Honouring Barbin, honouring intersex elders


Paying respects to intersex elders. Image: Bonnie Hart.

Bonnie Hart (Australia) pays respects and homage to intersex elders, past and present for Intersex Day of Solidarity. Here is the full statement.

8 Nov – International Intersex Day of Solidarity/Remembrance

On this day I pay my respects and homage to my intersex elders, past and present, who through their strength, tenacity, resilience and beauty have forged a way forward through the thicket of institutionalised oppression, normalisation and medical/social elimination that all intersex people are faced with. It is lifted on their shoulders that I stand here today.

Without the representation and visibility of my elders, people with physical sex characteristics not conforming to binary social stereotypes would have nowhere to see similar bodies existing in the world outside medical journals and freak shows. They have contextualised and protected us as both natural and normal within a paradigm of our own making: created by and for us and shared with you.

Intersex people are more likely to lose their life at the hands of others or themselves via genetic deselection, infanticide or suicide. My mind today is with the fallen bodies and lost hearts. If you know an intersex person they are a survivor and a warrior of a battle you may not even know is happening. The battleground is the mind: our own and the social collective. Stigma is the weapon: the blunt object that others bludgeon us with and that we often turn onto ourselves. The white flag is awareness: the only truce is that of self love, mutual respect and the banishment of ignorance

From to celebration of existence and visibility to the gritty reality of life, I pay my respects.

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Also in Australia, Greens Senator Janet Rice made a statement for Intersex Solidarity Day in the upper house of the country’s federal parliament:

Janet Rice, Senator for Victoria

Book cover

Cover of the book by Ambroise Tardieu that first published part of Herculine Barbin’s memoirs. (Wikipedia)

OII-USA has published a statement honouring Herculine Barbin, on Intersex Day of Remembrance:

Today, we memorialize Barbin and all those who have been maimed, murdered or forced to take their own lives as a result of inter phobia, and we bring attention to the continued violence, obfuscation and human rights abuses endured by the intersex community. As our comrades in the LGBTQIA community and the fight against AIDS aptly stated decades ago, “Silence = Death”, and we acknowledge this to be so. Thus, we call on all intersex people and our allies to shed light on this situation in some way today

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An increasing number of historic cases of intersex people in situations like Barbin’s are coming to light. The canon law historian Christof Rolker has uncovered hidden histories of intersex people, and he has also published a statement honouring Herculine Barbin:

Today is the birthday of Adélaïde Herculine Barbin – celebrated as Intersex Day of Remembrance around the world. Barbin was raised as a girl in 1838 but declared male at the age of 30, and committed suicide soon afterwards. It is very plausible to assume that the medical enquiry, the media coverage and the (unwanted) change of legal gender played a crucial role in Barbin’s decision to commit suicide.

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