Is there a difference between gay rights or LGBT rights and spouse of intersex rights? One has to discuss the ground realities first. If you are not aware of intersex or what it is, intersex is a group of genetic conditions. One such intersex condition is Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) that affects sexual development before birth and during puberty. People with this condition are genetically male. They may have female sex characteristics or signs of both male and female sexual development. The intent here is to get equal LGBT rights and equal intersex rights. The “equal rights” is inevitable but just like interracial marriage or civil rights or apartheid, one has to fight for their rights. Any similarities or dissimilarities are highlighted from an analysis perspective to bring change in the social fabric and community. The words intersex and AIS are used interchangeably.
Anti-homosexuality laws ‘will in the future be seen as wrong as apartheid laws are now’ – Bishop Desmond Tutu
We may add [anti-intersex couple] laws as well
1) In a gay relationship, both members are genetically male. In an AIS relationship, both members are genetically male. This creates some specific situations in getting equal rights for all. As a spouse of intersex, one should have a right to know the facts of the medical condition rather than being lied to under the pretense of “privacy”. Are the human rights of the non-intersex spouse being violated? There is no “I” in infertility when one is married like in an intersex marriage, then why is there an “I” in treatment of intersex during marriage?
2) In a gay relationship, if a partner is fertile, only one male can opt for having a biological child. In an AIS relationship, the AIS person is infertile. So if the other partner is fertile, only that male can opt for having a biological child. This creates some specific situations about marital rights and child rights. If the child is born outside the US and if immigration laws are involved, the prevailing US immigration laws require a biological link to the child of the parent. Then what are the rights of the intersex parent, a non-biological parent? Can they legally bring a child born outside the US? Or is the message that intersex people should not have children despite options like adoption and fertility treatments?
3) In most countries in 2012, the prevailing laws associate a child’s primary care provider as a “mother”. In a relationship between two males, who is the “mother”? This is different in a lesbian relationship, a child would have a biological “mother” which can be used to their advantage using prevailing laws. We need laws specifically for child born to male without a legal “mother”. A case in point is where a gay couple had a child born through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and are no locked in a custody battle of the IVF children. If gay marriage were legal and therefore the resulting surrogacy to have a child by gay parents, would there be a legal case now? This case highlights the traumatic and difficult situations created because of LACK OF LAWS.
4) When a child is born in a gay or intersex relationship between two genetic males, which parent’s rights does the child inherit? Are both considered “father” or one is assigned as the “mother” based on biological relationship to the child? While laws on adoption have been in existence longer and are more mature, laws on fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF) and/or surrogacy are still evolving without a standardized international equivalence. With the cost of IVF/surrogacy high in western countries, lot of people opt for fertility treatments in Asian countries like Israel or India where costs are more affordable. Can IVF children be legally brought back to the western countries specifically if the children are of a relationship between two genetic males?
5) People can love each other without being married. Marriage is an important social and legal institution because it confers a lot of rights to the spouses. With changes in the air across the world with more equal rights for LGBT, there is a lack of awareness about intersex and their rights. Should there be laws to make intersex marriages legal?
6) In a gay or lesbian relationship, both adults are aware of each other’s relationship preferences and the inherent lack of rights in 2012 for gays and lesbians. In an intersex relationship, the non-intersex spouse may not be aware of the condition until after the marriage and the inherent lack of rights for both intersex spouse and the non-intersex spouse.
7) Being gay or lesbian has probably been around for ages as a natural human emotion, however, secrecy and stigma have been associated and unfortunately still are although its changing. Being intersex is a genetic condition and is natural, however secrecy and stigma are associated with it. Unfortunately, there is lesser awareness and knowledge about intersex than gays or lesbians and therefore there is a heightened secrecy and lying including at institutional levels. Unknowing non-intersex spouses are forced to lie in the interest of helping someone compassionately to deal with being intersex. Instead it is better to have equal rights for intersex couples so they can be honest.
8) There is a “critical mass” of LGBT rights movement. There has been lot of success and laws are changing. As per NIH, 1 in 20000 births are AIS which would make the total population of AIS in the world at 350,000. While 1 in 2000 births are intersex which would make the total population of intersex at 3.5 million. Considerably, intersex as a group is a much smaller minority than LGBT. The non-intersex spouses of AIS or intersex are probably a far smaller minority as most intersex people report difficulty in long-term relationships and intimacy.
Is it right to give the rights of a minority while ignoring a smaller minority? We all know the right answer in our hearts which is to have equal rights for all. But we take a pragmatic approach and after working in the inefficiencies of “law-making”, we take what we can get which is NOT the same as EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL. Unfortunately, it is akin to solving world hunger. Everyone wants to help but no one knows how to solve it even though millions of tons of food from restaurants, homes, etc. goes to waste everyday meaning as a human race we have resources to feed every human on this earth but we still cannot.
The intent here is to highlight the ground realities facing intersex couples and their children. After the secrecy and stigma of being in an intersex relationship, trauma of dealing with infertility and lack of laws for intersex couples to have children legally, there is no need to continue the trauma. It is better to educate, spread awareness and ask for equal rights.