GLAA arranges briefing on Intersex Issues
by Bob Summersgill
for Office of Human Rights
February 6, 2001
GLAA is pleased to report a very successful briefing on intersex issues with the staff of the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR).
Intersex people have ambiguous genitalia that are neither completely male or female, or chromosomal variations that are not either XX or XY.
OHR is responsible for enforcement of Washington, DC's Human Rights Law. The law was originally enacted in 1973 and includes protection of gay, transgender, and intersex people from discrimination in employment, education and public accommodation.
GLAA President Bob Summersgill arranged for a meeting on November 28, 2000 with OHR Director Charles Holman. Jaye Sitton and Ellen Feder, members of the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA), explained intersexuality and its medical, ethical and legal aspects to Holman.
Feder is a philosophy professor at American University. Sitton is a lawyer recently of the US Department of Justice Human Rights Division.
Charles Holman was so impressed with the presentation and the video "Intersex: Redefining Sex" that he asked us to return and brief the entire staff.
On February 1, 2001, Charles Holman introduced Summersgill, Feder and Sitton to about eight members of his staff. Holman pointed out that Washington, DC is one of just a very few jurisdictions that protects intersex people from discrimination.
The DC Human Rights Law includes "sex" as most cities and states do, but DC also has a broad definition of sex discrimination that includes, but is not limited to, pregnancy and sexual harassment.
In addition to the 15 explicitly defined categories in the DC Human Rights Act, the law states that the intent of the Council in enacting the Act is to "secure an end in the District of Columbia to discrimination for any reason other than that of individual merit." [DC Code Sec. 1-2501.]
The staff was fascinated with the discussion and the 20-minute video and asked a lot of questions. The need not to react poorly to an intersex person coming to them with a discrimination complaint was discussed at length. They all understood this point immediately and were grateful for an introduction prior to learning about intersexuals during an intake process. No discrimination claims on the basis of intersexuality have been submitted to OHR.
Charles Holman asked us to return and brief the rest of the staff.
Bob Summersgill also suggested a briefing with transgender people to talk about their issues. Holman is eager for that to happen. He plans to hold similar sessions on a wide range of issues that the OHR staff needs to be aware of.
GLAA will continue to work with ISNA to protect intersex people from discrimination and raise awareness of intersexuality.