Intersex community to march at Auckland Pride
8 February, 2023
Interview by Jessica Hopkins, adapted by Georgi Stirling and David Liwei Shi
The pride flag. Image from Canva.
This upcoming pride, communications and project manager for Intersex Aotearoa Jelly O'Shea, wants to highlight the importance of visibility and understanding of intersex individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Auckland Pride will be marching in solidarity with our intersex community on the 18th of February, to help uplift the voices of people who have variations in their sex characteristics. This year, the organisation aims to encourage the rainbow community and its allies to better their understanding of the issues faced by the intersex community in Aotearoa, and how we can be in allyship with them.
Communications and Project Manager for Intersex Aotearoa, Jelly O’Shea told News & Editorial Director Jessica Hopkins that they are excited to team up with Auckland Pride in giving the intersex community more visibility and understanding, clarifying that the collaboration came to be because “there’s a lack of understanding around our complexity, our amazing diversity, and how we fit into the rainbow.”
She explained that individuals who are intersex, or ira tāngata, are people who have innate variations in their sex characteristics, which includes hormones, chromosomes and even a person’s internal or external anatomy. These variations can be present at birth, or are only noticed during puberty, or can become apparent later on in life when a person engages in fertility. Many people don't even realise they are intersex.
However O’Shea acknowledged that this simply covers the technical definition of intersex, and that the term “has lots of different meanings in terms of how that lands for the individual and obviously we respect the lived experience of anyone”, she also added that “ it's separate to gender diversity or transgender” and “intersex isn't like a third sex, it's important to realise that lots of people who have intersex variations do subscribe to being cisgender and also heterosexual.”
Nuanced situations covered by the umbrella term intersex, contribute to the lack of awareness and confusion surrounding where the community fits within the rainbow space, O’Shea added that “ it's a funny tension that we hold within the rainbow, the LGBTQIA space, is that when we talk about queering a space, we are talking about the queering of bodies as well as sexuality and gender diversity, so intersex sits on the queering of a body, rather than anything to do with your gender or your sexuality.”
The intersex community still faces issues of invisibility and inequity. Interventions such as medical protocols are typically prescribed to assign binary genders to intersex bodies. O’Shea highlighted that “we don’t really have what we call a ‘psycho-social’ model; which helps us understand that we put the onus on intersex bodies to change rather than society to change.”
They hope that the collaboration with Auckland Pride will help to normalise intersex bodies and encourage understanding and visibility of the issues faced by the intersex community, including the outdated medicalisation of people with sex characteristic variations. O’Shea stated that “our call to action is for people to ask more questions about what’s happening in our hospitals and why.”
Intersex Aotearoa is currently working with Te Whatu Ora on bringing new medical guidelines under the Labour government, regarding this, O’Shea affirmed “we definitely are trying to change the system from within, but also still believe that protests and community activation is really important as part of that method.”
If anyone would like to be involved, O’Shea says more information regarding their events will be provided at the Rainbow Violence Prevention Network stall at the Big Gay Out on 12th February, and also on Auckland Pride’s and Intersex Aotearoa’s social media pages on the 17th.
Public interest journalism funded by New Zealand On Air