Intersex people on the importance of being understood, their inclusion in upcoming census

Usually the Queen’s Birthday Honours have been divided into men and women, but this year for the first time, there’s a third column after Mani Mitchell, who is intersex and non-binary. They were awarded the honour for services to intersex advocacy and education, after helping found Intersex Awareness New Zealand in 1997. Recently it was announced that our census will soon include questions on intersexuality for the first time – but what exactly is it, and why don’t we know how many Kiwis fall into that category? The term intersex has been around for 100 years, but many of us aren’t exactly sure what it means. “Intersex is like an umbrella term for a natural body variation, and we often say now variations of sex characteristics,” says Jelly O’Shea, communications and project manager at Intersex Trust NZ. She explains these variations can mean a myriad of things, and there are up to 40 different variations that are known. For someone who is intersex, it can be frustrating because people often confuse the meaning of the word and put them in a box. “I feel invisible because some countries have attempted to recognise our identity, but there’s conflations. People think that intersex is a gender identity, and it’s not a gender identity, it’s simply the way a person was born,” says Eliana Golberstein of the Intersex Trust NZ