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‘So these two hermaphrodites walk into a gym …’

Filed by Jack Yan/March 28, 2008/4.35

I wish that was a joke, but it isn’t.
   I went to preview a New Dowse exhibition on transsexuality, intersexuality and the transgender community with its communications’ of?cer Mandy Herrick and coincidentally, was told by a friend last night about a situation at a gym in New Zealand.
   They had two intersexual (‘hermaphrodite’) clients. Other patrons petitioned the owner to remove them, otherwise they would not pay their fees.
   Shame on us as New Zealanders.
   We go around saying how open-minded we are, scoff at other nations, point out how we had the world’s ?rst transsexual MP—but no, when we confront intersexual people in our own neighbourhood, we do exactly what pre-US Civil Rights racists did when they hung out ‘Whites Only’ signs.
   For crying out loud, these two clients were born this way—and you’ll be even more shocked to learn that the gym opened itself to a human rights’ violation by cancelling the two people’s memberships.
   Imagine if they were taken to court and how much business they would have lost if word got out.
   Wouldn’t it have been better to have pointed out to the prejudiced clients that if they couldn’t accept the situation, then they could take their business elsewhere?
   Or go so far as to build an extra changing room and encourage more open-minded clients all round?
   I was pretty shocked that this went on. 
   I am not prejudice-free and I will freely admit to thinking, ‘That looks a bit odd’—as I did when I looked at some of the work that the New Dowse will be showing. I don’t know anyone who has told me they are intersex, hence my surprise. Then again, I don’t go around asking. I get over it. I accept that this is part of God’s plan and everyone is created in His own image.
   And there is a clear right and wrong in this case. Hopefully as time goes by more of us will look at this story and equate it to the racism of earlier times.

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