“Where Would I Begin?” Reflections on the Historic filing of the Crawford Case

The historic litigation in the case of M.C. has profound significance for many in the intersex community. Advocates for Informed Choice (AIC) is publishing a series of personal responses to the M.C. litigation. The first in this series is by longtime intersex activist and former AIC staff member Jim Ambrose (formerly Jim Bruce). This piece originally appeared on AIC’s blog, June 5, 2013.

“M.C. will spend the rest of his life paying for his caretakers’ actions.” – Erica K. Landau, Huffington Post

Where would I begin? I asked myself that question every other hour after AIC asked me to submit my reaction to the filing of the Crawford case. Hell, I’m asking it right now. I worked for AIC from 2009 to February, 2013 so I knew this case was coming for a while. That said I had a feeling it wouldn’t get filed, that it’d slip away or rather be taken away. I wasn’t alone in feeling that simply filing the lawsuit, just filing it, would be monumental. Looking back it was kind of like when an 8 year-old thinks Christmas is an oasis (7 months away!), too far off to comprehend day-to-day and so the kid resigns himself to childhood drudgery. Because, come on, nothing exists that far in the future least of all everything you ever wanted.

But, on the morning of May 14, 2013 The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Advocates for Informed Choice issued a press release detailing how a group of professional adults irreparably harmed a child in South Carolina. I gazed at my laptop as a press conference took place right in front of some giant brick courthouse. Attorneys representing a child called M.C. stood in a semi-circle behind a podium, and there was Anne! Anne, who will argue breathlessly that ‘They Might Be Giants’ was the greatest band of the 20thcentury, was right there on the Primetime Live at 5 Eyewitness News! Ever-measured Anne gently explained what she knows she can prove: That what happened to M.C. was unnecessary, arrogant and brutal.

You see, for me, the most difficult aspect of intersex advocacy is making this complex issue understood by any audience. Intersex stuff is nothing but sprawl. It gets everywhere: sex, genitals, going to the bathroom, hormones, clothing, fitting in, not fitting in, showering, sports, inclusion/exclusion, sex again, interpersonal connection, how we all sleep at night, self-determination, the opportunities we give ourselves and take from others and contentment. You know, the basics. These items are hardly approachable because most educated folks often fail to even understand the difference between sex and gender. So tell me how a kid is to know what a numerator is if they struggle to count to 10?

So, then two of the bravest people I may ever know did something most intersex advocates (myself included) thought could never happen. They stood in front of cameras, on record, in their son’s hometown and demanded justice. Pam and Mark Crawford denounced the needless removal of their son’s genitals and reproductive organs as “a careless and reckless action,” and that the State of South Carolina “disfigured (M.C.) because they could not accept him for who he was.” When I glanced down to watch the seconds peel away on the web clip I noticed my hands and knees were trembling. No. I was shaking all over. That’s when I realized Pam bears a passing resemblance to my own mother. My mother has that red hair, those sturdy-yet-stylish eyeglasses, and a voice that tells a careful listener suffering is something you do alone.

The thing is M.C. and I (along with many intersex people) share a similar childhood narrative. We both endured early years of ghastly cosmetic genital surgery, the loss of our reproductive organs and silence. But, M.C. was adopted by the Crawford family. I never saw the inside of an orphanage. M.C. has a sense of self and of his safety. My sense of self was gray, disoriented. I did not feel safe. M.C. has a voice that he uses. I had a voice too, but if I’d shared that voice with my parents I would have told them I was lost. M.C. used his voice to inform his family that he is a boy.

Pam projected her voice. I can hear it as I type: “The adults involved are sending him the message that your body is not acceptable and has to change in order for you to be loved.” I know how true those words are. I, and many intersex advocates, have articulated versions of them to those in power for the past 20 years. But, hey, why should highly-educated clinicians listen to a handful of surgical ingrates? History tells us that appeals for mercy through testimonials of truth and suffering have never been enough to effect institutional change. Those words from a proud and committed mother of an intersex kiddo in front of most of the world are not an appeal for mercy. They are a shot across the bow.

Pam’s unshakeable words found a spot in me I thought I’d grieved out. Out and away. I’d say it was unbearable save for the fact that I knew thousands of other intersex people were witnessing the Crawfords’ demonstration of love and belief in their son. I shared May 14, 2013 with many people, especially the ones no longer with us. And, frankly that experience reminds me how alone I was for so long, how alive I am now and, finally that resilience brings liberation to those residing on the right side of history.

Jim Ambrose is a worker bee at The Interface Project. #justice4mc

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Bittersweet Win In Helena

Tonight, Helena took another step toward equality.
 
An LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinance was passed by Helena’s City Commission unanimously with five votes. The citywide ordinance prohibits discriminatory acts in employment and housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. However, it only provides some protections in public accommodations.

Bill sponsor Katherine Haque-Hausrath was unable to convince her colleagues to eliminate an amendment requiring transgender people to use the bathroom or locker room that matches their “anatomical sex regardless of their gender identity.”

Jamee Greer, Montana Human Rights Network’s LGBT organizer, called the amendment “cowardly.”

“The capital city in Montana has become the second city in the state to pass an ordinance, which is historic,” Greer said. “I’m incredibly proud of all the hundreds of hours of volunteer work; people came to hearings starting in March 2012 and continued to come over and over. It’s a bittersweet victory for me knowing that many transgender people in our community are excluded from part of this ordinance. It feels like I can’t own it.”

While we are aware of the hard work ahead, we are grateful to all the community members who attended and/or testified at the hearings and to the staff at theMontana Human Rights Network for their leadership on this ordinance.

Together, we will continue to move our community forward.
With Pride,
Caitlin Copple
Regional Development Organizer in Montana

 

Identification of LGBT Needs in the Exam Room

A physician performs a routine checkup on a pa...

A physician performs a routine checkup on a patient at the medical clinic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last time you were in an exam room, did you feel that the attending physician received all the information needed to gain an accurate perspective of your plight? Did you share everything you felt you should, no matter how personal? Did said physician even ask about anything, aside from the usual short list of inquiries we are all too familiar with in that particular setting?

If you are a physician, do you really get the answers you need from your patients? Or perhaps it is just too uncomfortable when talking about sexual health and behaviors. More likely, they do not disclose the details out of discomfort, or even fear.

LGBT persons have shown to have some unique healthcare needs, sometimes experiencing disparities in care. LGBT patients are often uncomfortable or inhibited from talking openly with healthcare providers about sexual orientation, gender identity, and sexual behaviors. Certain sexual behaviors do not automatically define that patient as LGBT, and not all LGBT patients are going to have similar sexual behaviors. Truthfully, it’s not about whether a person is a member of the LGBT community or not. It’s about the individuals choices and behaviors that could be putting their health at risk, as well as the health of others. In order to cover everyone’s needs, patients must speak openly with providers. Providers must delve into the patients behaviors and understand where the risk behavior is at for each patient. I am going to lay out a few examples, ideas, and suggestions for physicians, as well as patients.

In any healthcare position, you will find people from diverse backgrounds and lifestyles. Different interests, tastes, and mindset. The right approach will reassure patients that the provider is knowledgeable, genuine, concerned, confidential and accepting. This enables the patient to open up and discuss the very private matters of sexual behavior, often in this society a ‘taboo’ subject.

Ask the patient to tell a bit about themselves. As the patient, make sure you indulge your sexual partner(s), safe sex practices, and concerns. Some behaviors have an amount of risk attached to them that is often unknown to the patient.  A physician might ask “Do you have any questions or concerns about your sexuality, sexual orientation or sexual desires?”. Use gender-neutral terms and mirror the patient’s terminology to better understand how they identify. For example, asking “do you have a partner or spouse?” “Are you currently in a relationship?” “What do you call your partner?” are all good ways to decide how the patient will identify without offending them with clinical terms which may sound cold and ‘labeled’. From here the in-depth sexual questions begin: “Are you sexually active?” “When you have sex, do you have sex with men, women or both?” “Are you and your partner monogamous?” “How many sexual partners have you had in the past year?” “Do you have vaginal sex, anal sex, or both?”. These and many more are the key to finding out just what unique needs your particular patient might have.

It is important to differentiate between sexual identity and sexual behavior. Providers need to discuss sexual behavior with patients regardless of sexual identity in order to define risk-assessment, ascertaining what activities they engage in and to learn what they are doing to prevent the transmission of disease.

And for the majority of readers, as  patients we have a personal responsibility to find the courage to openly discuss in confidence all of our behaviors and desires with our doctors, nurses, therapists and counselors, etc. This is extremely important. We cannot rely on someone to read our thoughts and know the truth.

Stand up and be proud of yourself. I can almost guarantee that the person treating you has heard it all. And if they haven’t, they will soon enough.

Bisexual Men and Women Less Likely Than Gay Men, Lesbians to Disclose Sexual Orientation

English: Illustration of the double moon symbo...

English: Illustration of the double moon symbol used by bisexuals who wish to avoid the use of triangles. This example is in the colours of the Bisexual Pride flag. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New research shows that bisexual men and women are less likely than gay men and lesbians to disclose their sexual orientation to healthcare providers.  The study, which examined nondisclosure of sexual orientation among lesbians, gay men and bisexual men and women, found that concealment of sexual orientation from healthcare providers was related to poor psychological wellbeing.

“This study adds to a growing literature that shows that a one-size-fits-all approach to understanding the health of sexual minorities ignores differences among subpopulations within this community,” said Laura Durso Ph.D., Williams Institute Public Policy Fellow.

Nondisclosure was higher among bisexual men of whom 39% did not disclose to any medical provider and bisexual women of whom 33% did not disclose to any medical provider.  Disclosure was much more prevalent among gay men and lesbians among whom only 13% and 10%, respectively, did not disclose their sexual orientation to any medical provider.  Among lesbians, greater nondisclosure was found among racial/ethnic minorities, women with lower educational level, and women with children. Among both gay and bisexual men, greater nondisclosure was found among younger men and men who were born outside the U.S.

The study, entitled “Patterns and Predictors of Disclosure of Sexual Orientation to Healthcare Providers among Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals,” was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and is published in Sexuality Research and Social Policy.

Full study: click here.

For Men Only- Your Sexual Health

From the National Association of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) and the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) comes a new pamphlet aimed at helping men who have sex with men (MSM) take charge of their sexual heath:

“Whether you are gay, bisexual or any man who has sex with other men (MSM), there are certain health services that are important for you to talk about with your doctor to protect your sexual health. This brief pamphlet is designed to help you get the best sexual health care during your visit to the doctor.”

An amazing array of helpful information about special health concerns and working with your healthcare provider.

View “For Men Only- Your Sexual Health” here.

Bible and Homosexuality: Does it Matter?

From Queering The Church:

August 26, 2012

By 

For Christians, the Bible is obviously important, but on homosexuality, responses differ. For traditionalists, it is a given that scripture “obviously” condemns all forms of same – sex activities, and that sodomy is “the sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance”. For an expanding pool of revisionist biblical scholars, this is a false reading of scripture, based on mistranslations or mistranslations of the original texts, and distorted by a heteronormative interpretive bias. Canon Derrek Sherwen Bailey first questioned the traditional readings back in the 1950′s, have challenged the traditional interpretations of the clobber texts, even labelling them as textual abuse, and more recently begun to promote affirmative, LGBT inclusive passages as an alternative.

But there’s another view,  that even if it is true that the Bible really does condemn homosexuality, it could be simply wrong – just it has been wrong on slavery.

The argument is neatly put by Dan Savage, in his widely reported debate with Brian Brown, of the NOM:

The Atlantic reports it so:

The Bible, if it got something as easy and obvious as slavery wrong, what are the odds that it got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong? I put those odds at about 100 percent. Pat Robertson was recently asked about this. He was asked, “If America was founded as a Christian nation why did we allow slavery?” And his answer was, “Like it or not, if you read the Bible, in the Old Testament slavery is permitted.” That’s a half-truth. In both testaments slavery is permitted and sanctioned. But then Robertson said something uncharacteristically profound: “We have moved in our conception of human beings until we realized that slavery was terribly wrong.” And so what he’s saying there is not just that we realized slavery is terribly wrong. Also, we realized the bible was wrong about slavery. I don’t think LGBT Americans are asking American Christians to do anything that you haven’t already done.

Move in your conception of the value of human beings.

Here’s the full debate, courtesy of YouTube: