Iranti org salutes Sally Gross
(22 August 1953-14 February 2014)
South Africa, 15 February 2017
Sally Gross was a spiritual and human rights pioneer whose life’s work included being born Jewish, being a Catholic priest, a Buddhist, a Quaker, a Communist and exiled anti-Apartheid activist and a pro-Palestinian and intersex activist.
Sally spearheaded the first intersex inclusion in anti-discrimination law and is responsible for making South Africa’s Constitution fully intersex inclusive. She was the Director of the first intersex organisation in South Africa - Intersex South Africa.
Sally would say:
"At root, it is surprisingly straightforward. When a baby is born, the first question customarily asked is whether it is a baby boy or a baby girl. In most cases it can be answered quite easily after a glance between a baby’s legs. In some cases, however, it is not straightforward, usually because the external genitals of the baby are ambiguous, male-like in some ways and female-like in others.
"The chromosomal pattern may not be standard or what would be expected with the way the person’s body looks. The sex glands, thought to be ovaries, might be mixed, or might be testes sitting in the abdomen. There may be no womb although the body type is clearly female-like. The balance of sex hormones in the body might turn out not to be standard, as it were.
"The best description known to me is congenital sexual differentiation (that is to say, sexual differentiation going back to conception and development in the womb). This is sexual differentiation that does not follow the usual paths of male and female, but which falls somewhere in between."
With this ability to share her understanding, she worked relentlessly and untiringly for intersex rights, within the LGBTI community and beyond. Sally remains a global icon for the human rights of intersex persons.
Sally, we will always salute you for your untiring patience in enriching our understanding in the LGBTI community by sharing your experience and insights!
May Sally Gross’ soul rest in eternal peace
by Kokeletso Legoete
18 February 2014, Cape Town
Portrait of Sally Gross by Gabrielle Le Roux 2013
“I am intersexed, born, like most of the people born with bodies which are such that intersexuality has a significant impact on their lives, with ambiguous genitalia... Intersexuality is often pathologised and people like myself who are intersexed are often seen as pathological specimens. There is something I must make clear at the outset. I, and others like me, are first and foremost persons possessed of intrinsic dignity. We are not specimens of any pathology, and I stand before you as a person in the full-blown Lockean sense, a thinking, intelligent being no less possessed of reason and reflection than yourselves, indubitably capable of considering myself as myself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places”.
Sally Gross was born on August 22, 1953 in Cape Town, South Africa. Sally was born an intersex; however was classified as male at birth. “...Gross was classified as male and brought up as a boy, named Selwyn...” The Witness; 28 August 2009’s “the journey of Selwyn to Sally”. In 1993 after seeking medical advice, Sally discovered she was an intersex. she was reclassified as female at the age of 40.
As many of us have and still go through difficulties, victimisation and hatred due to our sexualities and gender identities, Sally Gross’ life has challenged the world’s prejudices about who we are, should be or how we are expected to behave. Living in a society that assigns our gender as only males and females, Sally’s life expressed much more than what society knows and accepts as ‘normal’.
Sally was a writer and an activist, Many of her writings, Intersex, Status and Law in South Africa and Africa in general; Not in God’s Image; Notes on Intersexuality and Ethical Issues raised by the standard protocol of treatment for Intersexed infants and children; are about her life experiences as an intersex born person.
Iranti-org salutes Sally for her outstanding contribution to advancing our human rights.
You can find some of Sally’s writing here:
PDF The journey from Selwyn to Sally Gross
PDF Sally Gross shunned by the church
PDF The struggle to be Sally Gross
To honor Sally Gross, a great intersex activist
by Hiker Chiu, Oii-Chinese founder
17 February 2014, Taiwan
Last week, my intersex good friend Sally Gross from South Africa passed away in her apartment. Sally Gross is a senior intersex activist and also the founder and director of Intersex South Africa. I was so lucky to meet Sally in person in the world first intersex forum in 2011. She is the most friendly and warmest intersex activist I have ever met at the World First Intersex Forum in Brussels. It was first my first and last meeting with Sally.
I was the only intersex activist from Asia in the forum. My asking to record our discussion for my language barrier was denied for the protection of privacy. Sally sat opposite to me on the other side of the table reminding participants to slow down their talk for me “their little friend from Taiwan” said Sally. She with her very elegant and clear English and warm smile making me felt so welcome and we connected right away. Her consideration for me released and comforted me at the moment of my first intersex international conference and it also put her in my mind.
Before GIN, I had informed her to apply and proposed GIN to invite her to the conference and I am really eager to meet her again. In the first morning I woke up in South Africa, I got the message of her confronting homelessness and economic difficulty in her illness and I burst out crying. It seems that she live alone and without anyone to help her. Her situations made me to call on GIN to consider structuring a support system for LGBTIQ activists in the future. I know that in many countries activists are only a few people who dare to come out only, though rare but precious because they represent the hope of change, especially intersex activists. Without their being and efforts, there will be no me at present. Instead of visit her; I deposited the Rand I have to her account before I leave. I never think of her passing away that soon. I regret that I did not get to know her and help her more in time.
Sally is the first person to secure recognition of intersex people in law. Her life is difficult and also like a legend which is carved by injustice from ignorant of human being. Even so, Sally still devotes her whole life to inspire us. Maybe you are not aware about her story; I still want to invite you give this great soul respect and blessing and please do learn and share about her life story.
CLICK TO ENLARGE
Click images to enlarge: Sally Gross from Intersex SA with Hiker Chiu at the the World First Intersex Forum in Brussels. Picture provided by Hiker Chiu