This article celebrates the release of a brilliant new resource for working with intersex people: What We Wish Our Therapists Knew.
It’s sad to say that in none of the counselling, coaching, or psychotherapy training I’ve done, have intersex people featured as anything more than a passing mention.
What does intersex mean?
Put simply, “Intersex people have innate sex characteristics that don’t fit medical norms for female or male bodies.” Some intersex people prefer the term, “differences in sex development (DSDs)” instead of intersex.
A few years ago, I wrote an article about an intersex person, which you can read here, that included a lot of background information about being intersex.
You may have heard of intersex athletes, such as Caster Semenya, who struggle to be accepted due to their naturally high hormone levels.
This struggle for acceptance can be seen in parallel with trans athletes such as Lia Thomas.
What do members of the intersex community want?
I would never want to speak for intersex people, but I can raise awareness of what intersex advocacy organisations, such as InterACT share.
A significant number of intersex campaigns focus on inappropriate medical interventions, such as stopping unnecessary genital surgery of intersex babies. This is done through a combination of educating parents, medical professionals, and pushing for legal changes in medical practices. You can learn more about intersex medical justice here.
What do intersex people say?
Here are some of the quotes from intersex people,
- I think being intersex is cool. I wouldn’t want my body to be “fixed”, I just want to be supported and appreciated the way I am.
- I wish that more therapists understood that for me, being intersex doesn’t define my gender identity, but it isn’t totally separate from it either.
- Being intersex impacts every aspect of my identity. It intersects with my gender, religion, politics, disability, and medical experience , you name it.”
What are intersex people asking for from therapy?
Looking at this resources from InterACT, there is a lot of excellent advice for counsellors including:
- Work in a trauma-informed way, regardless of the topic
- Don’t assume that being intersex is why they’re coming for therapy
- Emphasise self-advocacy and empowerment
- Use inclusive and non-pathologising language
- Educate yourself about intersex issues.
That said, you don’t have to be a mental health professional to treat intersex people with honesty, dignity, and respect.
We can all do better to raise awareness about intersex people and help reduce the discrimination and prejudices they face.
For intersex inspiration, I invite you to read the poems of intersex activist, Mx. Anunnaki Ray Marquez.
Together, we can do better.