Writer, Speaker, Author, Activist

The Importance of Allies

So I went to a baseball game for the first time in about 35 years yesterday, because the person who invited me is so cool she inspired some formerly nonexistent interest, and I actually had a great time! (Such a great time that this blog is being posted on Thursday, rather than the typical Wednesday, lol.) To be honest though, the game’s not the only reason my post is late: I stayed up late Tuesday night finishing what was meant to be Wednesday’s post, but I decided to scrap it upon waking up because a more inspiring topic came to mind: allies.

People who are violating others must be pressured in order for violations to end. As African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass so wisely said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

However, in order for oppression to end, the pressure cannot come solely from those who are being oppressed, which is precisely why allies are so crucial. There’s endless examples, but I’ll just quickly share an obvious one: Nazis who were sending people to concentration camps didn’t stop just because of protests that they didn’t want to go there. Also, Jews, LGBTQIA people (and yes, there are accounts of horrible medical experiments being performed on intersex people as well as others during the Holocaust), and all the various groups being persecuted couldn’t stop the Nazis on their own. It took global effort by others to make the violations end.

Similarly, having people that are not intersex themselves talk about the fact that we deserve equal human rights is a critical step to ending our discrimination. We’ve been pointing out the atrocity of intersex genital mutilation for decades, but in typical fashion, the people who harm us downplay the destructiveness of their actions and the validity of our complaints. “Oh, you say that medically unnecessary infant genital surgery left you feeling psychologically scarred and unable to experience sexual sensation? Well, trust me, you would have been worse off if we’d left you as you were.” (That’s actually what one intersex person I know experienced when she shared her experience with her doctor, and I’ve heard lots of similar stories.)

Like all marginalized groups, we can’t end the atrocities committed against us alone. Our oppressors, like others’, aren’t interested in accommodating our wants and needs because that would interfere with what they personally stand to gain from the actions we’re objecting to. They’ll have to keep being pressured by others to change their behavior.

This is why I’ve been feeling blessed lately to have fabulous allies popping out of the woodwork. I say “fabulous” because not only are they smart, compassionate and committed to making the world a better place, they’re also just fun, creative people who’ve become my friends. The woman I went to the baseball game with, for example, Maria Nieto, is one of these. She’s the author of the novel Pig Behind the Bear (http://pigbehindthebear.com/site/), which won the International Latino Book Award, the Independent Publisher Silver Medal, and is about to pick up another award who’s name I forget. She’s also a biology professor, and I’ve spoken to several of her classes, each time better than the last.

Having allies who both point to intersex people’s situation and give us a platform to share our experiences is invaluable. In the past, folks would write or speak about intersex people without taking the time to know us and learn what we want, or treating us as objects they are studying and/or “treating” with no real volition of our own. While this still goes on, it’s starting to change, and it’s beautiful to witness.

On that note, I’ll share a link to a radio interview of mine about what the global intersex advocacy community wants, that aired this past Monday: https://soundcloud.com/prideonscreen/imru-show-140616. The interview begins 34:20 minutes in, FYI, and it’s a perfect example of this inclusive, respectful behavior towards intersex people.Vash Boddie, the radio host, journalist and producer who interviewed me (on IMRU Radio in LA), is a humanist who has huge desire to help attain equality for intersex people — despite the fact that he’s not intersex! You can tell just by listening to him that he not only wants to end oppression, but that he deeply values the contribution that intersex people’s inclusion in society has to offer.

I’m grateful to be able to say that I’ve met many others allies like him, and I would love to list them all here, but I would have to go back decades, and some of their full names from way back escape me, but I would hate to leave anyone out…. So, I’ll just suffice it to send a big THANK YOU to all of you who have been allies over the years! Taking the time to talk to intersex people about who we are, and what we want and need, and then doing something to actually help us achieve our goals, is exemplary in a culture in which the majority of people have done the opposite. Considering the fact that most people don’t even know who we are, much less our struggle being a popular human rights cause, you are truly pioneers!!!

 

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Interesting fact: At approx. 1.7% of the population, Intersex people are as common as red-heads. “Everyone’s met an intersex person, you just may not know you have.”

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