A recent meeting hosted by Rainbow Identity Association (RIA) at Mokolodi helped intersex persons to understand and accept themselves.
An intersex refers to a biological sex assignment based on characteristics that include gonads, sex hormones, chromosomes or genitals. Intersex falls between typical definitions of males and females.
RIA advocates for the rights of transgender persons, being trans-women and trans-men, queer gender, gender questioning and non-conforming gender. It works at attaining the inclusion of transgender and intersex persons. Transgender is a person whose gender identity or expressions differ from societal expectations based on the sex the person was assigned at birth.
In an interview with The Midweek Sun, the Association’s director Skipper Mogapi said the camp forms part of their ongoing campaign called ‘Hands Off our Genitals’, which is aimed at stopping the practice of genital mutilation at birth by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
The campaign is against government operating intersex and transgender persons at birth. Instead RIA wants these children to grow so that they can make personal choices when they reach puberty.
At the camp, participants discussed several issues such as understanding diversity and acceptance. “We also discussed issues surrounding personal and intimate relationships which can be difficult. One of the key pointers was how to come out to an intimate partner and how to sustain our relationships,” he said.
Mogapi also said that most of the intersex persons expressed that it is not always easy to bring their partners to camps of such kind, because ‘the dynamics are difficult as people can be difficult.’
Anofher contentious issue was access to medical care and services, access and sustainability of facilities such as restrooms or toilets, which intersex persons are not catered for.
They also discussed the role of the church and spirituality, which they feel can be a safe or toxic, exclusive and divisive space.
RIA has over 100 members. Each one of them is unique, and their journeys are personal. Some say they are the opposite sex of what they were assigned at birth. Others feel they are both male and female.
Still others do not identify as either gender. “We also discussed access to education and services provided in schools. We looked into sport code and how intersex persons cannot fit in the normative binary that boxes students in female and male box,” he said. The community is advocating for sexual health and reproductive health rights, funding for intersex, inclusion in sports, schools and recreation centres and change of identity documents with regard to changing identity marker.
A global report released three years ago by the Open Society Foundation, ‘License to Be Yourself’, outlines the issues policy-makers need to consider in giving trans-gender people legal gender recognition, and includes best practices from around the world. It admits that these solutions are not “one size fits all” – especially because at the time some countries, like the US, were lagging behind.
Argentina is considered the leader in progressive gender marker policies, having passed a law in 2012 that allows individuals to update their gender markers on government-issued documents without any medical or mental health diagnosis. Several countries including Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Nepal officially recognise a third gender on official forms. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh also have an official third gender designation for citizens who do not identify as male or female.