Paradigm shift in LGBTQI+ matters
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Over the years, education and advocacy about the LGBTQI+ community have impressively improved and members of the community are not shunned as they were before. However, the focus is on more trans people, gays and lesbians, but little on intersexed people.
This week, Gauteng Community Safety MEC Faith Mazibuko engaged the LGBTQI+ community where the main focus was on the safety and challenges faced by the intersex community. They highlighted issues such as the lack of education and access to appropriate healthcare.
The intersex community feels that there is a huge misconception about them and it seems to be deep-rooted in how society lacks knowledge and understanding of what they are about. It was pointed out that religious and societal beliefs contribute greatly to this misinformation and people often impose their belief systems on others.
This may be the reason why up to this day many people believe that intersex babies represent bad luck and should be killed right after birth. It is for this very belief that many intersex persons, particularly in black communities, live in secret and fear of the unknown.
Tebogo Makwati from Intersex SA (ISSA) believes that lack of education around intersex persons contributes to the misinformation about the community and that needs to be changed.
Makwati says sharing information around the different vibrations around the intersex community will aid in eradicating stigma, misinformation and make public facilities more inclusive.
“I believe such information can start with pregnant women where they can be educated about the different variations about being intersex during their pregnancy. The education curriculum doesn’t really teach much about such during life-orientation lessons.
“Also, the notion of intersex being about orientation needs to be broken down, and we need to educate society that it has nothing to do with orientation, but sexual reproductive organs and sexual anatomy,” said Makwati.
“There is no opportunity given to parents with intersex babies to get information before they give consent to perform surgery on babies.”
However, Dr Michelle Carrihill, a paediatrician at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital argues that unlike before, surgeries on intersex babies are only performed in cases of medical or surgical emergencies.
According to Carrihill, these surgeries are performed depending on the reasons why the child is born with this variation, and where there may be no medical dangers.
For this reason, surgery is not recommended until the child is old enough to say which gender they feel most comfortable with and want to identify with. However, some crucial cases are medically urgent and need to be medically or surgically managed.
“For example in a baby where the urinary hole is closed, that is going to be dangerous because the baby needs to be able to pass urine. An urgent surgery would be needed to create a hole for the urine to come out. The same with an anus. If it is closed or the anus is joined to the bladder or the vagina, that is dangerous for the baby and surgery would need to be performed,” Carrihill explained.
In a case of a medical emergency, one of the conditions that cause a baby to be born looking different is where they got a hormone blocked in the adrenaline gland and the gland ends producing the wrong hormone in large quantities.
To educate the general public and understand the LGBTQI+ community better, the Department of Social Development appointed school social workers and is providing training to these professionals on how to best address issues affecting the community in a more dignified and sensitive manner.