Watch us on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gi04OVLTCD0
Luan Pertl worked many years in the private sector as a finance manager. After 20 years Luan quit this job and after a break Luan started to work in the NGO sector, especially for intersex NGOs with a human rights based approach. Luan focuses on education work and peer counseling as it is very important to educate the society on intersex issues to stop the violation that intersex people still experience. Links:
- The NGO where Luan is working for: https://vimoe.at/
- fem.in[email protected]: https://www.linkedin.com/company/fem-initiative-wu/
- Allies: http://www.plattform-intersex.at/
- Allies: https://varges.at/
TIMEA: Hey Ramón!
RAMÓN: Hey Timea!
TIMEA: Let’s talk gender equality.
RAMÓN: I love the idea. Gimme a second. I just got to grab my coffee. I hope you’ve got yours too.
TIMEA: Yeah, right here. TIMEA: Hello to everybody listening in. Here’s Timea and Ramon with another episode. And today we have a special guest invited to our podcast. Luan from the VIMÖ? NGO. Welcome.
LUAN: Hello, welcome. Thank you very much for inviting me. Yeah, I’m Luan from VIMÖ, it’s the only intersex led organization in Austria and we are based in Linz in OberÃ¶sterreich and also in Vienna,
RAMÓN: it is an absolute pleasure to have you on Luan. We are very excited. I will admit I was at a disadvantage when I learned about VIMÖ and your work, but I was very excited to hear that this work exists in, in Austria. And I’ve been following it now with some very intense happiness and yeah, before we go into VIMÖ and everything, we’d love to hear. More about you Luan. A quick note for our listeners. We might switch between an in-between English and German terms. I will do my best to keep things let’s say consistent. So if there’s a, if there’s a term Luan please, you are at home on the web. If you need to switch at any time, please let us know and yeah, we’ll do our best. So Luan Please introduce yourself to our listeners a little bit about your background, your pronouns as well as three, maybe three fun facts about yourself that you can share with the audience.
LUAN: Okay. Three, fun facts. Okay. I was thinking about that. Yeah, as I already said, I’m Luan. I’m from Austria, but now living in Berlin. So if there is not a COVID-19, then I’m actually switching between Vienna and Berlin drive now. And since then last month in Berlin In Austria. I’m working on a volunteer basis for VIMÖ, the intersex led organization in Austria. And I also work in here in Berlin for I Europe. That’s the head organization for many intersex led organizations in Europe and there I work as On that part-time employment. Yes. Yeah. So I don’t use pronouns, so I’m Luan and I don’t use pronouns. My background, yeah. I worked many years in on the finance side and coming from the finance side, I am a finance nerd and numbers nerd. And I don’t know, like now nearly six years ago I quit my job and had a, yeah. I had a break just took time off and then I started just to work anymore for NGOs and fun facts.
TIMEA: Yeah. Or three random things about you.
LUAN: Yeah, what I already said, I’m a terrible numbers nerd. So I count everything. Like I count the stairs and I count the steps and I count the cars and I count everything. So, and it’s not that I want to do it. It’s just like, It happens when I walk around. So that’s part one. I totally love Opera. And I think I started when I was 16 and it’s yeah, it’s. It’s incredible music and atmosphere for me. I did, when I was young, I was very long, a very, very long time in a choir and I sang many many years. I also performed in schools and things like that. But like after my voice broke a few years ago I stopped and I didn’t try anymore since then.
TIMEA: Yeah. So tell us a bit about, okay. Finance numbers nerd. But volunteering is totally different or not. What brought you basically in the communities you are part of now?
LUAN: Yeah, I’m an intersex person. And so I was born with a variation of sex characteristics. And after my birth, like directly after I had a nonconsensual surgery in the hospital where I was born. And even like, my mother did not really get them the full information. So. It took me many years to realize. And in between I worked a very long time, like in the LGBTI communities or I’ve worked many, many years for, or also I w on a volunteer basis in the Rosa Lilla Villa in Vienna. So it’s the first gay and lesbian house and counseling in Vienna. Yes. And then in 2015 I found out the truth about me. That’s when I started to put my energy for activism in intersex activism.
TIMEA: Wow. You have a very personal gain and drive in here in that direction. I’m just curious that you already were attracted to such causes with the LBGTQ community already before you knew what drove you to that involvement?
That I always ask our guests there’s there’s a big, Hmm. How should I say there’s not a big reason necessarily, but there is a different motivation of why a person does community work. Right. And maybe it starts with friends. Maybe it starts in the university. That’s I mean, that’s how it started for me. But then there’s a conscious decision when you go into professional life to continue it or not. Right. Cause it’s, it’s taking a lot of your time and I’m interested in curious to know what keeps you going, right? Like, why are you still involved? And then you decided to move from the corporate environment to really, NGO part-time. Now I’d like to recall on that with you.
LUAN: I’m a very political person. And at, since I’m very, very young and that was also always something, even though I worked at a big company or things like that that was always very important for me. So even though when I was very young, I, I went to demos and everything. So it, it, it was, it is a big part from and and I don’t like discrimination in any matter it’s to me, it’s like, it’s you don’t do that. You know, it’s not, it’s not how we, people should work together or should be. To get the no go for me. And like finding a place in the LGBTI community or in Austria of course, was something because like I had a surgery when I was a child, but that already said, and they assigned me as female. So they assigned me as female. I had many years of female hormones, what I had to take to so they tried with that, that I looked that way. They did the surgery and And it never felt right for me. So even though I just found it out in 2015, it never felt right for me. And I did identify as a lesbian. So, and it was very important for me because it was a place there. Like the lesbian community was a place for me. Where I could be the person without this female, whatever they put on me and all this
RAMÓN: you can say it in German, if you like, and we can try and,
LUAN: Like the normvorstellung, I don’t know. Like people have had social norm yeah. People have of a social norm or especial point of view on social norm, how a woman a woman should look like, you know, society has a special norm and, and I never. I, I never looked like that either though. I took female hormones. I tried, but it never worked out. And and the lesbian community was for me a place where I could be the person I wanted to be. And and being female there at that point, thought I’m female. Being female you’re very accepted. Like, yeah, like you are, and it didn’t matter how you look, you know?
TIMEA: Right. This is how community feels like.
LUAN: Yeah. And was very important for me, how everything happened. And I say if. Yeah, I think it was also very important for me that I could then take the next steps.
TIMEA: Thank you very much for your honesty. It really, it makes me realize from what a position of privilege I come from sometimes. And definitely pushes on my unconscious biases. And I’m so happy that I met you at the fem.initiative at the WU and we’re giving a talk there exactly representing the community and it just felt the atmosphere. First of all, felt welcoming. For this communication that I think, and the dialogue that needs to exist, right. To try to grow as a society together in not being in any way, discriminating of any aspect in diversity,
RAMÓN: Sorry. Just to, just to quickly jump in for our listeners. Could you tell us what the fem.initiative event was, please?
TIMEA: I’m rather new to it, to be honest. I know that it happens that they will every so often we actually started to promote them as well. And Yeah, sorry. Of course being from Vienna, we always like unconscious bias. We know that WU = Vienna university of economics and business, of course. And it’s a freshly started initiative as far as I noticed. So let’s try to shout out and have them as guests
RAMÓN: sounds great. I think. I think this is, this is for us, very, very humbling in terms of what we stand to learn. I think going, going into that for, for people wishing to, to, to learn more and to be able to listen more. If would you say for, for our listeners, I mean you told us a little bit about what being what, what it means, what it means to be inter intersex. Could you also tell us what it is like. Of course, if you would like, if that’s fine with you, what it is like to be a person an intersex person in, in Austria at the moment. What, what, what what the rights situation is? What, what it looks, what things look like at the moment.
LUAN: So we do have since September, 2020. And you edict on the legal gender recognition. So we now have six gender marker. What includes also intersex? It includes diverse. It includes no. Gender marker at all. And you also can delete your own gender marker. This is just possible because an intersex person went to court and fight it for three years in court for that. So. You can see here. Not the politicians are just doing that because they realize intersex people get discriminated. No, intersex people have to fight for the ride and actually have to go to court. And it is just with the highest court in Austria, they said then, okay. It is discrimination. So intersex people also need to have their own gender marker. And then. They worked on it. So just, you know, we had the, we had to go through or all steps and yeah, that’s the gender market situation. The situation on
TIMEA: sorry to interrupt, and this is only since 2020 September,
LUAN: The, the court decision was in. 2018. Yeah, the court decision was in 2018, then it took off quite bit. I, it took a few months and then we got the first edict, but the first edict was only with diverse. Okay. And, and you had to go to a medical board and this medical board had to approve that you’re intersex with working together with the party. And also SPOE and NEOS we managed to get the new edict. You still need a medical stapled, but not anymore from the board. So you can go to your doctor of trust. What is very important for people, you know if doctors like the thing doctors did to us, You know, when we ran a child, teenagers, things like that, it’s, it’s not easy that you then have a doctor of trust. So, and of course you are definitely not to the medical board approved that you are intersex, you know, it’s like before they cut off. You know, things or cutouts things of your body. And then you have to go there and say, Oh, now I need the, I need the statement that I get my gender marker. You know, you’re not doing that as an intersex person, but now it’s better. And yeah, so, but it’s still, still our fight. We’ll get further because we want to self determination, maybe.
TIMEA: I just wanted to underline how current the situation and how current it is at the moment. And that is just, you know, in 2020, somehow it sounds so ridiculous. It hasn’t been there before in a way.
RAMÓN: Something that I am very guilty of myself is falling into complacency. When I see issues. Being won and moved forward and not realizing how we still have as a society as people, a very long way to go. I’m just to, just to clarify you, were, you had just mentioned self-determination, could you elaborate on that? What, what does that mean? For, for our listeners, what does self determination mean?
LUAN: You know, when I. When, when I will go and say, okay, I want to I want to change my gender marker because I’m intersex, then, you know, it’s, it’s a process. And I think this process needs to be accepted so that the standesamt, I don’t know what that is in English, so that the authority that the authority is accepting that, and I don’t need a statement. To get my legal gender marker, you know, and that is important, but of course it is also very important of the part and more important on the part of medical issues, because like surgeries, non-consensual surgeries and non-consensual treatments are still happening in Austria. And not only in Austria, most of the countries in Europe, they are still happening. There is just one country in Europe and this country is Malta very this forbidden by law to do a non, to do nonconsensual intersex, surgeries, and treatment. And, and that’s of course the most important part that the surgery needs to stop. And that’s right now and Austria has already to got already to let us from the convention like from the committee of child rights. But also from the committee of torture. That and now with in January, they got new recommendations from other countries and the, and the United Nations about also more involved where they say, you have to stop this. Yeah, that’s very good. We hope it will happen. But of course, when this, in this part is self-determination very important, you know, it’s my body that has no one. So Just give me treatments or a surgery because I am having a variation of sex characteristics, you know, who believes really that every person is the same. You know, it’s not, you know, there is, there is like, female and male, but do you really think that all people are female and male have the same, like hormones or the same, whatever you do? We are all variations and maybe my variation is a little bit more. And so nobody needs to cut anything from my body.
TIMEA: So I think it’s right now, the moment to define intersex. Sorry to say, if I’m pretty sure that our community’s overwhelmed at the moment as well. If they are like me in the sense that we don’t get to talk about this enough and especially read what intersex is. So could you tell us clearly what it actually is once and for all
LUAN: Intersex people are people. They are born with a variation of sex characteristics.
LUAN: It’s it’s the chromosomes, the hormones the
TIMEA: the body parts. That make us male and female, right?
LUAN: Yeah. Also was a body parts.
LUAN: Chromosomes, hormones, and autonomy. Anatomy. I’m not to me not to meet to now. Yeah, so these are the,
TIMEA: so basically. I as a woman, again, I have the opportunity to say, I identify as she, her basically I have X, X chromosomes, right. I have female genital parts and I have female hormones which are there’s testosterone men. And. Estrogen for women. Right. But if any of this is somehow different, like you have an X, Y chromosome, female genitals, body parts, and a female hormones. That’s basically an intersex person because one dimension is reversed. Yeah. Correct. Okay. I totally understand it. And I’m like, You did not choose that you were born like that. And then other people make this choice for you. I find it even invasive for you to have to go to a medical board. Okay. Now it’s a bit better going to a doctor overall and they allowing you to. Physically be what you were born to be. I find that. Ooh. Okay. But I got it. Thank you.
RAMÓN: One thing that I’m that I’ve been hearing a lot over the last few years and I find myself agreeing with, is that a lot of these things like gender are social constructs And, and given that these, these definitions, these impositions are all, you know, I’m failing to find the correct word, but fabricated, and don’t actually make our lives a lot, all that easier. And in several cases like those those who don’t fit to those norms make their life a lot more difficult. And that’s where that discrimination comes from. One thing that I, as, as a person would like to do better is remove some of those unconscious biases and, and do my best to be as nondiscriminatory as possible. Now, Luan, of course, you’re not in any way obligated to do this, but I would love if you could maybe share with us, do you have any advice for how I, as a regular person can do my best to be as nondiscriminatory as possible? When it comes, say to people who are intersex,
LUAN: I think the most important thing is you know, speak about it, speak about what happened in speak about the intersex people exist and, and that yeah, and that gender is social construct because that. Yeah, that’s it. You’re right. So that’s how it is. And I think that is very important. And I think you know, if you, yeah, if you, if you know, you have a podcast, you do so now with me and that’s important. So we do, we make, we may get education and people will listening and people will hear about it. And you know, like the next time when they hear something or some, what is it. Talking about that. Oh yeah. I heard that already. And I think that is very important because it’s, it’s yeah, like the things are still happening and, and, and, and sometimes I have the feeling that people, you know, people are so afraid of losing their binary system and are being more happy that children getting non-consensual surgeries, then. Losing the binary system and I just don’t get it. You know, I want to take, I don’t want to take away that you are identifying as female. It’s perfect. It’s happy. And if you are happy, then I’m happy, you know, but I am intersex and I want to be happy too. And I wanted, everybody’s happy that I’m intersex and that I can be what I want to be.
RAMÓN: Yeah, sorry. I cut you off.
LUAN: All good. Thank you.
RAMÓN: That’s that’s really, that’s that’s really meaningful advice. I think you know, letting. It’s it’s the allowance to exist. Isn’t it? That to just exist as the way you are. You know, Timea and I touched upon this with another guest, a few episodes ago, it this, this topic of discomfort comes, comes to mind when people who are not. What’s the word. I don’t want to say who, who have, who are probably not been exposed to the topic of say people who are intersex before they get discomfort, they get uncomfortable and they push against this in order to preserve and to protect themselves from that discomfort. And I think this is an opportunity to say, it’s okay to be uncomfortable. This, this discomfort comes from us learning to be better to learning, to listen. And it’s going to be uncomfortable. And several times in my, I don’t want to say I don’t in my in my exposure. In my years of talking to people, I felt uncomfortable many times when confronted with things that are unfamiliar to me. And I think it’s that discomfort is good. It means you’re learning. It means you’re you’re growing as a person. Yeah.
TIMEA: May I just say I was uncomfortable in this podcast, but I feel I’m growing.
LUAN: That’s good. That’s very good.
RAMÓN: Well you know, we’ve been talking for a little bit, I would love say if I were interested in, in, in starting volunteering and, and topics related to the ones that you, for example volunteer with with, with gender identity and LGBT issues what would you recommend if you could go back and as a starting point, as a way to. Some, some advice you could give to someone who’s getting started in volunteering in these topics
LUAN: as an, as an intersex person, or,
RAMÓN: I was going to say as, as anybody volunteering, but of course, with relation to the topics that, that you volunteer and for example, with intersex
LUAN: so I think if you’re an ally, I think the most important thing is If you really want to get deeper into this topic and you want to, to do activism, then just go to has come to VIMÖ, you know, like, or, or we, we, we have we have a group where allies are working with us. It’s called peer it’s platform. Intersex. And you know, we, we have different topics. We have top breaks on we have Negro topics. We have education, we have the peer counseling. We have also medicine as a topic you know, and, and a lot of things. And yeah, we. You know, or help us to organize like an event, a conference, if it is possible at one point again. But that’s another thing, of course. And yeah. And you know, like many years, like VIMÖ just was able to do stuff because we got donations and now we are getting like a little bit of funding. But yeah, I’m just honest. Donations are always very welcome. So because, you know, we need to do, we, we did to print our stuff and we have to pay for our internet and, you know, like,
TIMEA: Absolutely. And I want to give here a shout out to everybody who wants to cross the line from being a standby a zuschauer to doing something in this direction right now you have now the means
TIMEA: I think at this point, We can slowly say our goodbyes as well. It was a tremendous pleasure for me personally.
RAMÓN: Absolutely. Before we go. Luan, I would love to end off by asking you is there any recommended resources or an organization that you would like to give a shout out to where folks can reach you? If they would like to do so.
LUAN: Yeah, you, you can reach me at over VIMÖ. We have, we have a website or you can also reach me over. It’s also, it’s also written with V
TIMEA: we’re going to put the link in the show notes.
LUAN: Yeah. Yeah, you can reach me there and yeah. Just check out our websites. There are a lot of informations on it and yeah.
TIMEA: Great. That’s a good start.
RAMÓN: Wonderful. Well, this has been an absolute pleasure. Luan. You have taught us so much and you’ve taken your time out for us and we are so grateful. We have so much to learn. I’m going to stop ranting. Thank you. This has been great. I wish you the wonderful, the most wonderful day to our listeners. Thank you for listening and stay tuned. We’re going to be talking to Luan a little bit more in a future episode. Take care everyone. Bye bye.
TIMEA: Are you on the forefront of gender equality? You are invited on our podcast.
RAMÓN: That’s right. Or maybe you know somebody that we could have a chat with on gender quality. You should totally get in touch with us. We’re on Twitter @GenderCoffee. Or any of the other contact methods on our show notes, we would love you to get in touch and for us to have a chat.