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Stephen Fry calls for intersex people to be treated with ‘common politeness and decency’

Emma Powys Maurice February 18, 2020
Stephen Fry: Treat intersex people with 'common politeness and decency’

The actor, writer, broadcaster and LGBT+ advocate Stephen Fry spoke of how intersex people have been "hidden" in society (BBC)

The actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry has joined intersex advocates in urging people to treat the community with “common politeness and decency”.

Fry appeared on the BBC regional investigations show Inside Out as it followed intersex activists who are campaigning for an end to the shame, secrecy and unnecessary surgeries for people born with non-binary sex characteristics.

He was seen touring Oxford’s Ashmolean museum, which includes in its collection a statue which has intersex characteristics.

“People get very hysterical about gender,” he said. “One should be open and curious to the fact that our genders and our sexual expression and our genitals are fundamental to who we are, but also that we’re all mixed about everything, and the mixture is an exciting thing.”

Intersex people are statistically as common as redheads and are far from a new phenomenon, although few museums acknowledge their well-documented existence in historical cultures worldwide.

Fry believes that if more museums displayed Greek and Roman intersex artwork, as the Ashmolean does, it would help increase awareness of intersex people who have been “hidden” in society.

Stephen Fry met with intersex advocates at the Ashmolean Museum (BBC)

“I think like a lot of people, I never really considered the idea of intersex people because they have been so hidden. Isn’t it interesting?” he said. “And obviously in terms of the individuals who were born intersex whose lives are difficult, one has to take that seriously and just [treat them with] common politeness and decency.”

He continued: “It is extraordinary to remember how the first gay kiss on Brookside caused people to drop their crockery, now we accept it as a perfectly natural and normal thing to see and I’m sure that will be true of intersex people too.”

Among the activists Fry met was the intersex comedian, Amazon, who found out she was intersex at 30 when she was about to undergo fertility treatment.

“It’s fantastic that Stephen is such an ally towards the intersex community and wants to get the understanding out there and to move away from the ignorance that exists,” she said.

The trans historian Ela Xora, whose work is being displayed at the Ashmolean exhibition, added: “We have to start thinking about biological sex and gender in the human race as something which is from the inside out, not from the outside in.”

Trans historian Ela Xora (BBC)

Inside Out (Yorkshire and Lincolnshire) aired on BBC One at 19:30 GMT on 17 February and is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now.

More: BBC, intersex, Stephen Fry

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