Archive for the 'Human rights' Category

“Not even a beast would do such things” – one woman’s experience of transphobic violence in Kyrgyzstan

August 3, 2010

Screen grab from "Violence against transgender people in Kyrgyzstan", 2008It’s nearly a month since I last wrote about the injustices and danger faced by trans women in Kyrgyzstan and in the meantime, Anna Kirey, Senior Advisor and Board Member at Labrys Kyrgyzstan and I have exchanged a few emails. Although I don’t want to go into too much detail in this public forum, I will say that it’s been a very instructive exchange for me, and I hope we are able to continue it and that I can write further about it soon.

In the meantime, in her latest email, Anna sent a link to a 4-minute long YouTube video (made by Labrys in collaboration with the Global Fund For Women) which I’m posting here. It records one woman’s experience of transphobic violence in Kyrgyzstan.


Trigger warning: The video and its subtitles contain graphic descriptions – including of rape and violence – of the experiences of a trans woman, and her subsequent mistreatment by the authorities when she and a representative of Labrys tried to report the attack.

If you feel this might be triggering for you, please do not play the video.


(Direct link:


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Kenya: Call for legal recognition of intersex people

July 16, 2010

Flag of the Republic of KenyaAs if to highlight that it’s not only trans women in the UK who face difficulties in obtaining recognition of differences between their lived experience and legal status, Coastweek Kenya (and others) carries a report about an intersex man, awaiting a death sentence, who is pursuing an appeal to a Constitutional Court to create a law that will accommodate intersex people.

Richard Muasya – through his lawyer John Chingiti – has urged the court to enact appropriate legislation. Mr Chingiti said the court has jurisdiction to deal with the issue raised by his client’s claim that, as an intersex man, he does not receive any legal recognition.

He submitted that the law as it is, discriminates people of his gender especially when one is applying for documents such as birth certificates, an Identity card and a passport.

“This are vital documents and the petitioner is unable to achieve them because he is an intersex,” he argued.

Chingiti argued that since his clients condition is a divine event, the court should not sit and watch as he and others who have similar status being subjected to a lot of humiliation, torture, fear and mockery from people who do it deliberately or out of ignorance.

“We should protect the petitioner and the likes of the petitioner by recognizing them legally,” he added.

I’m not entirely sure that I agree with Mr Chingiti’s belief that intersex is “a divine event“; I think OII UK sums it up well enough in its FAQ:

An intersexed person is an individual whose internal and/or external sexual morphology has characteristics not specific to just one of the official sexes, but rather a combination of what is considered “normal” for “female” or “male”.

Be that as it may, I certainly can’t argue with this:

[…] the court should not sit and watch as [Mr Muasya] and others who have similar status being subjected to a lot of humiliation, torture, fear and mockery from people who do it deliberately or out of ignorance.

“We should protect the petitioner and the likes of the petitioner by recognizing them legally,” he added.

The question of the “legalization of a third gender” is often contentious – my view is that it Others by default: I’m not convinced that “male, female and intersex” is a particularly meaningful range of categories. I would say that it’s entirely possible to be male and intersex, or female and intersex – or even simply intersex without need of any binary gender markers.

However, the fundamental issue – as is so often the case – is that an intersex person is being denied the basic human rights which others take for granted. In this case, even though Mr Muasya is reported as being “born with both male and female genital organs, but goes about as a man” – and regardless of which intersex variation that might refer to – it is a breach of his human rights for him to have been subjected to discrimination, prejudice and harassment simply because he’s intersex.


Previous posts on this blog in the category Intersex:

Germany: Green Party’s draft proposal for a new name/gender change law

July 13, 2010

Via Justus Eisfeld, co-director of GATE – Global Action for Trans* Equality, I learn that Volker Beck of the German Green party has recently introduced a proposal for a new name/gender change law to the German Bundestag (national parliament). Please remember that this is only a proposal; it’s possible that it will not become law as the Green party is a minority party in the German parliament, and not part of the current government coalition.

However, it makes interesting reading, not least because the focus is on the identity of the person and, as Justus says:

[…] no ‘proof’ of (gender) identity from outside sources is needed. It also does away with long court procedures and waiting times, and leaves open the possibility to change ‘back’ if needed.

Links to PDF copies of the complete proposal document can be found at the foot of this blog post, but the main points are as follows:

Part 1
Changing of Forenames

Section 1 – Application for a Change of Forename

(1) The forenames of a person shall, upon their application, be changed by the authorities responsible for civil status matters under Land law if

1. the said person declares that the forenames hitherto borne do not conform with their perception of their gender,

2. the said person

a) is German as defined by the Basic Law,
b) is a stateless person or a displaced foreign national with their habitual abode in Germany,
c) is a person entitled to asylum or a foreign refugee with their habitual abode in Germany, or
d) a foreign national from a country which has no provisions comparable to this Act in its national law, who
     aa) has a right of unlimited residence, or
     bb) has a residence permit which may be extended, and who is permanently and legally resident in Germany.

(2) For a person without legal capacity, the application shall be submitted by the legal representative. The legal representative shall require the permission of the Guardianship Court for this purpose.

(3) The application may be rejected only if it is manifestly abusive.

Section 2 – Prohibition of Disclosure

(1) Upon the entry into force of the decision by which the applicant’s forenames are changed, the forenames borne at the time of the decision may not be researched or disclosed without the applicant’s consent unless particular reasons of public interest so require or a legitimate interest is credibly asserted.

(2) The applicant may require that the new forenames be used in official documents and registers. Other gender-specific details, in particular the form of address, gender-specific job or professional titles, and references to kinship shall be adapted to the gender which corresponds to the changed forename if this does not affect the informational value and accuracy of the document content.

(3) For contracts under civil law, paragraph 2 shall apply mutatis mutandis.

(4) Official documents and certificates from previous employment relationships issued prior to the entry into force of the decision adopted pursuant to Section 1 shall be re-issued with the new forenames.

(5) An administrative offence shall be deemed to have been committed by anyone who persistently and purposely disregards the prohibitions and obligations set forth in paragraphs 1 to 4. The administrative offence may be punished with a fine of up to five hundred euros.

Part 2
Determination of Gender Identity

Section 3 – Application for the Determination of Gender Identity

(1) A person’s gender as stated in their registration of birth shall, upon their application, be amended by the authorities responsible for civil status matters under Land law, if

1. the said person declares that the gender stated in the registration of birth does not conform with their perception of their gender,
2. the provisions of Section 1, paragraph 1, no. 2 are fulfilled.

(2) For a person without legal capacity, the application shall be submitted by the legal representative. The legal representative shall require the permission of the Guardianship Court for this purpose.

(3) The application may be rejected only if it is manifestly abusive.

(4) An existing marriage or registered partnership shall remain unaffected by the amendment of the civil status. Upon the application of both spouses/registered partners, an existing marriage may be converted into a registered partnership or vice versa.

Section 4 – Effects of the Decision

(1) Upon the entry into force of the decision that the applicant shall be considered as belonging to the other gender, their gender-dependent rights and obligations shall conform to the new gender unless the law states otherwise.

(2) Section 2 shall apply mutatis mutandis. The prohibition of disclosure shall extend to the details concerning gender identity contained in the documents to be amended and to combinations of letters or numerals that are derived from gender; such details and combinations of letters or numerals shall also be amended.

Section 5 – Parent-Child Relationships

The decision that the applicant shall be considered as belonging to the other gender shall not affect the legal relationship between the applicant and their parents or the relationship between the applicant and their children. The same shall apply in relation to the descendants of these children.

Section 6 – Pensions and Comparable Recurrent Benefits

(1) Upon its entry into force, the decision that the applicant shall be considered as belonging to the other gender shall not affect existing entitlement to pensions and comparable recurrent benefits. Benefits which derive directly from the same legal relationship, to the extent that gender is relevant, shall continue to be assessed on the basis on which the said benefits were provided at the time the decision entered into force.

(2) The decision that the applicant shall be considered as belonging to the other gender shall not give rise to claims to benefits from the insurance or pensions of a former spouse.


PDF copies of the proposal document in either the original German language version, or as translated into English by the parliamentary translation service of the German Bundestag, may be downloaded directly from these links:


Justus adds that the document may be freely used in any and all lobbying activities around name/gender marker changes.

Comments that I’ve seen so far in discussions about the draft proposal include:

  1. The phrase “The application may be rejected only if it is manifestly abusive” could be used as a way to prevent what might be perceived as ‘too many’ applications to move back and forth between names/genders. It has been suggested that there should be some sort of formal record (perhaps an affidavit) to deter anyone who wishes to change their legal sex either to take advantage of, or make a mockery of, the proposed system.
  2. Although there is no explicit mention of intersex people, the definition of trans people given on advocacy sites such as TGEU does include intersex:

    Trans people (as used above) includes those people who have a gender identity which is
    different to the gender assigned at birth and those people who wish to portray their gender identity in a different way to the gender assigned at birth. It includes those people who feel they have to, or prefer or choose to, whether by clothing, accessories, cosmetics or body modification, present themselves differently to the expectations of the gender role assigned to them at birth. This includes, among many others, transsexual and transgender people, transvestites, cross dressers, no gender, multigender, genderqueer people, including intersex and gender variant people who relate to or identify as any of the above.

    I’m well aware that some intersex people do not consider intersex to be a gender identity – intersex is intersex is a maxim which I’m familiar with – but given that this definition includes intersex people, I hope that it would also apply to the proposal above.

IAAF: Woman athlete is a woman

July 6, 2010

At last, eleven months later, it seems that the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) has finally roused itself from its lethargy and clarified what it believes the status of Caster Semenya to be:

Caster Semenya may compete

Monte-Carlo – The process initiated in 2009 in the case of Caster Semenya (RSA) has now been completed.

The IAAF accepts the conclusion of a panel of medical experts that she can compete with immediate effect.

Please note that the medical details of the case remain confidential and the IAAF will make no further comment on the matter. [Via IAAF]

And that’s all the IAAF has to say about it? No apology to Ms Semenya for its discriminatory and sexist behaviour; its flagrant breaches of her human rights; its disturbing attempts to set itself up as arbiter and enforcer of a socially constructed gender binary?

The IAAF should be ashamed of themselves; their (in)actions diminish and demean all of us, and are entirely unforgivable when we consider the huge personal cost to Caster Semenya, whose grace and dignity is an example from which the IAAF would do well to learn.

As for the mass media’s rabid prurience, its global invasion of her privacy, its sexist assumptions, its wholesale mistreatment of Ms Semenya merely to sell a few more newspapers – all of these actions deserve nothing but the deepest contempt.

Let’s hope that the equally out-of-touch International Olympic Committee (IOC) now drops its own alarmingly befuddled plans to “advise” intersex athletes to have surgery before they’ll be allowed to compete. [Via]


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Kyrgyzstan: “No penis, no passport”

July 6, 2010

It’s nearly two years since I wrote about the complete erasure of Kyrgyz trans women by Human Rights Watch in their report These Everyday Humiliations: Violence Against Lesbians, Bisexual Women, and Transgender Men in Kyrgyzstan (direct link to 48-page PDF). I emailed the Advocacy Director of HRW’s LGBT Rights Program querying why there was no mention of trans women and was told that:

[HRW] relied on information and contacts, provided by our colleagues from the Kyrgyz LGBT organization Labrys. They could not find trans women who were willing to give testimony.

And yet, if we assume the NHS estimate that 1 in 4,000 people is receiving medical help for gender dysphoria is both reasonably accurate and generally representative (yeah, I know, big assumptions), then for a country with a population of some 5.4 million people (via Wikipedia) it doesn’t take a lot of prodding at a calculator to come up with a guesstimate that there may be around 1350 trans people in the Kyrgyz Republic today.

In addition, we know from the HRW report that there are Kyrgyz trans men and, again drawing on the NHS estimates, the ratio of trans women to trans men is reported to be 5:1. Another quick jab at the calculator would suggest therefore, that there could be around 1125 trans women in Kyrgyzstan.

So where are they? Why don’t they show up in NGO and governmental reports and statistics? Why are Kyrgyz trans women so completely invisible to the world at large?

Perhaps this article at eurasianet offers some clues. As the writer, Dalton Bennett (a freelance journalist based in Bishkek), points out, there are real obstacles to transitioning:

Though, legally, Kyrgyz citizens have the right to change their sexual identification, “there are no mechanisms for implementation of this law. The lack of relevant documents that define this process is a barrier to exercise this right,” says Erik Iriskulbekov, a lawyer at the Adilet Legal Clinic in Bishkek and member of the Ministry of Health’s working group.

Under existing legislation, transgender individuals are required to submit a medical form to their local civil registry certifying them as “transsexuals” in order to change their documents. But the form in question does not exist, activists complain. The process thus leaves their gender ambiguous.

This was confirmed by Anna Kirey, Senior Adviser at Labrys Kyrgyzstan during a telephone interview with HRW researchers in 2007:

Ministry of Health policy allows transgender people in Kyrgyzstan in principle to undergo sex reassignment surgery (SRS), and afterward they may legally change their gender in official identity papers. However, SRS is not now performed in the medical system in Kyrgyzstan—and complete SRS is a condition for legal identity change. A Ministry of Health representative told Labrys in May 2007 that it recognized the need for improved procedures for legal identity change and that it was developing a more streamlined process. In the meantime, transgender men (and women) experience tremendous hardship as a result of having a legal identity in limbo.

And this quote from the eurasianet article only emphasises the seemingly Kafkaesque nature of obtaining parity between one’s core sex identity and legal status:

“One person denied the right to change his documents was told in court, ‘No penis, No passport,’ and the judge struck his gavel. They said this in court!” exclaims Akram Kubanychbek, a member of the Ministry of Health’s working group. Kubanychbek is a transgender man who changed his passport’s gender marker with the help of an inexperienced yet compassionate bureaucrat.

Recent UNHRC recommendations have been accepted by the Kyrgyz government. As yet, they haven’t been implemented; nevertheless Anna Kirey hopes this acceptance will eventually lead to a much greater understanding of the rights of trans and GLB issues:

“It’s unusual for a Central Asian country to accept any [recommended approaches] to sexual orientation,” Kirey says. “I feel the new government is going to give us a lot more space for bringing LGBT issues into a more mainstream human rights agenda.”

I hope that the human rights of the hundreds of invisible trans women will be included in this process of change and that serious efforts will be made to reach out to them; although I don’t think anyone is under any illusion that the much-needed changes in Kyrgyzstan are going to happen overnight. A profound shift is needed in the attitudes of the general population too, and that is going to take time. The question is whether Kyrgyz trans women are able to survive the wait.


Curtsey to Richard for the heads-up


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IAAF: it used to be indecisive but now it’s not so sure

June 29, 2010

Via South Africa’s The Citizen, it seems that the IAAF is likely to miss its next self-imposed deadline for confirming Caster Semenya’s competition status.

The IAAF said it would reach a decision by the end of June, but spokesman Nick Davies said yesterday it still had to have an internal meeting about the case.

Speaking from his office in Switzerland, Davies said a statement would be released as soon as the outcome of gender verification tests were discussed.


While many waited on June 10 for the outcome of the “Caster Semenya dispute”, a press conference, hoped to reveal if she would compete again, was cancelled at the last minute.

Her lawyer, Greg Nott, said at the time that Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile had cancelled the press conference as the IAAF exco had not received a formal briefing on the matter from the medical team.

Frankly, this amount of stonewalling by the international governing body for athletics is inexcusable. Every deadline it breaks serves only to prolong its attack on a woman athlete who happens not to conform to stereotypical female gender norms.

It’s time for the IAAF to stop sitting on the fence and start making amends for the human rights abuses it has been inflicting on Ms Semenya for nearly a year.


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Irish Government withdraws challenge on trans recognition

June 21, 2010

Via RTÉ News:

Lydia Foy (Image via Irish Times)The Government has dropped its challenge to a High Court declaration that Irish law on transgender rights is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Government must now introduce legislation recognising the new gender of transgender persons and allowing them to obtain new birth certificates or it will face condemnation from the European Court of Human Rights.

Dr Lydia Foy, a transgendered woman registered at birth as a male who had challenged Irish law on this matter, today welcomed the Government’s decision saying it finally marked an end to her 13-year battle for recognition as a woman.

The Government has withdrawn its appeal to the Supreme Court and has set up an inter-departmental group to advise the Minister for Social Protection on the legislation required.

The Free Legal Advice Centre welcomed the Government’s decision, which it described as significant and groundbreaking.


Edited to add: Press Release from the Transgender Equality Network Ireland:

Transgender Equality Network Ireland strongly welcomes the announcement today of the State’s official withdrawal of its appeal against the Supreme Court’s declaration of incompatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of Dr. Lydia Foy v An t-Ard Chláraitheoir & Others.

This will bring to a close the 13 year long legal battle which Dr. Foy had to initiate following the Register General’s refusal to issue Dr. Foy with a new birth certificate that would recognise her preferred gender.

“Today’s announcement is an important step forward by the Irish State”, said Carol-Anne O’Brien of TENI “It will bring Irish law closer to EU norms and it contributes to the human rights of transgender people in Ireland.”

Carol-Anne O’Brien said: “TENI would like to take this opportunity to warmly congratulate Dr Foy on her victory. Dr. Foy’s courage and tenacity has won an important achievement for all within Ireland’s trans and wider LGBTQ community.”

Martine Cuypers of TENI added: “TENI urges the government to act quickly to honour the commitments given in the current Programme for Government to bring forward Gender Recognition legislation”.


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We need to talk about IGM…

June 18, 2010

A couple of days ago, Alice Dreger and Ellen K. Feder jointly posted a brief article (Bad Vibrations) on the Bioethics Forum of the Hastings Center’s website.

The piece picked up on an earlier article, Nerve Sparing Ventral Clitoroplasty: Analysis of Clitoral Sensitivity and ViabilityPDF here – published in 2007 by Jennifer Yang (a pediatric urologist), Diane Felsen (a pharmacologist) and Dix P. Poppas, M.D in The Journal of Urology.

Dreger and Feder’s piece focuses attention on Dr Poppas, a pediatric urologist at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Medical College of Cornell University whose “special interest in genital reconstruction [and] surgical aspects of disorders of sexual development” has apparently led him to carry out a program of research on 51 girls aged between 4 months and 24 years old (mean age ± SD 4.6 ± 6.8 years) in which he performed nerve sparing ventral clitoroplasty, which included “followup testing of clitoral viability and sensation after clitoroplasty“.

The followup tests involved “Poppas stimulating the girls’ clitorises with vibrators while the girls, aged six and older, are conscious” are described in Dreger and Feder’s article as follows:

At annual visits after the surgery, while a parent watches, Poppas touches the daughter’s surgically shortened clitoris with a cotton-tip applicator and/or with a “vibratory device,” and the girl is asked to report to Poppas how strongly she feels him touching her clitoris. Using the vibrator, he also touches her on her inner thigh, her labia minora, and the introitus of her vagina, asking her to report, on a scale of 0 (no sensation) to 5 (maximum), how strongly she feels the touch. Yang, Felsen and Poppas also report a “capillary perfusion testing,” which means a physician or nurse pushes a finger nail on the girl’s clitoris to see if the blood goes away and comes back, a sign of healthy tissue.

Dreger and Feder’s article has received widespread coverage online and elsewhere, with a piece by Dan Savage at The Stranger (Female Genital Mutilation at Cornell University) in particular being linked widely. (Dreger has also written a further piece – Can You Hear Us Now? – at Psychology Today)

Whilst the followup procedures of Yang, Felsen and Poppas are undeniably abusive and intrusive, I can’t help feeling that the original enforced genital mutilation carried out on the 51 research subjects is quite likely illegal as none of the subjects’ health seems to have been at risk in any life-threatening way.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law Criminalization of Female Genital Mutilation Act, which made it a crime to circumcise, excise, or infibulate the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years unless the operation is “necessary to the health of the person on whom it is performed.” [Via]

On this basis alone, it’s hard to see how the actions of Yang, Felsen and Poppas could even be considered legal, let alone ethical. It’s also worth noting that their research seems to have been carried out some 10 years after the legislation was enacted and it is only now, another 4 years later, that the knowledge of this ‘research project’ has moved into the mainstream public domain.

All this, of course, assumes that the children concerned were selected for no other reason than that they were available to Yang, Felsen and Poppas – but having looked more closely at the original research document, I’m beginning to wonder if these are, in fact, intersex children. Consider: the report states that the subjects had enlarged clitorises, and that this anatomical variation “is often a prominent manifestation of virilizing congenital adrenal hyperplasia and other disorders of sexual development”.

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is an endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands produce abnormally high levels of virilising hormones and as such is already known to the medical profession as an intersex variation – or “disorder of sexual development”, the preferred pathologising and stigmatising term which, although preferred by the medical profession (and which Dreger was – is? – a proponent of), is objected to by some intersex activists.

It seems increasingly likely to me that, not only are we talking about a research project on intersex children, but also that that fact is being suppressed in Dreger and Feder’s article, even though it seems clear from the original report that this is exactly the situation. Which – if I’m correct in my interpretation – makes me wonder why Dreger and Feder chose not to highlight it too, and instead of focusing only on the postoperative experimentation. For what it’s worth, Alice Dreger has previously been known for her controversial views on issues of concern to both the intersex community (see this piece at OII) and the trans community (see this piece at TS Roadmap) but I can’t think what reason she might have for wanting to erase the fact that these were intersex children.

Equally, I can think of no good reason why Ellen Feder would want to do that either; she was one of the co-authors of the recent letter of concern from bioethicists, which sought an end to the off-label administration of dexamethasone (a prescription medication) to pregnant women who may give birth to girls with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH).

Finally, I’d really like to know why Alice Dreger and Ellen Feder have waited until now to spotlight this research document which, as I pointed out above, was first published in 2007.

I have to say that I’m completely mystified why the writers of any article detailing such shocking treatment and human rights abuses against intersex children should feel it necessary to leave out the salient fact that the subjects of the research are intersex. But one thing is clear: if we, as a society, are going to condone the treatment of intersex people like worthless lab rats and then deliberately airbrush them out of high-profile news stories about the injustices they’ve suffered, then how are we ever going to be able to start making amends for the human rights abuses inflicted against them in the name of medical science?


ETA, June 19:

Of these patients 46 (90%) were genetic females with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, 3 (6%) were 46 XY who had undergone sex reassignment surgeries and 2 (4%) were 46 XX disorder of sexual development.

That’s from the report itself – PDF here – and not the more widely publicised abstract – link here – even though the abstract also makes it clear that intersex people were subjects in this almost eugenicist experimentation.


ETA update, June 19: I’ve been looking at some of the trackbacks this post has received from other blogs and have seen suggestions in a couple of those links that some of the people experimented on were/are trans. At first glance, this is the obvious conclusion to draw from this phrase in the Poppas report – “[…] 3 (6%) were 46 XY who had undergone sex reassignment surgeries […]” – but I believe that it may well be an erroneous conclusion.

I don’t deny that some intersex people are trans and I don’t deny that some trans people are intersex. And I’m well aware that for some transsexual people, SRS is sometimes (though not always) one of the treatments we undergo to ease our gender dissonance (where our brains were expecting a body with a genital configuration different from that with which we were born).

However, there is also an intersex variation known as Gonadal Dysgenesis, which may manifest in various ways, and a number of medical categories have been devised to cover those variations: Complete Gonadal Dysgenesis, Mixed Gonadal Dysgenesis and Swyer Syndrome.

From the (admittedly limited) research I’ve done, I’m firmly of the opinion that the 3 individuals concerned are more likely to have one of the gonadal dysgenesis variations, than they are to be transsexual. In the context of gonadal dysgenesis, the meaning of the term sex reassignment surgeries has far less to do with the procedures carried out – with informed consent – on some transsexual people, than it does to the enforced normalisation imposed on intersex people by means of non-consensual “corrective” surgeries.

As far as I’m concerned, this is an exclusively intersex issue, and any suggestion that some of the research subjects are transsexual – although understandable – is not only incorrect, but also risks recentering the discussion in an unhelpful and distracting way.


ETA, June 23: From The Toronto Star:

Asked by the Star why it took nearly three years for anybody to pick up on Poppas’ testing techniques, Dreger said Monday that, “You have to kind of know the code you’re reading to understand what he’s describing.”

Orly? Well, how about this?

Enlargement of the clitoris is often a prominent manifestation of virilizing congenital adrenal hyperplasia… We present 51 consecutive cases of […] clitoroplasty performed by a single surgeon… Postoperative evaluation […] included […] examination and […] sensory testing and vibratory sensory testing.


Hmm. That doesn’t seem too hard to understand to me, but as I said in my original post, it’s the other questions which I’d like to hear the answers to.


Previous posts on this blog in the category Intersex:

Indonesia: Trial continues of XXY man for being an XXY man

June 9, 2010

I wrote recently about Alterina Hofan, a chromosomally atypical (47,XXY) man who stands accused of falsifying his identity. The prosecution alleges that Alterina is a female who swapped gender status to male in 2006, while the defence claims he has always been a man but that his genitalia developed late because of Klinefelter’s syndrome.

Alterina identifies himself as a man and, after years of medical intervention and surgery, married Jane Hadipoespito. However, Jane’s parents denounced the marriage and filed this lawsuit against Alterina for fraud because his birth certificate, ID and family cards stated that he was a woman.

Via The Jakarta Post, I read that the trial continued on Monday with the judge collecting statements from the prosecutors’ witnesses, including government officials who:

[…] confirmed they received necessary documents, including birth certificate, from Alterina in 2007, as part of requirements to process the issuance of a family card.

“The birth certificate needed to make the family card stating Alterina was a male. Nothing was wrong,” one witness said.

Another of Alterina’s lawyers, Raymond Ratu Taga, said his client had followed every procedure to change his sex status to male.

“With the help of his mother, Alterina made the sex-status change on Dec. 18, 2006 in Jayapura, Papua, as he was born there,” he said, adding his client had never had any sex change surgery.


I imagine that Alterina could well do without the interjections from Benny Susetyo, secretary to the Indonesian Bishops’ Council (KWI), who is quoted (again, in The Jakarta Post) as follows:

“The Catholic Church bans marriage between people of the same sex”

Which is about the degree of intelligence and compassion I’ve come to expect from the Catholic Church; Mr Susetyo’s demonstration of his complete lack of understanding of intersex variations would be merely embarrassing were it not for the fact that, for whatever reason, the views espoused by his Church appear to carry some weight within the Republic of Indonesia, a pluralist country with a majority Muslim population.

Benny said the health problem could not justify the change in sex status. “Her [sic] DNA and genetics prove she [sic] is female, therefore she [sic] can be medically cured,” the priest said.

No, Mr Susetyo, his DNA and genetics prove that he is a 47XXY man and not that he is female. As I said last time:

It’s really quite frightening that non-intersex people have the power to ignore fundamental human rights in pursuit of the violent imposition of a socially constructed gender binary.

The trial continues and, notwithstanding the dangerously medieval attitudes of people like Mr Susetyo, I hope Alterina receives a just and fair treatment which respects his human right to bodily autonomy.

Alterina Hofan (Image via The Jakarta Globe)


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Lynne Featherstone on gender identity and human rights

June 5, 2010

Lynne Featherstone (Image via Twitter)I’m beyond disillusioned with party politics in the UK these days, so I approached the website of Lynne Featherstone, “MP for Hornsey and Wood Green since 2005” and now Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Equalities, with distinctly low expectations of her having anything useful to say on the subject of social justice and civil rights for TS/TG people. So it was a bit of a surprise to find her holding forth on her blog with a piece called Gender Identity and Human Rights.

Leaving aside her lack of clarity about whether the Equality Act 2010 will be amended to reflect the views of many in my community and her omission of non binary identified trans people – not to mention the complete erasure of intersex identities (why does that not surprise me?) – at least her message of support for the International Congress on Gender Identity and Human Rights, currently being held in Barcelona) recognises the existence of transphobia, if not its pervasiveness or severity.

The UK Government is totally committed to creating a society that is fair for everyone. We are committed to tackling prejudice and discrimination against transgender people at home and around the world.

The Government wishes the International Congress on Gender Identity and Human Rights every success when considering how to improve the rights of transgender individuals around the world and in tackling transphobia.

We need concerted government action to tear down barriers and help to build a fairer society for transgender people.

It’s a start, I suppose – a small step in the right direction – but quite frankly, it’s nowhere near enough to begin redressing the balance. I only hope that she, along with her boss (the famously homophobic Theresa May) and the rest of the motley crew of lawmakers now running the country will ramp up their efforts and treat this too-often neglected issue with the seriousness and urgency it deserves. Because what my community doesn’t need is yet another meaningless PR statement which will be forgotten as soon as it’s been published.