Another installment in my ongoing series of articles on transgender and non-transgender women who have qualities that I admire.
Lynnell Stephani Long is a trailblazer in her own right. I first became aware of her during the summer of 1999 when I was part of the activist team putting together NTAC. She was 'ejumacating' us on intersex issues. I traded e-mail with her for a while before we lost contact with each other.
She's a voice for a community that many African-Americans aren't aware exists, the intersex one.
According to ISNA, the Intersex Society of North America, about one in every 1500 children is born with genitalia ambiguous enough to call in a sex differentiation specialist.
Lynnell was one of those kids. She was born in Chicago on June 11, 1963 with ambiguous genitalia. After being surgically altered by doctors she was raised male most of her life. She went through major drama in her life until she saw ISNA's Cheryl Chase on TV in 1997 and discovered she was intersex. She eventually met Cheryl Chase at a 1999 GenderPac Lobby Day (how did I miss meeting both of them?) and began working with the organization by telling her story about growing up Black and intersex.
As any transperson can tell you, being outside the norms in the Black community can be a pain in the ass, and being an intersex child wasn't easy for her. As she wrote in a 2003 BLACKlines article,
"Growing up in an all-Black community and going to an all-Black high school was rough as hell. While a lot of the other boys walked around nude, proud of the size of their penis, I tried my best to hide. Hiding didn’t stop the questions though. Questions like, “Why is your penis so small? Why do you have breasts? What are you, a boy or a girl?”
She also states that African-Americans need to educate themselves on intersex issues. "There isn’t any one thing an organization like ISNA can do to help the Black community, except make sure information is available. I strongly believe people of color need to educate themselves."
"We need to step outside myths and stereotypes. If a child is born with a small penis, that child may be Intersex. If a girl is born with an enlarged clitoris, chances are she is Intersex. There is nothing to be ashamed about. There is no reason to hide the child or try to get that child fixed unless the child needs medical treatment."
She does her part to educate us by writing columns for various magazines, her website, appearing twice on the Montel Williams Show, doing performance art, and telling her story. She's a member of ISNA's Speakers Bureau and has spoken in the Chicago area and across the United States and Canada on ending intersex genital mutilation.
Lynnell's doing her part to let us know that intersex issues aren't just a 'white thang'.