Tuesday, August 26, 2014

D is for Discrimination

Today D is for discrimination.  In most countries intersex people are not a legally protected class against discrimination.  Wikipedia defines discrimination as “action that denies social participation or human rights to categories of people based on prejudice.”  Intersex is not well known or understood by the general populace.  As such we are not usually discriminated against for being intersex, but for being confused with transgender or gay people.  The methods of discrimination can be big and small and are too many to get into here.   

Intersexphobia is a new word that is starting to float around to describe discrimination against intersex people, but as I have said a lot of that comes from confusing us with other groups (if homophobic/transphobic people understood intersex, they would probably discriminate against it as well).  I would argue being socially hidden and expected to live binary lives (which happens in many ways, big and small) is the biggest discrimination we face specifically for being intersex.  
Most western countries have laws protecting discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation, and a few protect transgender people.  

In my home country, the United States, Wood vs. CG Studios is the only case filed for employer discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  In 1987 Wilma Wood claimed her employer, CG Studios,  fired her after learning she was intersex and underwent genital surgery prior to her being hired there.  The judge ruled that this was not discrimination.  Like previous cases involving transgender people, sex was defined as strictly binary with any variance not considered a protected class.  Things are looking up.  More cases are interpreting transgender as being cover under Title VII and 17 states have laws specifically protecting transgender people from workplace discrimination, and 14 stated protect them from discrimination at school.  Federal law protects transgender people from hate crimes.  Most judges would interpret these laws to cover intersex people, but strictly interpreted, they do not.  The right to use the public bathroom of the gender you identify as is usually not protected.

Ever since the sexual revolution in the 60’s and 70’s society has slowly become more tolerant of sexual/gender nonconformity.  I sincerely believe things are getting better and will continue to do so.  The question is how do we speed the process along?  I believe the best approach is education.  Most discrimination comes from a place of ignorance and fear.  By being open about ourselves and friendly to everyone, even those who work against us, we become good ambassadors for the intersex community.  The more people who see this will move to our side and the discriminators will become fewer.  If you have any ideas of thoughts on this, or other topics to cover, leave me a comment.    

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