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Bindumadhav Khire on why intersex are minorities even within LGBTQ community

On the occasion of the Intersex Day of Remembrance, also known as Intersex Solidarity Day, Ananya Barua speaks to Bindumadhav Khire whose Samapathik Trust has been actively working with sexual minorities for the last 15 years.

pune Updated: Nov 08, 2017 17:01 IST
Ananya Barua 
Author and activist Bindumadhav Khire.
Author and activist Bindumadhav Khire.(HT FILE PHOTO)

Today being the Intersex Day of Remembrance, also known as Intersex Solidarity Day, Ananya Barua speaks to Bindumadhav Khire whose Samapathik Trust has been actively working with sexual minorities for the last 15 years.

Who is an intersex?

The general idea is that people are born either male or female, but that’s not always true. There are individuals who may have ambiguous genitals - external or internal, where they have certain reproductive organs developed as a male, and certain as a female. In some cases this could also be in terms of chromosomal or hormonal character.

Please explain the parameters of sexuality? 

Sexuality has three basic dimensions, the first having the physical and biological anatomy of a male, female or intersex. The other dimension is of sexual orientation, where an individual could be attracted to an opposite sex (heterosexual), same sex (homosexual) or to both (bisexual). The third is gender identity, where with age, an individual identifies with a gender and undergoes innate experiences accordingly. For some, while their biological gender is one, they identify themselves to be of the other gender. These are transgenders whose biological gender is different from their psychological gender, unlike the intersex whose biological gender is ambiguous. 

 

How aware is India about intersex individuals? 

Almost nil. Parents of intersex babies, whose ambiguity is external, realise it at birth. Those rich sometimes opt for cosmetic sex assignment surgeries, while others just raise them as either male or female, keeping it under the sheets. Unlike the transgenders, they are comparatively more accepted by their families as it is silent and as their behaviour is not always indicative of a conflicting sexuality. Others with internal ambiguity, often do not realise that they are intersex unless they undergo a medical test. Also, unlike transgenders or homosexuals, intersex people usually continue to stay inside the closet fearing social stigma. The scale of incidence of an intersex baby being born is from one in 10-15,000 to one in one lakh, while transgender babies are born one in 5,000. That’s why, they are a minority even within the sexual minorities of LGBTQ. The way to find out other intersex individuals through support groups is also very slim because of this. 

  

What are the provisions, if at all, for intersex individuals under the constitution? 

The NALSA judgement (National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India), by the Supreme Court which recognised rights of transgenders, also applies to intersex individuals. For instance, they have the right to decide whether they want to conform to the male-female binary or enlist themselves as ‘other’, irrespective of what their birth certificate claims. This applies to all those who do not want to be classified into the binary. 

  

What are the challenges you had to face while writing the book? 

While writing my book, which is an introduction to intersex in Marathi,‘Intersex, Ek Prathamik Kodak’, finding intersex individuals was difficult because most of them will not speak. I got only three cases for the book, and rest traces the history of intersex, for instance ‘Ardhanarishvara’, a composite androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati can be a mythological example of intersex.