“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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Hot On The Heels Of Hate: More Hate

Aftter the Harris Himes debacle I thought we might have a cooling off period.

No such luck. From The Southern Poverty Law Center:

A former “staff leader” of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations is threatening to indict members of the Montana Human Rights Network by convening a “citizen grand jury.”

The e-mail threat came from Karl Gharst, a white supremacist who was convicted and sent to prison in 2004 for threatening to kill a child protective services worker in Montana. The new threat was disclosed Thursday by Travis McAdam, director of the Montana human rights organization, who said the matter had been reported to law enforcement.

The threat of “convening so-called citizen grand juries is a tactic that radical-right extremists love to employ,” McAdam said. “They think it makes their lies, threats, and intimidation more valid if they throw in some fake legalese.”

In the Sept. 17 E-mail, Gharst said the Montana Human Rights Network is a “Jewish criminal organization working with other Jewish organized crime networks,” including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

Gharst accused the Montana human rights organization of “entrapping lawful citizens into crimes engineered by the above-mentioned criminal organizations.”

“These organizations are well known to commit crimes against lawful citizens through intimidation, destruction of property, violence and assassination,” Gharst wrote. “These people calling themselves ‘Jews’ are not citizens of the State of Montana in accordance to the Constitution of the State of Montana.

“As a lawful citizen I am giving you proper notice that I am now exercising my duty that I will do all in my power and the power of the State of Montana to see that all MHRN members will stand trial by the lawful citizens of the State of Montana for crimes against the State, and justice returned to lawful citizens.”

McAdam said that while Gharst’s allegations are ludicrous, he considers him potentially dangerous.

…and he should. These words need to be taken for what they are- the rantings of an enraged lunatic on the verge of violence. He uses words like “destruction”, “violence” and “assassination”- which any abnormal psychology textbook will tell you speaks more about the state of mind of the speaker than the object of hate.

Creepy. And there’s even more. 

Read it all here.

And watch your backs.

 

Report The Hate

Okay, I’m gonna ramp things up a bit.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has a history of standing with people and groups against hate, prejudice and bigotry. From their website:

The Southern Poverty Law Center is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education and other forms of advocacy, we work toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.

We employ a three-pronged strategy to battle racial and social injustice:

  • We track the activities of hate groups and domestic terrorists across America, and we launch innovative lawsuits that seek to destroy networks of radical extremists.
  • We use the courts and other forms of advocacy to win systemic reforms on behalf of victims of bigotry and discrimination.
  • We provide educators with free resources that teach school children to reject hate, embrace diversity and respect differences.

They also have a portal for reporting hate incidents under their “Hate Map” of the United States- which is quite interesting, by the way. Just click here and then the button that says “Report a Hate Incident”.

I’m encouraging you to report the Montana GOP for their hateful platform plank:

We support the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal.

You can also add any weblinks you think appropriate. I would humbly suggest you add this one.

Maybe we’ll get some appropriate attention to end this draconian bigotry. If not, I still have a few aces up my sleeve….