Caring for children with an intersex variation

[Agli Zavros-Orr, ch.14]

You likely know the ‘I’ in LGBTQIA+ stands for ‘Intersex’, but have you wondered what that really means, particularly for children, families and educators in your setting?  If ‘yes’, then this chapter in the 4th Edition of The Anti-Bias Approach in Early Childhood is illuminatingly essential reading, and will leave you keen to know more! If a person with lived experience, you will find these pages affirming and helpful in your educator role.

Caring for Children with an Intersex Variation

With a potential 23 800 children with an intersex variation currently in Australian children’s services, each Early Childhood educator over ten years could perhaps expect to work with at least seven children with an intersex variation. Some children are unaware of their intersex variation until later in life, either because it has not yet come to light, or the information has been withheld from them. It is therefore ethically essential that we embrace this work to develop beautiful affirming places and practices ready for the moment our doors open to any child! 

This chapter explains ‘intersex’ as an umbrella term meaning being born with any of 40 known genetic, chromosomal, hormonal or physical characteristics that do not fit normative notions of ‘male’ or ‘female’ bodies, and may be evident at birth, or later in life. Anti-Bias Action 3 is particularly relevant for children with an intersex variation, as they often experience disadvantage and non-consensual intervention because of the binary structures they are born into.

You’ll gain understanding of:

Issues and experiences of children with an intersex variation as including: 

  • Their realities as members of diverse families and backgrounds
  • Their individuality and unique lived experience 
  • Their understandings about themselves, whether they have accurate age-appropriate information about their bodies and their intersex variation, or whether they have been told at all
  • Whether they have had a voice on matters that affect them

How to be an ally for children (people) with an intersex variation through:

  • Reading and affirming the Darlington Statement (an essential document from a community-focused human rights perspective)
  • Actively listening to children (without bias)
  • Reflecting intersex realities in policy, practice, language used, information and support provided
  • Links to peer-led community and support groups 
  • Accessing videos featuring the authentic voice of those with lived experience and government and other resources and professional development
  • Considering the impact for children with an intersex variation of planned and unplanned, intentional and unintentional teaching

Despite a lack of mainstream visibility, intersex people have a strong presence, existing in society from the beginning, embraced and celebrated by different communities and cultures. Building awareness and growing connections with members of the intersex community are essential in providing equitable experiences within an anti-bias approach in our educative communities.

Intersex rights are human rights (with heightened significance for children from birth), and the community, significant associations* and statutory organisations** are calling for stronger protective legislation and action. The Anti-Bias Goals and the Anti-Bias Actions support us to create essential change. The time for every Early Childhood educator to lean into our responsibilities to children with an intersex variation is now! 

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