He or she? Easy – the human being and the person! DIVERSE encounters at the 2019 HOOU Project Symposium at MARKK




Alex* Jürgen and Katinka Schweizer on the podium

To mark the occasion the new legislation on the third gender marker entry being adopted into the Personal Status Code, we held our 3rd HOOU (Hamburg Open Online University) project symposium on 13 May 2019, this time at the former Hamburg Museum of Ethnology, now known as MARKK (Hamburg Museum am Rothenbaum – Kulturen und Künste der Welt). The very well-attended event “DIVERSE Bodies – DIVERSE Identities” was opened by the deputy mayor of Hamburg, Senator Katharina Fegebank, after the welcome address by project manager Katinka Schweizer.

The symposium was recorded and can be listened to as a podcast in German at “Hamburg Hört ein HOOU ” (the Twitter link is here).

The welcome speeches were delivered by Dipl.-Psych. Gabriele Amelung, Chair of the DPG Institute for Pysachoanalysis and Psychotherapy Hamburg, and Prof. Dr. Peer Briken, Director of the Institute for Sex Research, Sexual Medicine and Forensic Psychiatry at the Centre for Psychosocial Medicine at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE).

The various items on the event programme were geared towards the project goals of presenting a diversity of perspectives and validating intersex. Scientific results from the research accompanying the project, presented by Dr. Ute Lampalzer, were juxtaposed with the moving autobiographical short stories by Alex* Jürgen, lived-experience expert from Austria. The account of life in the countryside as a “hermaphrodite” was particularly refreshing. Alex’ Jürgen’s flights of imagination as a child and teenager on the mysterious messages of the church and the medical profession gave great pause for reflection. As a patient who did not seem to fit into any gender norm, it was deemed she had to be made to “fit the mould” – as was customary at the time, without regard for loss of physical integrity. When asked how to appropriately address or name intersex people today, Alex Jürgen replied, with openness and ease, that it wasn’t really a problem in German: If people speak of “ihr” in the feminine case, it refers to “die Person” (the person or individual) whereas the masculine “Ihm” refers to “der Mensch” (the human or human being).

During the break, there was ample opportunity to chat in the impressive, spacious rooms of the museum. The exceptional surroundings, the historical lecture hall, the committed participants and the interested and varied audience, which consisted of specialists, lived-experience experts and the general public, created a unique atmosphere of mutual exchange. The bronze sculptures by Fabian Vogler, including “Fluffy Menina” and “Man_Inter_Woman”, which fitted into the room as if they were a natural part of it, also contributed to this ambience.

In the second half, Fabian Vogler and Katinka Schweizer presented their book project Die Schönheiten des Geschlechts (LINK CAMPUS). Unfortunately, Prof. Martin Dannecker, who had intended to join them to address the guests about the background to the book, was unable to attend due to illness. However, sculptor Fabian Vogler inspired the audience with a slide show of his innovative work on gender diversity and excerpts from the book. A selection of co-authors of the book had their say in the concluding panel discussion, which was highly informative and, despite time limits, very coherent and focused. The spotlight was on evaluating the updated Personal Status Code with the possibility of a third and fourth gender marker, the obligation of having to provide medical certificatation, and the ramifications for dealing with intersex, diverse sex development and gender diversity in the broader sense. The panelists were psychiatrist Dr. Viktoria Märker, psychologist Dr. Franziska Brunner, Alex* Jürgen, jurist Prof. Dr. Konstanze Plett, artist Fabian Vogler and psychoanalyst Almut Rudolf-Petersen, under the moderation of Dr. Katinka Schweizer.

The HOOU Symposium was supported by the Hamburg Chamber of Psychotherapists (DPG), the Heinrich Heine book store, the DPG Institute for Pschoanalysis and Psychotherapy Hamburg as cooperation partner, Eva Köster, Jakob Kopczynski and many others. Our thanks go to all of the participants for a memorable afternoon and evening.