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Bobuq Sayed, Creating Community

 

Writer, artist and founder of QTIPOC collective Colour Tongues, Bobuq rejects the strict gender binary of strictly masculine / feminine. 

Let’s start with gender - how do you actually describe it?
Gender is an identification that’s culturally bound and differs across the world. It’s the way we feel, the way we are comfortable presenting ourselves, the communities we’re part of, and it’s contextual in different spaces. 

For me personally, I don’t have a gender that is always the same among all people. When I’m with my family I have a role as the eldest son that is masculinised - where as when I’m with my chosen family I’m free to be much more feminine and to explore and experiment with a different angle on my gender. 

I’m non-binary. I feel that my gender exists in different roles that I am constantly switching between based on who I’m talking to and where I’m at. When I am dressed masculine people struggle to understand that in fact my gender can also change alongside the clothes I wear. A lot of people assume that my gender is a rejection of just masculinity. Whereas for me and my gender, I feel like coming out as non-binary has meant that I have a better understanding and use of all genders.

Before we began you spoke about other identities - what are some that you identity with most strongly?
Politically and personally as Afghan, as Muslim, as queer, as nonbinary transgender, as a homosexual - I think those are a lot. 

There have definitely been challenges in the past, yeah, but I’ve realised that with my multiple identities that the only person I have to please and the only rules I have to satisfy are my own. 

When it comes to being a supporter or ‘ally’ of the community, what’s important? 
What’s important for me is not the language of people identifying as an ally. It shouldn’t be something that’s spoken of, but rather something that’s demonstrated and exists in actions and concrete behaviours. Specifically, when I’m dressed femininely what concerns me with my allies is how safe they make me feel and how committed they are to ensuring that I’m getting home safe, or that I am not feeling threatened by the space I’m in. Safety is a strong and important concern considering how many strangers are insecure and threatened by the existence of a bearded lady. 

You started an organisation called Colour Tongues, tell me about that. 
Colour Tongues began as a performance and poetry night for queer and trans people of colour to gather in a community, meet each other and celebrate the art that we produce about our experience. It then developed into something more geared around creating communities for people who don’t have access to the queer scene because of how long they’ve lived in Australia or their understanding of English.

So what are some of the services you provide?
We have monthly dinners at different restaurants around Australia that are paid for - so money isn’t an issue. There are a few smaller social gatherings - movie nights, outings - events designed to celebrate their experience.

Colour Tongues is now a recognised charitable organisation so donations go directly to supporting queer and trans refugees and asylum seekers. 

Pride is changing and it means something different for everyone, what’s your take on it?
The narrative of pride can erase the historical place of shame in many queer narratives. Only including pride, while dismissing shame, can be quite racist. In certain cultures and religions, the reality is that gender diversity and sexual diversity often comes with a lot of cultural baggage of shame - and pride is actually quite an uninviting concept for people who are ashamed of their queerness. 

To not include them, because they don’t necessarily feel pride about their queerness, is abandoning some of the most vulnerable members of our community. In order to be truly inclusive and represent those who need us the most - in visibility, representation and support - pride and shame need to be taken side by side. 

How can we do that?
First of all it’s about representation and capturing the full experience. A queen in drag with a rainbow flag is not fully representative of all people. So campaigns geared towards social and community service could be inclusive of not just the out and flamboyant, but of sexual and gender diversity that is more subtle, more racially and religiously diverse, which will in turn appeal to people with multiple expressions of queerness. 

 

This post has been created as part of the new Converse Pride Collection, launching June 2nd 2017. $10 from each pair sold goes to helping us support LGBTI youth Check them out here

 

03 June 2017
Georgie Stone, Changing Law for Trans Youth

Georgie Stone, with her family, changed the law in Australia so that any transgender teens can access Stage 1 treatment. We sat down with her to chat about what it's been like.

Your room if full of Taylor Swift posters, what is it you love about her? 

I find her witty and clever. So many people have things to say about her, and she’ll take them on and roll with them and turn them into something beautiful. She’ll be like “Yep, you think I’m a maniser - then sure watch me play that out in my video clip”. It’s something I’ve always strived for, to make something interesting out of being myself. 

Tell me about yourself then
I was born male - George - and I’ve basically known all my life that I’m a girl. I was 2 and a half when I told my mum I wanted a vagina. It’s been pretty consistent since then - the Disney princesses, dress ups, Hermione Granger - but once I started primary school that’s when I really realised something was wrong. Everything was so gendered - male bathroom, male uniform, male team in sport, always in the male groups. That’s when I really started to become distressed. 

I transitioned to female when I was 9, and I came out to my friends when I was 14.

What was it like for you telling your family?
I didn’t really have a problem. When I was 2 and a half it was just so innocent and it’s what I said. I didn’t think about what my family would think, no filters I just came out and said it. It was a different matter with my friends - I thought of exactly what I’d say in my head, and it was definitely stressful. But they were incredibly kind and understanding, and more importantly, eager to learn and get my name right. It was something really nice and I’m really grateful they were so understanding towards me.

You and your family had to go to court.
Yeah, in 2010 to access the first stage of treatment for transgender kids (the first stage is puberty blocker hormones) you had to apply to the Family Court of Australia to access it. So I started going through puberty at 10, and the masculine changes in my body were making me quite stressed. In mid 2013 we had a partial victory - which meant that trans kids and their families no longer needed to apply to the court for Stage 1 treatment. There’s still work to be done, and we need to now change the law for Stage 2 treatment.

Woah- it must feel great knowing you’ve helped other trans young person.
It’s a good feeling, but the most rewarding thing for me is knowing that families don’t have to go through that stress. I’m just really proud of my Mum who fought so hard to change the law.

Family is a pretty big part of your story.
Oh God, yeah. My mum is incredible and my brother is an incredible supporter as well. My twin brother too; Harry is so brave and supportive. A lot of people assume that all his troubles are based off what I’ve been going through - that my court process and everything is his world. But Harry goes through struggles as well like any other teenager guy.

Do you have any advice for family and friends of people who are transgender?
Try and understand them. Get their name and pronouns right and try to nail them down. That’s a big one. Just be respectful and try to make sure you listen to them. Let them talk about it and give them space to do that - and if they don’t want to, that’s OK too.

Look - me being transgender doesn’t take up a lot of time in my life. Equality means that me being transgender isn’t a factor in what I can achieve in this world and for my rights. That shouldn’t impact on the rights and opportunities that people have.

What do you want to change in this world?
Above everything - above law reform - I want trans people to know they’re OK and that they will be OK. There is support out there, and if there’s anything I can do with the position I’m in - it’s to make our stories heard. I want to give other trans kids the platform to step up and tell their story.

I want people to know it’s normal. You’re normal. 

 

This post has been created as part of the new Converse Pride Collection, launching June 2nd 2017. $10 from each pair sold goes to helping us support LGBTI youth Check them out here.

 

25 May 2017
I'm Intersex! Here's What That Means


I’m Alex, and I'm an intersex young person.

 

I started puberty a bit late, so I went to a doctor and he ran some tests. He told me that I had high levels of testosterone, and introduced me to the term intersex.

 

I was really lucky that my first interaction with the medical system and intersex traits was a really positive one with a well-educated doctor. He was honest with me and used the right terminology, and that gave me the option of embracing my identity and connecting with other intersex people, which made a huge difference.

 

Unfortunately, a lot of intersex people don't always have that option, and may not even know that they're intersex. Sometimes that's because doctors will hide it from us or treat it as something shameful, or because it's hard to access accurate information about intersex traits.

 

 

Alex sitting on a bench, grinning. Trees and other plants are in the background, blurred out.

 

Photo by Margot Fink

 

What does intersex mean? 

 

Sex is based on a combination of hormones, genitals, chromosomes, and other physical characteristics.

 

People usually think of sex as two distinct categories, with everyone who has XX chromosomes, higher levels of estrogen, a vulva, a uterus, and breasts in one category, and everyone with XY chromosomes, higher levels of testosterone, a penis, testicles, and no breasts in the other, but that isn’t really accurate.

 

You might have heard some people associate physical attributes with gender, and use words like "male" and "female" to describe bodies, but gender is actually a largely separate thing. Women, men, and non-binary people can all have a range of physical traits, including varying hormone levels, different genitalia, genetic differences, and heaps of other combinations. No physical trait is inherently male or female at all.

 

There’s a lot of variety in the physical traits people can have, and unsurprisingly, the two categories we’ve constructed doesn't describe everyone.

 

Being intersex means that I don’t fit into either of these two 'binary' sexes. There’s many different ways to be intersex. Some intersex people’s chromosomes might be X, or XXY, or we might have varieties in our hormones like androgen insensitivity syndrome (when someone has XY chromosomes but is resistant to androgens), or lots of other possibilities.

 

Around 1.7% of the population is estimated to be intersex, which makes people with intersex variations about as common as redheads who make up 1-2% of the population. If you've met someone who's a redhead, you've probably met someone who's intersex too. 

An infographic with 100 icons that represent babies, 98 are coloured grey, and 2 are coloured purple that represent children born with intersex variations

 

How I Identify

Gender, sexuality, and intersex status are all totally different things, and they can combine in really different ways. I'm pansexual, which means that I'm potentially attracted to people of any gender, and I'm a trans man.

 

Other intersex people might identify their body and their gender as being intersex, or might identify with any gender, including female, non-binary, or male. Gender isn’t determined by your body or any physical attributes, so, just like non-intersex people, intersex people can be any gender!

 

Sexuality is also separate from our bodies and gender identity. Intersex people can also be any sexuality, including asexual, bisexual, gay, lesbian, straight, or anything else!

 

Common Misconceptions

There are a lot of misconceptions about what being intersex is really like. These are just a few of them.

 

Intersex is the same as transgender

Some intersex people are also transgender (like me!), but there are also cisgender intersex people. Intersex people can be any gender, be that non-binary, a man, a woman, agender, or anything else!

Intersex people have “mutilated genitals”

This one’s just flat out wrong, not to mention offensive. Describing our bodies as mutilated or wrong is insulting, and based on the absurd idea that ‘different’ means ‘bad’.

 

Intersex people are all mentally ill

Some intersex people are mentally ill, but we aren’t mentally ill because we’re intersex, and there are also intersex people who aren’t mentally ill. Calling intersex traits mental illnesses is inaccurate, and that inaccuracy hurts both mentally ill people and intersex people, and especially impacts mentally ill intersex people.

 

Alex and a group of his friends are sitting in the bleachers at a football game. Everyone looks happy, and some people have small rainbow flags painted on their cheeks.

Photo by Margot Fink  

Supporting Intersex People

 

Don't use slurs

The term hermaphrodite is a slur, and unless you’re an intersex person talking about yourself, or an intersex person explicitly told you that’s how to refer to them, it’s not OK to use it.

 

Respect our privacy
When I’m comfortable with a person, I’ll tell them that I’m intersex if they ask me about it. I’ve told most of my family and close friends, but sharing this part of my identity can still be difficult. Some people still don’t understand what intersex means, or have really negative ideas about it.

 

Our bodies can also be quite personal things, so it’s important to respect our right to decide what we tell you. It’s OK to ask questions, but think about how appropriate what you’re asking is. If you wouldn’t ask a non-intersex people who you know as well as you know me, then you probably shouldn’t be asking me either.

 

Intersex Inclusion in LGBTIQA+ groups

Intersex inclusion is really important, but it needs to be led by intersex people. I’ve seen some groups that will tack on an I in the acronym, but won’t even know what it stands for, and that’s really tokenistic and misleading.

 

If your organisation doesn’t have any intersex staff or volunteers, then elevate the voices of intersex people who are already sharing our stories and ideas.  It’s also important to consult with intersex people if you’re working on relevant resources or trainings.

 

Alex is standing in a park, smiling, with their arms crossed. The background has been blurred.

Photo by Margot Fink

Intersex Rights


Intersex people are still discriminated against in our society. Intersex advocacy groups do a lot to combat this, and elevating our voices and listening to us talk about our issues is a great way to be an ally.

 

Visibility and Education
Visibility is a really important issue. We’re constantly erased from media and history, biology classes in schools will either pretend we don’t exist or misrepresent us, and it can be really hard to find accurate information on intersex identity if you don’t already know where to look.  

 

Medical rights
Accessing medical services can also be challenging. An intersex friend of mine and I talk about this together a lot, because it’s something that we both face pretty much every time we see a doctor or go to a hospital.

 

Some intersex conditions can cause medical issues. For me, my higher levels of testosterone have caused some issues with the way my uterus works. Since intersex traits can mean needing medical support more often, it would make sense for doctors to be well educated on our identities, but they really aren’t.

 

Some doctors will mock us for being intersex, or claim that it doesn’t really exist, and some will blame unrelated health issues on our intersex traits. In some places, intersex infants will even be given unnecessary surgeries to make our bodies look more “normal”, and then tell parents not to tell the intersex person about it. This erasure and violation of our bodily autonomy is never OK, and it makes life so much harder for intersex people.

 

 

Being Intersex in our society

 

Being intersex isn’t a bad thing, but dealing with prejudice definitely is. Continuing to learn about intersex identity and rights, listening to more intersex people share our stories, and understanding that we know best when it comes to our issues, is a great way to make life better for intersex people. 

26 October 2016
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