Written by Geoffrey Yeung, Department of Law, University of Oxford
The LGBTQIA+ acronym is important for recognising the diversity of lived experiences and concerns among sexual and gender minorities. However, the “I” in the acronym is still one of the less recognised letters.
In Hong Kong, where I am from, awareness about intersex people has improved in recent years, thanks to a tireless campaign by a local intersex activist, Small Luk (see here and here). As a gay activist in Hong Kong, I have witnessed how her efforts have raised awareness of intersex rights not only among LGBTQIA+ people but also among medical professionals, policymakers and the general public.
Under her guidance, an intersex community is also slowly emerging in the public’s view. Earlier this year, several intersex persons of Chinese ethnicity from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mainland China and Malaysia came together to form the Chinese Intersex Alliance and published the “Hong Kong Statement 2017” (original in Chinese). This was the first comprehensive statement from the intersex community in this region articulating their stances and recommendations, on issues ranging from pathologisation to discrimination. Moreover, the Hong Kong Statement recognised the cultural intersections where intersex people in this region stand – stating that the community respects both Chinese and Western cultures, but refuses to allow these cultural reasons to be used to violate the human rights of intersex persons. Like other documents such as the Vienna Statement from Europe and the Darlington Statement from Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand, the Hong Kong Statement is an impressive display of regional intersex advocacy.
However, Hong Kong authorities are slow to catch up. No government official has ever publicly mentioned intersex people. Activists are still advocating for the right for intersex people not to be subject to genital surgeries without their consent. The gender binary remains entrenched in the law and in the sex designations on government-issued identity cards (on legal gender recognition for intersex people, see the 2013 Malta Statement). Comprehensive sex education is rarely implemented, and nearly never covers LGBTQIA+ issues. Not long ago I had conversation with a local medical student during which he argued that “gender is a spectrum but sex is not”.
To change this we must all step up in our support of intersex people and include intersex rights in our politics. And the first step must be to get educated about their stances and demands.
This article was originally published on the Study at SOAS blog as a run-up to the ‘Queer’ Asia Conference 2017.