“We do not have equality until we all have equality”
BY VALENTINO VECCHIETTI
I am very happy for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities who celebrated inclusion in the 2021 Census this year, and I shared their excitement and anticipation for how this would lead to increased funding and support for LGBT communities across England and Wales. But I also felt anger, sadness and outrage to see that the 2021 Census overlooked people with intersex variations.
Just like everyone else, people born with variations in their sex characteristics intersect with lesbian, gay, bisexual and straight sexualities. As well as with trans, non-binary, binary and cisgender identities. And, of course, our population also intersects with race, class and disability.
I campaign for the I to be kept visible after the T, LGBTIQ, not just because many of us are subject to similar experiences of prejudice, but also because LGBT organisations have well-established support mechanisms, funding pathways and strategies for successful public awareness-raising campaigns. This is exactly what we need to help us gain: inclusion in the Equalities Act 2010, protection from hate crime, access to ethical healthcare as adults and to put an end to non-consensual surgeries in childhood.
I recently founded Intersex Equality Rights UK, a non-profit organisation which campaigns for inclusion, equity and representation, as well as providing support for organisations to ethically include people with intersex variations. We have everything to fight for and we urgently need allyship.
But we have a long way to go for LGB and T people to even understand what intersex is. And we need to start seeing ethical and knowledgeable inclusion from the LGBT community.
In 2018 the UK government Office for National Statistics recruited me and many other intersex “stakeholders” to
discuss the 2021 Census, and to look at developing questions for our population to be included. I would have liked the ONS and related government offices to inform me that they had decided to exclude us. I think that is the least they could have done. It’s unethical to leave us to discover at the last minute that we had been excluded when so much was at stake. All those who gave up their time and energy in this research should have been informed in advance and should have been given the opportunity to question the government’s decision. It’s not like there wasn’t time from 2018 to 2021. There was plenty of time.
The 2021 Census’ exclusion of “variations in sex characteristics”, as an indicator of those who fall under the intersex umbrella in the UK, perpetuates the erasure of the needs of our relatively large population. We comprise 1.7% of the population; in the UK that is over 1.1 million. Worldwide we are a population of over 130 million. But because the UK government made a decision to leave us out of the 2021 Census, we will continue to be left out of funding considerations for our community.
I would like to see the LGBT community supporting us with their outrage that we have been excluded. When making gains in the LGBT community, which at the same time ignore and exclude intersex, I would like our wider LGBT community to stand together with us in solidarity and ask, “Why are the needs of the UK intersex population still being ignored?”
Communities cannot simply celebrate the gains they make without paying attention to those who continue to be excluded and left behind. We do not have equality until we all have equality.
As we approach Pride month, I wholeheartedly want to celebrate with LGBT communities the gains they have
made through inclusion in the 2021 Census. But I also need to see that the LGBT community can find space amid
their celebrations to question why the UK government continues to exclude those born with intersex variations. And to support us with allyship by joining with us to protest that exclusion and to demand intersex equality.
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