Here’s a pretty awesome note for the end of 2016: New York has just made LGBTQIA history. Marie Claire reports that 55-year-old Sara Kelly Keenan, whose preferred pronouns are she/her, received the first known intersex birth certificate in the United States, which the New York native calls “both shocking and empowering.”
Along with another landmark case this year, in which an Oregon court recognized Jamie Shupe’s gender as nonbinary, this is hopefully another instance that will bring change around the country for recognizing nonbinary gender identities. Keenan, in an interview with NBC Out, says:
Not all intersex people will choose to identify legally as intersex and not all parents will choose to have their intersex child identified as intersex on birth documents. But for those who do, the option must exist.
This change is a huge deal for intersex individuals and I hope it encourages more people to also educate themselves about what intersex is, as it’s often miscategorized or discussed with archaic, offensive language.
While the exact number of people born intersex is not known, it’s much more common than most people realize. Many people who are intersex won’t even realize it until later in life, either because these variations don’t show up until they’re older, or because their parents keep it a secret. Keenan herself was one of these cases when her parents and doctors first issued her a male certificate, then a female one. She was told she was “a girl that can’t make hormones” at 16–reflecting the tendency within our culture to downplay, “correct,” and further stigmatize intersex individuals. Intersex Society of North America is a great place to start if you’re looking for more information!
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