At age 55, Kelly Keenan has become the first person in the U.S. to obtain a birth certificate identifying her gender as “intersex.” The term refers to the often ignored ‘I’ in the LGBTQIA acronym and denotes a plethora of conditions whereby a person’s sexual or reproductive anatomy is ambiguous and hence they do not fit into the generic definition of either male nor female. By going public with her story (she uses female pronouns in reference to herself), Keenan hopes to address misconceptions about biological, gender ambiguity and the issues that surround it. She obtained the birth certificate just before the turn of the New Year and celebrated the momentous occasion with a post on Facebook:
Growing up, Keenan felt neither masculine or feminine but, despite failing to hit puberty and the fact that she grew much taller than her female friends, physicians and parents convinced her she was “100% girl.” It was not until she met someone with a similar condition and did some of her own online research that she discovered the truth, finally confirmed by an endocrinologist, that she was intersex. According to a report by NBC News, Keenan’s father finally admitted to her in 2012 that he’d refused an offer from doctors to construct her a penis to match her male chromosomes.
Having been unable to determine her sex doctors had, she found, altered her hospital records from male to female just weeks before she was adopted by an orphanage.
Speaking to The Guardian, Keenan said, “It never occurred to me that I was going to uncover a 30-year lie. It was really shocking to learn that I had been duped about my own body.”
Around one in every 4,500 babies is born neither male nor female, and intersex rights advocates maintain that gender reassignment surgery should not be imposed on these children as it denies them the opportunity to make their own decision later in life as to how they want to be identified. In 2013, Germany became the first country in Europe to introduce “indeterminate” as a third gender designation on birth certificates. Lucie Veith, chair of the German Association of Intersex People, said the ruling was a necessary step in the right direction as operations to assign infants a sex were generally unnecessary and violated the child’s “right to bodily integrity.”
The court ruling in September that permitted Keenan to identify as “non-binary,” and finally led to her being issued with a new intersex passport, represents a landmark case which, she hopes, will help lead the way in establishing the formal recognition of children born as neither male nor female.
“Not all intersex people will choose to identify legally as intersex,” Keenan told NBC News, “and not all parents will choose to have their intersex child identified as intersex on birth documents. But for those who do, the option must exist.”
The consequences of not debunking the stigma that surrounds intersex are, advocates warn, just too high.
Read the full story at The Guardian.