Intersex Refugees & Asylum Seekers
“All over the world, people are fleeing persecution on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI). For many, arriving in Europe is also accompanied by discrimination, violence and exclusion.” – Petra Sussner (2020) “Flucht – Geschlecht – Sexualität: Eine menschenrechtsbasierte Perspektive auf Grundversorgung und Asylberechtigung” (Juristische Schriftenreihe) Verlag Österreich (transl.from German)
For many intersex refugees other or additional reasons for persecution and discrimination can be their gender expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC). On their arrival in Europe they are entering into a country where intersex is still stigmatized and a taboo, where there is still too little awareness of what it means to be intersex, and where non-consensual surgeries and treatments of intersex people are still the norm.
OII Europe is currently preparing a toolkit for people working with refugees and asylum seekers to raise awareness about intersex issues in this important field. This accompanying website gives a first overview of the important information that will be found in our toolkit.
(This is a live document – please check back for updates)
Intersex and Refugee Status:
3 Main Constellations
- Identifies as intersex and accepted as intersex refugee (constellation 1)
- Identifies as intersex and LGB, accepted as LGB refugee (constellation 2)
- Identifies as intersex, granted subsidiary protection due to medical reasons (constellation 3)
Challenges of constellation 1
Identifies as intersex and accepted as intersex refugee
- just one (1) known positive case
- not all intersex people know the term intersex, they don’t have a name for who they are,
- or they use different terms, (e.g. “XY Women”, “XX Men”, “DSD”, etc.)
- or they use a diagnosis (e.g. “Androgen Insensivity Syndrome”, “Klinefelter Syndrome”, “Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia”, etc.)
- not all intersex people identify
Challenges of constellation 2
Identifies as intersex and LGB,
accepted as LGB refugee
- keeps intersex identities invisible
- reproduces a binary gendermodel
- not all intersex people identify as LGB, but need the LGBTIQAA Support
Challenges of constellation 3
Identifies as intersex,
granted subsidiary protection
due to medical reasons
- subsidiary protection
- the need for a medical statement
(re-traumatisation, not all European countries are safe for intersex people)
- intersex people without a medical diagnosis have none or very limited access to subsidiary protection under this ground (Note: this is why protection under the ground of sex characteristics is key)
What to do now?
Supporting Intersex Asylum Seekers
- Some intersex people may need medical treatment; but there is the danger of re-traumatisation
- Good preparatory support is needed; e.g. detailed advice on how the respective medical system works is important
- If possible accompany them or find a person who can accompany them
- Connect them with the local intersex community or with OII Europe; we will reach out to the local intersex community
- support them in finding peer counselling, inter* sensitised counselling and/or therapists
- Intersex asylum seekers may not know the word intersex so you will need to prepare well for the Asylum interview; be careful with translators, most of them also don’t know what intersex means.
- Collect evidences together with them, during every community meeting and every chat
- Some intersex people identify as trans*, but become aware that they are inter* through an examination – a careful approach is important because of previous trauma – Note: some intersex people identify as trans* with knowing that they are intersex
Intersex refugees and asylum seekers are especially vulnerable. Being able to change the gender marker in their documents can protect intersex and trans refugees and asylum seekers from the risk of structural and other discrimination and can ease the pressure that they are subjected to. Therefore, low treshhold procedures for legal gender recognition based on self-determination should be established for refugees and asylum seekers who wish to have their gender identity reflected in their official documents.
- Our experience shows that intersex people encounter massive violence in accommodations. Room distribution is often randomly decided due to the persons gender marker in their official documents, or on an assumed gender based on perception without taking the specific needs of the intersex person into account.
- Finding safe accommodation as soon as possible is important; specific LGBTIQAA accommodation is best, if wished for by the asylum seeker
- For families with intersex children separate little flats are recommended
- (always check the country rules for accommodation transfers)
Last Updated: 11.02.2021