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Talking to others about your child being intersex
Secrecy is not a good thing. But if you tell everyone that your child is intersex, you deprive your child of the ability to decide later on who this information is shared with and who it is not. Think of it like your salary; maybe you don’t mind others knowing how much you earn, but it’s also not a fact that you share with everyone. That boundary is called privacy. That’s what this chapter is about.
Children start to express their own opinions around two years of age, so you should involve your child in decision making as soon as they are able. Ask them how they feel about talking to other people about them being intersex. Remind them that there is nothing to be ashamed of, but you want to make sure that, when they feel ready to tell others, they understand what kind of reactions they might get and how to deal with them.
It’s also important to discuss who else can tell people, who they can tell and how this is done. Any personal information about a child or young person should be managed carefully, with them always feeling in control of who knows and when. It’s also useful to discuss terms and language to agree on what words are used and how it is explained to others.
Please also keep in mind that your child might think differently about the subject during different stages of their life and that this conversation should be revisited at all significant milestones (starting a new school, moving to a new neighborhood/city, joining a new group/club).
When talking to others about your intersex child, don’t talk about it as if it’s a secret or something to be ashamed of. Although you might receive negative or awkward reactions from others, the more you are able to show that there is nothing wrong, the more people will realise that the only problem is their preconceptions or lack of knowledge on the subject.
The more that parents of intersex children are open and proud, the more awareness and understanding there is within societies, which is beneficial for all.
For other people, the topic of intersex might be new and they might not understand at first. Take your time to explain what it means to be intersex. Explain that is it common and completely natural. Be prepared for awkward or inappropriate reactions and questions and try to respond calmly and positively. Most people will not mean any harm, but are just unsure how to respond due to lack of awareness. Use simple terms and language that’s easy to understand.
At the same time, it is not your sole responsibility to educate others. If someone is asking too many questions, tell them that you too are still learning, but you can refer them to resources if they are still interested.
Talking to other family members
If you have other children, it’s important to talk to them about what it means to be intersex. Through general conversations around difference and diversity, you can gradually introduce what it means to be intersex. As well as teaching your intersex child how to positively respond to bullying or teasing, it is important to teach siblings to do the same, as they may also experience it through association. When it comes to older family members, don’t assume that they will be necessarily more difficult to talk to. For example, values such as treating everyone with respect or accepting what life presents us with can be used to appeal to individuals with more traditional beliefs. Even if you experience reluctance from a family member to accept or discuss your intersex child, give the person time and ask other family members who have been accepting to help you speak with them. Encourage them to learn more about being intersex variations through articles, documentaries or personal accounts. The more they know about the subject, the more likely they are to become accepting and supportive.
Be an ally
If your child is comfortable with you doing so, try to raise awareness about intersex people wherever you can. Find opportunities to bring up the topic of intersex with different groups of people or post relevant articles or personal accounts on your social media channels. If people say something inaccurate or offensive about intersex people, try to correct them in a polite and friendly, but firm way. Another possibility is to join or support an intersex organisation to help increase visibility in society and progress intersex rights.