A Night of Poetic Open Mic

A Night of Poetic Open Mic

We are so excited to reveal all about our first time with poets and organisers, Carmina Masoliver and My Hairy Vag and Me. On Thursday, 5th September, we will be hosting a cheap, cheerful and cheeky OPEN MIC night of sweet, poetic magic.

I shouted my Ex’s name is an evening of sex & bodies poetry. It promises to be “serving you some raunchy rhymes, horny haikus, awkward alliterations and orgasmic odes” from anyone who wishes to get up on stage.

The Featured Poet

“Sexually confident, socially awkward”, guest poet and witty short story writer, Emily Harrison, will headline. The former Saboteur Awards Best Spoken Word Performer has performed at festivals like Glastonbury and Latitude as well as loads of poetry events around the country. Her full-length poetry collection “I Can’t Sleep ‘cause My Bed’s On Fire” (2016) was published with Burning Eye Books and her recent collab with TrueTube Is the BAFTA nominated “Reply With a Full Stop If You Get This”.

The Organisers

Carmina is a South London poet and founder of She Grrrowls feminist arts nights. She has been performing, grrrowling and being longlisted for several awards, ever since she was first long-listed for the Young Poet Laureat for London, in 2013. She’s even written a chapbook, published by Nasty Little Press, and a She Grrrowls anthology with Burning Eye Books.

My Hairy Vag and Me is the title of an unabashed Instagram page, deluged with flowing pubes, crashing periods and ghostly discharge. A diary of poems and sketches, My Hairy Vag and Me is so accessible, the author/poet counts their father as a follower.

The Event

I shouted my Ex’s name will begin at 7:30pm on Thursday, 5th September. Please arrive no later than ten minutes early. Each open mic speaker will have a five-minute slot, so please time your piece appropriately. Tickets are only £5.00 and complimentary Prosecco will be available. For more information and tickets, check out the Eventbrite page. See you there!

Look After Your En-vibe-ronment

Look After Your En-vibe-ronment

The Goddess of Earth, Gaia, has branched out her Mother Earthly horizons to bless us with something we’ve all been calling out for; eco-friendly sex toys.

“The world’s first biodegradable vibrator” is a welcome breath of fresh air. It’s plusher than the leafy notes of Will Young’s Pop Idol breakout banger, “Evergreen”. Cleverly compounded using a starch-based bioplastic, Blush Novelties have concocted two orgasmic vibrators (one being a bullet) using significantly less energy and greenhouse gases than you’ll find involved in the production of other sex toys. For those trying to reduce their carbon footprint, you no longer need to sacrifice your orgasms; you can now recycle them. Hallelujah.

When 2 Become 1

But, how do you know if this toy is for you? The eco-friendly appeal only goes so far when you’re using it to get you off…BUT what about if we told you that the Goddess Gaia is here for you and only you. Using a somewhat traditional dial control, you can adjust the vibrators intensity to the exact speed you prefer. You can start low and slowly twist it stronger, inline with your orgasm. In fact, you only need to twist the lid in one direction to turn on and the other to turn off. The bullet is even simpler, with a button on the lid that you press once to turn on and once to turn off; there is only one singular speed setting for this toy.

So, they’re fairly quiet, super simple to use and even better, they’re cheap! This means that if you’re new at the whole sex toy thing and not sure really where to start, the vibrator or bullet from the Gaia set could be your gateway toy. Take the vibe, for instance, it’s rounded, tapered tip means it’s comfortable and precise. Perfect for internal (vaginally – not anally) or external use, the longer shaft makes it easy to hold. Meanwhile, the bullet functions in the same way as the larger vibrator, but is much smaller and designed for clitoral (or nipple) use.

How to recycle?

As we mentioned above, both the Gaia vibes are fabulously recyclable. But how does one go about this? Can you take them back to us? Do you throw them into your cabbage patch with your used teabags? Can you mash the stalks into a delicious vegan curry paste? We are afraid; the answers to these is a firm no.

Yet, they are easily recyclable, it says so on the box in a large(ish) font. All you need to do is take it to your local commercial composting centre and job done. Bravo!

Drum-Stix

Workshop: Human Drum Circle

We’re very excited to introduce this Human Drum Cycle workshop by Dr Lori Beth Bisbey & Terence Scott. Never having attended such a class before, we are already imagining all the juicy sounds that’ll be created: slapping thighs, tapping shoulders, and bongo butt cheeks! AMAZING! (Can you tell we’re looking forward to this one!)

In this workshop, Lori Beth and Terence will start by covering percussion, and energy in percussion, before inviting guests to get more hands-on.

Topics that’ll be covered include:

  • Creating the human drum circle
  • Uses of drum circles and types of drum circles
  • Consent and negotiation
  • Choosing participants
  • Places to hit
  • Using instruments
  • Types of rhythm
  • Getting the energy to flow through and around the circle
  • Starting the circle and finishing the circle

Guests will practice drumming on surfaces and drums, and sending energy through the drums, creating and maintaining a rhythm first. Then there will be the opportunity to practice the parts of a human drum circle and the workshop will finish with a short human drum circle.

Book Your Ticket Here

More About Lori Beth Bisbey & Terence Scott

Lori-Beth-&-Terence
Lori Beth & Terence

Terence Scott is a cis-gendered polyamorous, bisexual sadistic leatherman who has been a percussionist since 1973 and has been beating anything that might create an interesting sound or build a rhythm since then. He teaches workshops on creating a human drum circle and raises sexual energy through rhythm and percussion.  He has been in an authority transfer based relationship for the past 10 years and married for the past 4 ½ to Dr Lori Beth Bisbey. Pronouns: He, Him

Dr Lori Beth Bisbey is a psychologist, sex & intimacy coach with over 30 years experience working with individuals, couples, and groups helping them to create and maintain their ideal intimate relationships. She has special expertise in working with the aftermath of trauma, working in the areas of gender and sexual diversity, and is kink and polyamory knowledgeable.

Lori Beth hosts a weekly podcast (the A to Z of Sex) and a weekly radio show: The A to Z of Sex ® with Dr Lori Beth Bisbey on the Sexy Lifestyle Network, one vlog on YouTube, has two blogs and writes for a variety of websites and media.

Lori Beth speaks regularly in the UK and USA on topics relating to relationships with sex. She can be found on http://drloribethbisbey.comwhere both her podcast and radio show can be accessed. She has consulting rooms in central London and sees clients from all over the world via Zoom.

Dr Lori Beth Bisbey is a polyamorous CIS gendered queer leather woman, married and in a 24/7 power exchange relationship with her husband. She can be emailed at loribeth@drloribethbisbey.com

Pronouns: She, Her

Manufacturing-Vacancy

Vacancy: Sh! Manufacturing & Operations

We’re looking for a special someone to join our fantastic Manufacturing & Operations team.

The right applicant is someone who:
  • Prides themselves on their great attention to detail
  • Is amazingly creative but has excellent practical abilities
  • Wants to be part of a team and help offer the great customer care Sh! is famous for
Duties include:
  • Manufacturing of Sh! own-brand leather & rubber products
  • Ensuring that operations run smoothly
  • Supporting the shop floor & web sales team

Start Date: Beginning of September 2019

Based at: Sh! 31-35 Pitfield Street, London N1 6HB – right in the heart of trendy Shoreditch.

Hours: This is a part-time position, 2-3 days per week

Interested?

Please send your CV + covering letter to Aphra@sh-womenstore.com outlining why you’d make an excellent addition to Team Sh! 

We’re Crowdfunding Soon!

We’re Crowdfunding Soon!

We are launching an equity crowdfund campaign in September 2019 and would love your investment (of whatever size!) to help us achieve the next exciting chapter in the Sh! story.

Sh! APP

The trusted advice, welcoming, inclusive environment and fun, fearless nature of Sh!, creatively communicated, so people worldwide can seamlessly access the Sh! experience and be empowered by their own sensual wellbeing journey (minimum viable product stage).

Sh! SENSUAL STORIES

Curated and commissioned short-form audio content centered around, and celebrating female pleasure.

Sh! CAFÉ & EVENTS SPACE

A place for coffee and cake, creativity and community. Meet for a cuppa, stay for a book launch, a cabaret or a panel of inspiring speakers… The vibrant environment will give visitors a landmark place to gather.

Sh! ACADEMY

Our 27 years of knowledge expertly molded into a range of courses, covering all aspects of sensual wellbeing and women’s health.

Sh! PARTIES

Playful, celebratory events, tailored to fit the occasion, and the attendees’ sexuality and gender orientation.

Sh! WORKSHOPS

Corporate workshops on wellbeing, equality, consent, sexuality and gender rights.

PLEASE NOTE: You are not committing to anything at this stage, but knowing the level of your interest will help us track progress.

We will send you a special code, which will allow you to invest during the closed ‘Friends & Family’ period, before our campaign goes public


If you would like to learn more about our plans, please come to one of our BITESIZE PITCHES

Alternatively, email crowdfund@sh-womenstore.com with any questions or to request an individual presentation.

Sh! is a pioneering brand dedicated to female pleasure and is on a mission to help women, and those that love them, to discover their true sexual selves, whatever their age, sexuality, health or relationship status.

Understanding that a healthy sexuality is key to self-esteem, well-bein, and happiness, we passionately believe that women deserve a place where they can explore their own unique relationship to sex, desire and their bodies, free from pressure and stereotypes.

By providing tailored advice, unique pleasure-enhancing products, trusted information, fun and inspiring classes, Sh! is a safe haven where honest conversations about sexual well-being are encouraged within a comfortable and judgment-free environment.

Sh!’s vision has been supported by over half a million customers, healthcare professionals and like-minded educators in sexuality and sex-positivity (along with the occasional prime minister’s wife, A-List Hollywood actress and Michelin Star chef!).

Crowdfunding is a way for people,  and businesses to raise money.
It works through a community of individuals or organisations who invest in a crowdfunding project in return for a potential profit or reward, such as shares in the company. Crowdfunding is accessible to all with the ability to invest from as little as £100 up to £100,000+.

Seedrs is the online platform Sh! has chosen to crowdfund with. The leading equity crowdfunding in the UK & the 1st to be authorised by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), Seedrs enables all types of investors to invest in businesses they believe in and share in their success.

Their ground-breaking secondary market gives investors the opportunity to convert investments into returns or buy more shares outside of funding rounds.

You will need to register on Seedrs in order to invest in Sh!

This new phase of our journey has been awarded EIS Advance assurance approval from HMRC.

EIS is a generous tax relief scheme created to encourage investment into new growth businesses. You must be a UK taxpayer, buying brand new shares and hold them for 3+ years to qualify. You can’t be connected to the business (or be immediate family members ), nor invest more than £1M into the scheme in any 1 year.

Briefly, below are the major benefits for investors, but you can read more, with examples, by clicking here.

30% Tax Relief

An investment of £10k can save you £3k in income tax. £1k investment = £300 tax relief, and so on…

0% CAPITAL GAINS TAX

Say your £10k investment triples over 3 years and is now worth £30k, which you’d like to sell. There’s no tax to pay on the £20k gain

100% INHERITANCE TAX RELIEF

Generally, 100% Inheritance Tax relief can be claimed after EIS shares have been held for 2+ years.

EIS LOSS RELIEF

If you lose money on your investment. you can claim loss relief, equivalent to the highest rate of income tax you pay.

Sh! was established in 1992, borne out of founder Ky Hoyle’s nightmarish failed attempt to buy a vibrator and a drive to make a change that female sexuality should no longer be ignored. Sh! has since grown into a multi award-winning brand dedicated to women’s sexual wellbeing, revolutionising the UK’s sex toy industry and leading a seachange in attitudes towards female sexuality.

Twenty seven years ago I went shopping for a toy. As a young, liberated woman I believed it was my right to explore my sexuality, but I found that wasn’t the case. Everywhere I visited was about all male gaze, fantasy, and pleasure. There was nowhere I felt comfortable, so I stomped home, determined to make a change… A couple of months later, with just £700, I opened Sh!, the UK’s 1st ever ‘women’s sex shop’ to the press’s astonishment and the collective relief of women everywhere

They came from all over London, of course, but also all from over the UK. Visitors from Bradford to Brighton, and everywhere in between, making special day trips to Sh!  We’d see worldwide visitors too. From Sweden to Saudi Arabia, a trip to Sh! breezily or bravely weaved into holiday itineraries.

The story is still the same. Singularly, with their friends or with their partners, women seek us out. Why? Because, from Day 1 to today, our mission is to do things differently – we do everything differently!

We put female gaze and female pleasure at the fore. Without stereotype or assumptions. From the simple act of offering tea to the intensive, expert training of our team, we actively work to create a comfortable, non-judgmental atmosphere that encourages exploration, curiosity, and questions.

Sh! is a place for intimate, honest conversations. We recognise that sex makes us ALL feel naked (and not just in the physical sense!) and that it’s intertwined with vulnerability, insecurity, taboos, and even shame. Of course, Sh! is all about the fun aspects; the playfulness, the pleasure, and the orgasms!

But we acknowledge there can difficult issues too; For things like painful sex, which can affect 1 in 10 women, we created user-friendly products for vaginismus, which are highly rated against the NHS alternatives by clients & Sex Therapists alike.

Long before the #metoo movement, and because we were shocked to learn that nothing existed to help, we co-founded Café V, a safe space for survivors of sexual violence to talk about enjoying sex again, reclaiming their bodies and pleasurable sexuality.


We treat ALL sexualities as equal. From day 1, long before equal marriage rights and shock-free same-sex storylines in Soaps, the LGBTQ community has been a strong, visible and proud part of our world. But sexuality equality isn’t just about ‘alternative’ relationships. Older women, women of colour, women of size or with disabilities, and a myriad of others who don’t fit the young, slim and western ‘ideal’ are often invisible, stereotyped or ridiculed.

At Sh! we believe it is every woman’s right to explore and to own their own sexuality and recognise that sexual wellness is a vital part of overall health for everybody. We’ve fostered links with the NHS, Oncology departments, Sexual Health, Menopause, HIV & FGM charities as well as individual Dr’s , health professionals & therapists, who often send their clients to us, because they know they are in safe hands.

So, apart from wanting to change the world, why do we do what we do? Because every visit to Sh! is an empowering, liberating experience.  And, in a world that tells us not to talk about real experiences and instead works to create silence, hype or wild misconceptions around sex and pleasure, we are continually inspired by those who trust us with intimate conversation and insights into this most personal area of their lives.

‘Fabulous, honest, kind advice; it was like speaking
with a very close friend…’
(Trust Pilot Reviews  May 2019)

Imagine making what happens at Sh! accessible globally to all women, and those that love them?

We have, and this is why we are crowd-funding.

We want to make our online presence as uniquely consultative and experiential as it is instore; advice in every format, specialist guidance from healthcare professionals; empowering pieces from award-winning journalists and authors…

We also want to expand our classes into an academy and deliver a program of education covering every sensual topic, tailored for everybody; from newbies to sex educators.

And expand our space and make Sh! a destination for coffee, cake and inspiring, empowering events, that can also be accessed online.

As an Investor, you’ll own a piece of Sh! (not only a piece of pioneering history but a unique company, full of integrity and huge potential) and you’ll also be investing in female empowerment, sensual liberation and helping to build legacy for future generations – with so much sex misinformation and so many teens learning from porn flooding internet, it’s never been so needed!

I hope you will join us in our vision and journey.

Kyx

Starstruck

Starstruck

We all have that one friend who is obsessed with star signs, horoscopes and possibly chakras too. This article is perfect for them. Or you, if you’re looking to buy them a birthday present or are simply trying to find out what they’re on about.

To start with the basics, we have a thing called the zodiac. This refers to the space encompassing the ecliptic and approximately nine degrees around it. The ecliptic is the looped “pathway” that the Earth makes when orbiting the sun and passing certain star-groups on its way. This journey is split into twelve equal segments of thirty degrees (because 12 x 30 is 360; almost the number of days in the year). These 12 sections correlate to what we know as the star signs. So, the date and time you were born are assigned a zodiac or star sign according to the position of the planets, the moon and the sun at the time of birth. The position of the sun at the time of birth supposedly determines one’s personality whereas the position of the moon governs one’s emotions or inner mood. So, now you know the actual logistics of why you’re so incredibly turned on by sexy Scorpios…

Gemstones have been thought to have a relationship with the zodiac signs since practically forever. The first recording of their seemingly solid relationship was back in the first century as Josephus wrote up the first Latin transcription of the Bible. Since then, the ancient Egyptians went wild for them, as did the Greeks and Romans. It was believed that if you wore the appropriate gemstone for your sign, you would receive good fortune. This theory wasn’t enough for some and so, if you were rich enough, you’d get a talisman with all twelve stones in.

In fact, our love for horoscopes and birthstones remains undying. Vice has recently released an app providing daily horoscopes. One of our team member’s mothers actually reads hers via the human translator of a psychic horse in her favourite weekly magazine. Meanwhile, we have just got a whole range of horoscope-specific gift sets in from the luxurious sex accessory brand; Bijoux Indiscrets. These gift sets include a birthstone, a vibrator, and a clitoral balm. Wow. Astro-holy cow. Personalisation at it’s finest.

The gemstone

So, star signs are determined by planetary behaviours, i.e. their movement and interaction with the sun and moon. Dependant on the stones’ believed properties and star sign traits, certain gemstones are assigned to the zodiac to bring good luck to the signs. For instance, if you’re a Gemini and you’re sauntering around with a Tiger’s Eye pendant on (like the one in this set); this can only be a good thing. This is because Tiger’s Eye has been assigned to the sign Gemini. Why? Geminis are meant to be flighty social butterflies with a split personality whilst Tiger’s Eye is believed to be deliberately grounding. It makes sense. It clears the mind somewhat of unrest and uneasiness. It is believed to make the wearer happier. In a funny kind of way, so do sex toys. They bring you orgasmic pleasure. They remind you that you are only human. They look after your mental and physical wellbeing. Why not combine these two powers into an unholy force and create a set that includes both your birthstone and a sex toy inside?! …wait a second…

The vibrator

Straight outta heaven, we give you the Bijoux Indiscrets Horoscope finger vibrator. That may sound like a mouthful but we figure that the longer a title is, the more important it sounds. This vibe slips onto your finger like Cinderella’s life-changing glass slipper. With seven settings and irresistibly smooth silicone, this intense buzz will send shivers through its owner’s body at just the thought of it.

The clitoral balm

Last up, we have a clit stimulating balm, which funnily enough looks like any ordinary lip balm. This comes in four varieties depending on the element of your star sign. The four elements are as follows, fire, air, earth, and water. These elements are designated star signs in accordance with certain personality traits. The idea is that because these four elements make up the world, they’re all kind of dependent on each other – nice, hey?

Fire signs are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. Air signs are Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. Earth signs are Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. Water signs are Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces.

Bijoux Indiscrets has assigned each element an appropriate scent, to make your clitoral balm that bit fancier. Fire is assigned spiced ginger, earth is vetiver, air is star anise and water is sandalwood. Apply it to your clit and feel the tingles start to rush.

Altogether now

Mercury may be in retrograde, but with this gorgeous little gift set in hand, your woes will be no more. It’s TLC for both your spirit and your clit. Priced at a modest £39.00, Bijoux Indiscrets is making magic happen for crystal-healing-lovers in more ways than one!

Poly-Fancies-for-Blog

Polyamory and other types of non-monogamy

Polyamory and other types of non-monogamy are really trendy at the moment. If you have wanted to have some form of open relationship, feel that one person cannot meet all of your needs, have tried to open up your relationship and need guidance, had good or bad experiences with non-monogamy and would like to have a plan that works for you going forward, this talk is for you.

Join Dr Lori Beth Bisbey for an evening discussion of ethical and unethical non-monogamy.

The following topics will be covered:

  • Deciding what type of non-monogamy works for you, and for your relationship
  • Hierarchies in relationships
  • Benefits of non-monogamy
  • Potential pitfalls of non-monogamy
  • Jealousy and compassion
  • Talking about non-monogamy with new partners and meeting people who share your desires.

When: Monday 12 of August, 7pm

Where: Sh! 31-35 Pitfield Street, London N1 6HB

Book tickets: Poly

All genders & sexualites are welcome.

Come with lots of questions!
Dr-Lori-Beth-Bisbey-Blog-Post
Dr Lori Beth Bisbey

Dr Lori Beth Bisbey is a psychologist, sex & intimacy coach with over 30 years experience working with individuals, couples, and groups helping them to create and maintain their ideal intimate relationships. She has special expertise in working with the aftermath of trauma, working in the areas of gender and sexual diversity, and is kink and polyamory knowledgeable.

Lori Beth hosts a weekly podcast (the A to Z of Sex) and a weekly radio show: The A to Z of Sex ® with Dr Lori Beth Bisbey on the Sexy Lifestyle Network, one vlog on YouTube, has two blogs and writes for a variety of websites and media.

Lori Beth speaks regularly in the UK and USA on topics relating to relationships with sex. She can be found on http://drloribethbisbey.com where both her podcast and radio show can be accessed. She has consulting rooms in central London and sees clients from all over the world via Zoom.

Dr Lori Beth Bisbey is a polyamorous CIS gendered queer leather woman, married and in a 24/7 power exchange relationship with her husband. She can be emailed at loribeth@drloribethbisbey.com

  • Join Dr Lori Beth Bisbey & Terence Scott at their new Munch
The Vaginismus Network Meet Up

The Vaginismus Network Meet Up

We are delighted to announce details of The Vaginismus Network (VN)’s next meet up, happening in-store on Friday 02 August!

This will be a relaxed, friendly and safe space to connect with other people who have vaginismus over a glass of bubbles (non-alcoholic if preferred). VN founders Kat and Lisa will host a relaxed and honest question and answer session with resident Psychosexual Therapist, Sarah Berry, on all related topics, as all three have first-hand experience of living with the condition.

Our store manager, Renée Denyer, will be on hand to explain exactly how Sh! can help sufferers and why many GPs and psychotherapists choose to refer patients to us. If that wasn’t enough, the fab Co-Active Coach, Audrey Cairo, will be making a guest appearance to share her experience with vaginismus as someone who has grown up with it:

“Vaginismus has been part of my story that has shaped me in various ways.  While coaching people to get back their agency I hope to open my practice to women with similar challenges to build their confidence, their own self worth and step into their beauty & sexuality.”

You can read more about Audrey’s journey here. There is no reason to suffer in silence if you are affected by vaginismus. Come along, enjoy a complimentary goody bag and have a chat!


TICKETS

Energy-Class

Introduction to Energy Play – a class with Dr Lori Beth Bisbey

People are often introduced to the idea of working with and playing with energy in spiritual practices like meditation, ritual, magick, yoga, reiki, tantra.

Sexual energy is the same as spiritual energy is the same as what some people call the subtle energies. The energy is raised in a different manner and used for a different purpose but it is, in essence, the same.

Energy play in Kink and BDSM is when people manipulate and exchange energy – usually through touch, as part of their sexual and BDSM play and scenes.

In this workshop, Dr Bisbey will start with exercises to feel and build energy, move on to non-sexual exercises to exchange energy, cover sexual and sensual energy exchange exercise, look at how energy play is integrated into BDSM activities (like flogging or spanking), cover the risks and benefits of energy play and end with further resources.

Book Your Ticket Here
Dr-Lori-Beth-Bisbey-with-Roses
Dr Lori Beth Bisbey

Dr Lori Beth Bisbey is a psychologist, sex & intimacy coach with over 30 years experience working with individuals, couples, and groups helping them to create and maintain their ideal intimate relationships. She has special expertise in working with the aftermath of trauma, working in the areas of gender and sexual diversity, and is kink and polyamory knowledgeable.

Lori Beth hosts a weekly podcast (the A to Z of Sex) and a weekly radio show: The A to Z of Sex ® with Dr Lori Beth Bisbey on the Sexy Lifestyle Network, one vlog on YouTube, has two blogs and writes for a variety of websites and media.

Lori Beth speaks regularly in the UK and USA on topics relating to relationships with sex. She can be found on http://drloribethbisbey.com where b
In this workshop, Dr Bisbey will start with exercises to feel and build energy, move on to non-sexual exercises to exchange energy, cover sexual and sensual energy exchange exercise, look at how energy play is integrated into BDSM activities (like flogging or spanking), cover the risks and benefits of energy play and end with further resources. oth her podcast and radio show can be accessed. She has consulting rooms in central London and sees clients from all over the world via Zoom.

Dr Lori Beth Bisbey is a polyamorous CIS gendered queer leather woman, married and in a 24/7 power exchange relationship with her husband. She can be emailed at loribeth@drloribethbisbey.com

Join Dr Lori Beth Bisbey & Terence Scott at their new Munch
Let’s Talk About Intersex, Baby

Let’s Talk About Intersex, Baby

Red hair. Unusual? Yes. Abnormal? No. Prince Harry is ginger. As is all seven of the Weasleys. Bette Midler didn’t try to hide her bright red locks from the public. According to the World Health Organisation and the UN, roughly the same number of intersex individuals exist as there are redheads; so approximately 1.7% of the population.

Intersex is the term given to people whose genitals, reproductive organs, chromosomes, or hormones vary from the male or female binary.

According to this mutually exclusive limitation of sex, their reproductive organs may not match typically together with their genitals or, perhaps, when they mature they might realise that their pubescent hormones are more consistent with those otherwise experienced by people of another sex. The vast majority of intersex qualities have no negative implications, just like the characteristic of ginger hair.

via GIPHY

What does Intersex mean for individuals?

From auburn to pure carrot, babies with shades of red hair aren’t required to dye it by society. Yet, intersex new-borns have traditionally been forced to undergo genital normalisation surgery, aka Intersex Genital Mutilation, before they reach six months. Doctors are physically modifying infants all over the world in operations that they are too young to consent to. This is especially shocking considering that the operation in question is not imperative to the person’s (or baby’s) overall health.

These operations usually cause intersex people to rely on hormone medication for the rest of their lives and need to follow up surgeries for at least until they reach adulthood. Victims experience post-traumatic stress disorder, negative body image, and scarring. In the worst cases, some are left infertile. This harrowing procedure is imposed on individuals all over the world. Fortunately, the UN has now recognised such operations as a violation of human rights, although there is still a long way to go for thousands of people. In several countries, babies are murdered upon the discovery of their intersex identity; the fear of negative societal judgment is so real that some parents consent to this atrocity. 

“Normalisation” operations demonstrate the lengths that we, as a society, still need to go to understand and correctly separate sex from gender.

By practicing IGM, doctors are essentially guessing what gender an infant will feel most comfortable living as, in accordance to binary definitions of the male and female sexes. These assumptions are based around the exterior appearance of babies’ genitals. No doubt, they often get it wrong.

This may seem more out-dated than the marketing campaign of Yorkie chocolate bars but it is happening everywhere. Take the recent, infamous case of two-time Olympian Gold winner, Caster Semenya, for example.

After “suspicions” that Semenya has a higher level of testosterone than other runners in her category, she began a lawsuit against the international sporting organisation to fight the decision that she would have to take drugs to lower these hormones if she were to continue running for her country. Earlier this month, she lost her case. How ironic is this – coming from an industry governed by doping fears?

The sports world, like wider society, is failing individuals by continuing to implement increasingly archaic binaries. By doing so, they are stealing the individual’s autonomy over their own bodies. Throughout all of this, Semenya has remained defiant. Discovery US recently released this video on Twitter in support of the inspirational champion entitled, “How do you stop a determined woman?” We can’t get enough of it.

Who is fighting for the Intersex community?

A severe lack of awareness, acceptance, and visibility currently surrounds intersex people. However, there are many activists and organisations fighting to improve this. The Intersex Justice Project is one organisation that is currently pushing to de-stigmatize intersex and end non-consensual medical interventions. This project is gaining notoriety thanks to their leader, the activist, and filmmaker, Pidgeon Pagonis. Based in Chicago, Pagonis is involved with several protests at a local hospital that practice IGM on babies, named the Lurie Children’s Hospital. There is a petition that you can sign to support this mission, by following the link here.

Hida Viloria is another US based, intersex human rights activist fighting for equality. She was actually the second person in North America to be granted an intersex birth certificate. She has written a memoir entitled “Born Both: An Intersex Life“, and created this downloadable PDF; an educational tool that is primarily for new parents to intersex babies.

As the Chairperson of the Organisation of Intersex International, she rebranded it with Dr. Dani Lee Harris and Dana Zzym, creating the Intersex Campaign for Equality (IC4E). Dr. Lee Harris is an activist, an author, and life coach. Meanwhile, Zzym was the first American ex-veteran to apply for an intersex passport. Together, they have formed IC4E to be a great resource for keeping up to date with Intersex news through radio, podcasts or articles. They promote human rights through the “arts, education and action” of intersex individuals and allies.

For example, the critically acclaimed film, Ponyboi, which premiered in Canada on May 30th, 2019, was celebrated on the site. Directed by River Gallo and Sadé Clacken Joseph, it is produced by Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry and is the first film to feature an intersex narrative. Woop!


Finally, what can allies do for Intersex/human rights?

First and foremost, be compassionate and listen. Do not make assumptions and recognise that the rights of intersex people are no different from those of basic human rights. Be aware that an intersex person may not identify as queer or trans.

The Intersex Society of North America has compiled a list of practical tips or otherwise, you can check out this PDF from the OII.