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2014 National LGBT Conference
1 January 2014

Conference welcomes the increasing strength of the intersex movement and the third International Intersex Organising Forum, held in Malta in November 2013, attended by activists representing 30 intersex organisations from all continents. It notes that the Forum adopted a public statement including recommendations on a wide range of issues of concern to people born intersex.

Recent statistics suggest that as many as 1 in 1000 people could be born intersex; that could equate to 1300 members within UNISON. “Intersex” is an umbrella term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. Intersex refers to people who have genetic, hormonal and physical features that are neither exclusively male nor exclusively female, but are typical of both at once or not clearly defined as either.

While there can be a need for medical intervention in some cases, some children go through surgeries solely to “normalise” their bodies. Such surgery can cause psychological and physical trauma. Acknowledging the impact on intersex people from such interventions, a social model of medical practice has potential to encourage a debate that includes progressive perspectives within the medical profession and the engagement of the wider intersex movement.

Conference notes that following the adoption by the 2013 national lesbian gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) conference of the resolution ‘Intersex Members’, the national LGBT committee has taken a number of steps to develop its understanding of issues affecting intersex members. Conference also notes that several regional LGBT groups have included discussion on intersex issues in regional meetings or training events.

Conference further notes that:

1. There is a huge lack of understanding of issues faced by people with intersex characteristics, as reported in the European Commission’s research (2012);

2. The experiences of these individuals are diverse and complex, arising from more than 30 conditions, as well as sharing some common challenges of stigma and isolation;

3. Many affected people don’t identify as intersex for a range of reasons, while some activists have begun to reclaim the term positively;

4. There are different views within the intersex community on terminology and how to work with the medical profession.

Conference welcomes:

A. The adoption of the resolution “Children’s right to physical integrity” by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe;

B. The recent statement from the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights who acknowledged that intersex people lack recognition and the intense difficulties, human rights abuses, discrimination and prejudice they encounter;

C. The Organisation Intersex International (OII), the world’s largest intersex organisation with member organisations in all continents. OII advocates for the depathologisation of intersex people and for their human right of bodily integrity and self determination.

The European Union (EU) should establish a legal frame which ensures fully informed consent in all medical practices and protocols with explicit reference to the right of bodily integrity and self determination. Intersex people should be explicitly covered under EU anti discrimination legislation.

Conference acknowledges that UNISON has a leading role in finding out how best we can support people in the workplace and developing understanding of workplace issues for these individuals. Conference recognises that some people born with intersex characteristics identify as disabled and the social model of disability has a useful role to play in assisting understanding of the issues people face and how barriers in the workplace can be overcome

There is still a lot to learn and we need to ask ourselves: Do our intersex members feel included? What are the workplace issues facing them? Do we need to do more?

Conference therefore instructs the national LGBT committee to:

I. Promote the public statement adopted by the Third International Intersex Organising Forum;

II. Actively seek the views of members born with intersex characteristics who identify as LGBT and liaise with organisations run by people born with intersex characteristics to identify workplace issues that affect them and explore best practice to support them. This should be in line with the social model of disability where appropriate;

III. Continue to review the arrangements for our group with a view to ensuring that our language, meetings and campaigns are inclusive of intersex LGBT members and issues and to identifying any potential barriers to participation;

IV. Produce guidance as information for members and as a resource for branch and regional groups to assist with developing awareness and understanding within the wider union;

V. Work with the National Executive Council to develop appropriate advice for branches and UNISON representatives on bargaining issues and representing members born with intersex characteristics;

VI. Report back to 2015 conference with any recommendations.