8 Ways You Can Be An Ally to Intersex Students
I am a 16 year old girl with Swyer Syndrome. Most people have never heard of Swyer Syndrome or the dozens of other intersex variations. Because of this, there is a lot of confusion around what intersex is, and what intersex people, especially students, need.
Before we start, I need you to understand some things. Intersex is an umbrella term that describes bodies that are more diverse than typical ideas of male or female bodies. There are intersex people everywhere. At the mall, the grocery store, and even in our classrooms. We may not publicize our whereabouts or who we are but we do exist.
We are your bosses, your friends, your employees, your classmates, and your students. In the classroom, we deserve to be respected and treated like every other student, despite the fact that we’re not exactly the same as every other student.
Intersex people too often face experiences in the classroom that no one should have to face. Of course, I don’t speak for every intersex person nor are my experiences shared by every intersex person ﹘ but this does not devalue my opinions or experiences.
Now that the formalities are done with - here are 8 things that you can do to engage in supportive allyship for intersex students!
Intersex isn’t visible. There is no way to tell if someone has an intersex trait - so be mindful that one of your students may have one.
Know and teach the difference between sex and gender. This lesson should not be confined to the health classroom. It is imperative not just for intersex students but for any students who may fall onto the spectrum to feel included and recognized in school.
Avoid generalizations. Instead of saying “girls have XX chromosomes” try phrases like: “typically, most girls have XX chromosomes”. Also be mindful not to use outdated harmful words (i.e. hermaphrodite).
Educate the whole class/as many students as you can. The more that your community knows about intersex issues, and has access to accurate information, the less stigma will surround it and intersex people will feel more welcome.
Encourage your students and colleagues to be allies as well. Shut down negative talk or statements that you hear from your students or even fellow teachers. Obviously, you can’t control what people think but you can monitor the things they say around you and your students.
If your school has a GSA (Gender-Sexuality Alliance) make sure they have an inclusive environment for intersex students as well as a seat at the table open for any intersex student who wants one.
I can’t stress enough how crucial it is to not only say that intersex people exist, but to really take the time to educate your community about intersex people. Not to say that other issues aren’t important but compared to the amount of outside knowledge students have of other aspects of the LGBTQIA+ community, intersex is barely brushed upon and what little students could already know could be very wrong and damaging.
Finally, if you have a student that discloses their intersex identity to you or is out, don’t put pressure on them to teach about intersex or to already know everything about it. They are likely still learning things about themselves and should not be called upon to do the work of educating others.
Conclusion: Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post! Anyone can be an ally! The more that we have the more intersex students and people feel safe and respected. For more information, check out interACT and its What We Wish Our Teachers Knew brochure written by intersex youth.
Kenna is an intersex person and high school student. She loves to read and dance, and wants intersex people to be accepted and welcomed by everyone.