By: Emily Quinn, interACT Youth Coordinator
For the first time in history, a group of youth activists recently came together to study one of my favorite topics: intersex rights. From April 18-22, a group of LGBTQI activists from around the world gathered in Budapest for the “‘I’ Have Rights” Intersex Study Session hosted by IGLYO and the Youth Council of Europe. This is the first time a group of youth organizers have come together to specifically study intersex issues, and I’m so honored to be included! As the only American in attendance, I felt a lot of pressure to represent America’s intersex community well, as there are so many different realities here in the States.
This was an incredibly empowering week for me, and yet another one of the many recent groundbreaking moments for the intersex movement. I’m thrilled to be involved at a time when there is so much happening for intersex human rights. There is definitely still a lot of progress that needs to come, but the strides that the community has made over the last few years are enormous! It makes me so happy to know that myself and other young intersex people have been able to contribute to that.
The first day of the study session brought icebreaker games, activities and an introduction to intersex (and terminology) for those who were unfamiliar. Already I began making friends with some incredible activists from around Europe, it was so empowering to be surrounded by such a diverse group of people. One of the things I was most excited about was learning more about the legislative efforts for intersex rights outside of the US, because so much of the work we do here is specific to America. I was glad we got to learn about the European intersex movement, especially from Kitty Anderson from Oii Iceland and Ruth Baldacchino from the Astraea Intersex Human Rights Fund, who have been so heavily involved. It was exciting to meet a few people who’s work I had seen from afar, but hadn’t had a chance to meet in person yet.
On day 2 we took a much deeper dive into intersex issues. This day was inevitably more emotional than the first, as we learned more about people’s personal experiences. So many of these stories I had already heard, like Tiger DeVore and Dawn Vago, but no matter how many times I hear them, it doesn’t get easier hearing about genital mutilation and other violations against my intersex family. It was especially hard to watch the people around me hear some of these stories for the first time. Most people don’t realize what horrendous things can happen to intersex people, so watching new people learn about them can be pretty difficult. These stories hit so close to home, it can be pretty triggering to hear about them all over again. I had seen Alex Jurgen’s Interface Project video before, but I had never seen his documentary before. It was a really hard, emotional watch – but I recommend it if you can find a copy.
Wednesday was a great rejuvenating day right in the middle of the week. We started off with a hard hitting session on laws and legislation, but then eased into a workshop about building the intersex youth movement. There were only a few intersex youth in attendance, as most people at the conference were LGBTQ, not I, but the few who were there were able to have a great conversation on ways we can build the youth movement! I’m excited to have some of them join interACT Youth, so we can start growing our network to involve more international intersex members.
It was so nice to have a relaxing, rejuvenating day in the middle of a long study session like this. I think most conferences should figure out a way to mimic this schedule, it kept us productive and engaged the whole week!
On Thursday, we were able to put everything into action. Half of the group wrote a position paper for IGLYO on intersex rights, while the other half wrote a guide for parents. I was on the position paper side, because I really want to get involved in policy work. It was a great experience, and we’ll be continuing to create the policy paper over the next few months! I hope more organizations around the world can create papers on intersex treatment, it would be really beneficial to advance the rights of intersex people all over the globe.
The final day arrived with a presentation on the work of the Council of Europe. I didn’t know much about the Council before, and I had no idea how influential it was. All of a sudden my time here carried a lot more weight than I originally realized. It was exciting to see how the European governing body works, and I’m hoping we can do some similar work with the US Government.
One of my favorite moments happened directly after this presentation, when everyone gathered for a group photo. We huddled together, many of us close after our week together. Right when the photo was taken, instead of saying “cheese” everyone said “intersex!” and I almost burst into tears. It was so emotional for me to be surrounded by a whole group of non-intersex people who were not only supporting me and my friends, but happily excited to fight for our rights. Normally, when a group of people are taking a photo and saying “intersex!” it’s in a support group setting, or it’s when the youth from interACT get together. But this was the first time I experienced a large group of people who weren’t intersex themselves, excitedly supporting our realities. It was incredibly moving. I hope that this is only the first of many experiences like this, as more people learn of our experiences. Our movement has gained so much traction in recent years, and young people are a huge part of that! I can’t wait to see what it means for the future of intersex rights!
You can see other daily reports from that week in Budapest on IGLYO’s website!