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Intersex People: Are they PWDs too?

Did you know that it is improper to call or refer to a human being with sex developmental disorders as a “hermaphrodite”?  The proper term is “intersex” or a person whose body does not fit in the regular medical category of being either male of female. They are “i” in LGBTI.  To refer or label them as hermaphrodite is offensive as this term is only used for lower animal and plant life forms.

There have been questions sent privately to our Facebook page. The questions have been directly at the Intersex and if our government considers them to be persons with disability and if they qualify for the PWD ID.We have tried to answer this question in our weekly radio show “The PWDPhil Hour” which airs over Radyo Pilipinas Dos 918 KHz AM every Saturday 10 am. In our opinion, we believe that the Intersex should be considered PWDs for various reasons.

Abuse begins at home

A sad fact of life, many of those who were born “different” fight abuse as early as childhood from the very people expected to protect them. For many gay mean and women, their sexuality has been wrongly perceived as a choice that they have made, either to make up for a traumatic experience or just to taunt their families with how rebellious they have chosen to become. This belief is ubiquitous among Filipino families who have yet to develop an acceptance of gay people. There are fathers who have been known to beat their sons into “masculinity”, often with society accepting this as normal and humane. With this kind of bigotry and the lack of awareness and acceptance for the LGBT community, one can only wonder what kind of abuse an Intersex will get from his/her own family.

A problem among Filipino families is the strictness and unyielding nature of our gender roles. It is commonly believed that gender roles are determined by a person’s sex. If a person is male, then he is expected to identify himself as a male, with the usual attraction to the opposite sex. The same is true with females. Any deviation from what their sex dictates will not be tolerated, though such tolerance has become more and more widespread and has gone well into acceptance in many societies.

However, the first line of opposition that a “different” person encounters is almost always the family. More so, the traditional, unyielding, deathly-scared, socially compliant family. Any member of the LGBT community can attest to how their families have become highly resistant to their gender roles as if it were a choice they could easily abandon. The case for the intersex people is not the same. With the gay and lesbian community, there is that; a community to turn to. There are many support groups where gay people can find social acceptance, an important part of human existence. There is no known group for intersex people. There are families who hide their intersex children from the public eye, some of them going as far as not sending them to school at all.

Abuse continues in the school

For some intersex children who come from educated families, they are sent to schools that are not accepting or tolerant of such conditions. Especially in the Philippines where even the teachers are part of this intolerant society. All-girl or all-boy Catholic schools are some of the most intolerant environments in Philippine society. You think public school is bad? Bullying in private and exclusive schools in the Philippines is more sophisticated and generally unchecked, sometimes such bullying would happen with the silent approval of the school’s teachers and administrators as they themselves perpetuate the intolerance for gays, lesbians and intersex people. Very few Catholic school administrators and teachers believe in acceptance and showing compassion for those who are different. The guilt complex of the Catholic belief is so extensive that many gays, lesbians and especially intersex people believe that it is their fault for being what they are. It has been a horrible nightmare for those who have experienced this kind of emotional and psychological abuse.  And abuse, in any shape or form, always leave their victims scarred for life.

Intersex ≠ Gay

An intersex person is NOT gay. They are persons with disorders of sex development (DSD) and as a result, they are neither male nor female, in the medical sense. Their ambiguous genitalia make it difficult for doctors to identify their sex upon birth. If you think about it, intersex issues are generally not psychological; they are physical. People born with one leg shorter than the other cannot be faulted for not being a basketball player. Such is the same for the intersex. They identify with the sex that they feel is where they belong, in spite of their appearance, and people fault them for it, labeling them as gay or lesbian. It is a silent struggle that is unknown to many. And the struggle can end where education and awareness begins.

Acknowledgment of an emerging Intersex community worldwide

Truly there is a great need for educating our communities on gender awareness and human rights for minority groups. In the United States, there are doctors who believe that surgery can “correct” these “mistakes” of Mother Nature and make the intersex lead a “normal” life. Recently, it has been agreed upon by the United Nations that “corrective” surgery for intersex children is a violation of their human rights. As in any form of surgery, the patient must be made fully aware of the nature of the surgery and for what purpose, The patient must be properly educated and be given the chance to fully understand his/her options before consenting. Such choices must not be made by other people for  them, not even their parents.

In the Philippines, there are no support groups known who provide assistance and counseling to the intersex. In the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, support groups are beginning to emerge as public awareness for this condition grows. If we follow the law to the letter, RA 10747 clearly points out DSDs fall under the category of Rare Diseases and sufferers should be considered Persons with Disabilities.


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