Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

AASRJ hosts intersex speaker to share experiences

In her own words, Ashley Robertson “looks”, “presents” and “lives” as a female, and the only thing that sets her apart from her peers is the fact that she was born with an XY chromosome.

“My name is Ashley. I am intersex.”

Last Tuesday, members of the Alabama Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Justice sat down for a discussion with Robertson about her life and issues that were important to her. The meeting was just one of the events AASRJ holds biweekly on topics of sexuality.

“This is the second time we’ve held a meeting with Ashley as our speaker,” said Sarah Banning, president of AASRJ. “We believe in offering people a space in which people can talk about their issues and people can become educated about issues left out of the discussion even within the LGBTQ community, of which intersex in an often forgotten part.”

Robertson, an intersex activist from Tuscaloosa, was born with a form of androgen insensitivity syndrome, meaning that she was born with anatomy that was not classified as either male or female. She was born with a bilateral hernia caused by the fact that a pair of gonads in her body could not descend. It was removed six months later.

“Being intersex happens in one out of every 2,000 live births,” Robertson said. “That’s more common than red hair.”

As a result of her condition, Robertson does not menstruate, and had to go through synthetic puberty. She said that a lot of doctors are never taught how to handle the specifics of intersex patients, and in many cases perform unnecessary or harmful surgery on children without asking for consent or considering the consequences. But despite her own experiences with doctors, some good and some bad, she said she has lived a good life.

“I always knew who I was,” Robertson said. “It wasn’t hidden. I’ve met a lot of people who their parents never told them. They had to find out from seizing their medical records. I’m lucky. My parents have been my biggest advocates.”

Robertson has been speaking out against what she refers to as “bathroom bills” in Texas and Florida that aim to block trans or intersex people from using bathrooms they feel comfortable in.

“I know what I am, and I know which bathroom I should use,” Robertson said. “If it is such a problem, they should just have one stall. I think a unisex bathroom should be required in all public places.”

In addition to the AASRJ members who attended the event, one person was there shooting a documentary about intersex people. Robertson’s mother also showed up to give her view on things. Sean Phillips, a senior in aerospace engineering and mechanics, said it was his first time learning about the experiences of intersex individuals.

“The part that struck me the most was the idea that so many people are being robbed of the choice of an identity as soon as they’re born,” Phillips said. “Not just as a binary gender assignment, but as a forced alteration to their body as an infant based on a desired gender assignment by the parents.”

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