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Sarah Graham: lesbian, intersex and proud

When my mother talks about her dead twin she says it’s as if she can still feel him pressed against her arm, as he was during the time they shared in their mother’s womb. When she told me how a doctor had left her sibling to die I was horrified. Her twin, Paul, was born intersex. The year was 1942. The medical protocol at the time, the legacy of which is still with us today, was brutal: because of his intersex variation – he was born with genitals which looked atypicalhe was wrapped in a blanket, left alone in a room for 24 hours, where he starved and cried to death.

The twins were six weeks premature, so keeping them both alive in a private house in rural Wiltshire without an incubator made the survival of one or both infants doubtful and difficult. In fact, my mother recalls, it took three months before they could say she would live.

“It was probably difficult under the circumstances to make a decision of letting one twin go so that the other would survive,” she explains. “After all, we weren’t in a hospital and I had to be fed for some weeks every two hours with a pipet. I am sure this influenced the decision to save me and let Paul‘go’. I have never thought of this as murder, rather that he was sacrificed so that I had a chance to live. But of course it was the doctor’s opinion of his genitalia which meant he didn’t survive.”

In the 74 years since my mother and her twin were born, the situation for intersex babies is little better. In some cases, intersex babies are terminated pre-natally based on tests that show healthy variable difference. “That’s pre-selective infanticide,” explains Holly Greenberry, co-founder of human rights organisation IntersexUK. Adding insult to injury, intersex people today are diagnosed with “disorders of sexual development” (DSD), a term coined around 10 years ago which has caused controversy, with its implication that what is naturally occurring should be considered a “disorder”.

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Our bi-annual sex issue is sizzling hot with 40 pages of lesbian and bi hotness Also in this issue Lesbian sex: Expectation versus reality Travelling solo, and safely, as a woman Wonderful, not weird: Readers share their unusual fetishes Sex in DIVA: Are we being censored? Born this way: Intersex and proud From the vaults: Hot 90s lesbian photography revisited Sharon D Clarke Kiran Gandhi Anohni Jack Monroe Eleanor Margolyes binge watches the whole of The L Word Plus all the very best in life, scene, books, film, music and TV.