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Ideas about gender – how it is defined, which qualities and characteristics are assigned to it, social connotations and expectations, future aspirations and considerations about intimate relationships – are all reflective of the particular culture that one is living in. These strongly influence the degree of openness and respect shown by other people towards situations specific to the LGBTIQIA community. In addition to this; judgements, criticism, negative reactions towards these matters are also formed from the cultural perceptions and societal norms. On many occasions, a lack of knowledge and a background of misconceptions about any concept would cause distrust and fear in a number of individuals who would then react negatively. Thus, this means that not only the way individuals relate to each other is impacted, but also the way the individual relates with the inner self. Individuals may expect to feel disappointing for their parents and partners or else they fear being isolated and devalued.

With the case of intersex individuals, it helps to understand that the person is born with a variation in the sex characteristics. This includes variations in the chromosomes, reproductive organs, hormones or genitals. Many individuals may not be aware of their physical state early on in their life, but only come to the knowledge in the case that they would need medical attention. This said, one must not exclude the fact that they may have felt that something was different especially during adolescence and puberty when a number of expected changes should be occurring. This leads to a very important aspect of how an individual may have lived a great part of their life believing that they are defined in a certain way and when they come to this knowledge, this definition is challenged. Many individuals experience shock, disbelief, distress and resistance before they are able to process it and move forward.

Following self-discovery and self-acceptance, individuals will feel the need to disclose with the people with whom they feel closest. The experience of verbalising it with someone else is considered to be quite powerful and liberating. They feel that this helps them become surer of themselves, more empowered and it enables them to reach out to other communities which offer them validation, acceptance, affirmation and support.

This process of coming out to the ones you feel safest with, helps to challenge some perceptions about rejection and it enables the individual to be better able to explain your situation to others, informing them and being able to help others in a situation similar to yourself. When you apply the same concept of coming out to the public arena, one may feel especially exposed when people ask personal questions about the individual’s body and matters related to intimacy. However, once this is overcome and dealt with in a way that is safe and respectful for the individual, coming out is seen as a positive and productive experience. This feeling of empowerment was portrayed very honestly in an interview of Serena Board when she stated that: ‘it turned out to be a deeply healing experience. Energized by that coming out, I began to feel an urge to be visible—not just for myself, but for other intersex people who may also be hiding and hurting because of it. I wanted to learn how to talk about my identity and be proud in the way I saw other members of the LGBTQ community doing. I felt ready to fight.’

References:

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/evwe7e/intersex-awareness-day-coming-out

Journal of Social Science & Medicine, 2016. Vol:167, p63-70. Guntram, L. and Zeiler, K. ‘You have all those emotions inside that you cannot show because of what they will cause’: Disclosing the absence of one’s uterus and vagina.

Abigail Church is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor who works with adults and children through counselling with Willingness. She can be contacted on abigail@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.