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July 17, 2019 | by  | in Features |
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Beyond Pink and Blue

Pregnancy tests.

Ultrasounds.

Gender reveal parties.

Maternity shopping.

Childbirth.

 

On the day we take our first breath, a clinician typically lifts us in the air, does a speedy exanimation, and pronounces our sex.

 

At some hospitals, bright lights flash pink and blue on the street front to celebrate the birth of a new baby boy or girl.

 

My parents welcomed me into the world in the 1990s. A month premature, I eventually escaped my incubator to be clothed in a pink hat and blanket, before travelling home to a childhood of pink clothes and pink teddy bears.

 

Fast forward 16 years, to a new life at an all-girls boarding school.

 

My health began to deteriorate in Year 12, so I began a long journey of medical tests. We eliminated  the possibilities of epilepsy and brain cancer over many months. I returned to the specialist clinic for an emergency consultation and results revealed that despite my body being physically female, I was actually born with XY chromosomes. In a binary sense, cisgender females typically present with XX chromosomes, while cisgender males typically have XY chromosomes. To my shock, my doctor told me that I was “not a normal woman”; that my condition meant that I was infertile, as I did not have ovaries; that I would never be permitted to compete in the Olympic Games; and that I would never meet another person in the world like me. Their parting comment was that my diagnosis and new-found infertility had to be kept a complete secret from everybody I knew. To them, I sat uncomfortably outside of binary gender norms.

 

Several years later, after endless research, I learned that I was ^intersex—an umbrella term used to describe nearly 2% of the global population born with biological variations of sex characteristics (such as hormones, chromosomes, and/or physical anatomy) that cannot clearly be labelled under binary definitions of ‘male’ or ‘female’ bodies. In a sense, my body sits in the middle of a male/female biological sex spectrum. Intersex is often confused with ^transgender which is traditionally used to describe people who were assigned a sex at birth and identify with a different gender identity.

 

The ‘I’ in the LGBTQIA+ Rainbow acronym is often not well-known. Very few members of the intersex community here in Aotearoa feel comfortable being ‘out’ as intersex, due to a sense of being outliers who hold shameful and unspeakable identities—often influenced by conversations at diagnosis, like the one I had. Intersex people have diverse sexualities and gender identities, and many self-identify as members of the Rainbow community. To me, an intersex presence in the Rainbow acronym reflects the collective stand we take each day as a group of marginalised and under-represented people, wishing to stand up and fight for our basic human rights alongside other members of the Rainbow community facing similar challenges.

 

As a lesbian and intersex woman, I have faced two separate ‘coming out’ events. Both of these situations have challenged ideas of what many people in society stereotypically perceive to be a “normal woman”.

 

Our Rainbow community sits within a beautifully diverse spectrum of sexualities, genders, and sex characteristics. We estimate that 15% of students here at Victoria University of Wellington identify as members of the Rainbow community. I have stepped into the inaugural Student Academic Services role as Rainbow and Inclusion Adviser this year. My role is to connect students with appropriate services, while strengthening the university’s culture of inclusion for all members of the Rainbow community. I’m here for you—please do not hesitate to reach out to me at any point: rainbow@vuw.ac.nz or come see me in SU213.

 

I hope you all have a wonderful Pride Week!

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