needed anti-hate legislation. In 2009 the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Prevention Act was signed into law to help investigate and prosecute hate crimes that include sexual orientation and gender identity. 

On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling said Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act must include protection for gay and transgender workers and prohibited discrimination in employment regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. 

However, a March 13, 2024, Washington Post article titled “In states with laws targeting LGBTQ issues, school hate crimes quadrupled” shared that reported calls to the Trevor Project involved more than 500,000 LGBTQ youth who required assistance with suicide and crisis intervention.

Currently, many states have laws that protect LGBTQ, but many including Idaho, do not. Since 2010, “Add the Words” advocates in Idaho have been unsuccessful to add the four words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s civil rights act. In 2022, Idaho Senator Melissa Wintrow failed to get a hearing for the bill she sponsored to add the words. She said, “Lifelong Idahoans are feeling like they can’t even be in their own state because of the disdain they feel from their government and the lack of support and commitment for human rights. It’s so important they know there are people who are standing up for their rights as human beings and that they belong here, and that is the moral, compassionate, true stance.”

Everyone deserves the same equal rights under the law to be free to live, work, and love. Everyone deserves to be seen. We see you. Celebrate and be proud of who you are.