October 26 marks Intersex Awareness Day, which memorializes the first public demonstration by intersex people in the United States on the same day in 1996. Alongside trans allies, the community collectively organized a demonstration at the annual American Academy of Pediatrics conference to denounce non-consensual infant genital surgeries. These forced surgeries target intersex people with gender-based violence, and the fight to outlaw these surgeries continues to this day.
1.7% of the population is intersex. Intersex is an umbrella term for differences in sex traits or reproductive anatomy, which do not fit into the “binary” sexes of male and female. Gender, sexuality, and intersex status are independent of each other, and intersex people can have any gender identity.
Many children born with differences in their genitals, chromosomes, hormones, and reproductive anatomy are subjected to invasive procedures and surgeries before the age of two. These surgeries are often medically unnecessary and are performed without the consent of the patients; therefore, falling outside of the binary and the intersex status assigned at birth motivate harm. Forced intersex surgery is a form of institutionalized gender-based violence perpetrated by the medical establishment that violates the bodily autonomy of intersex people, while depriving them of the opportunity to consent.
On July 28, 2020, Lurie Children’s Hospital became the first US hospital to pledge to no longer perform irreversible genital procedures, or intersex surgeries, until the person can consent to the decision. The American Academy of Family Physicians, the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, the Massachusetts Medical Society, and GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality also adopted policies that delay intersex surgeries. We challenge the medical establishment to follow in these footsteps to value the voices and self-determination of intersex people. Until then, the intersex community is deprived of justice and equity.
Today, we amplify the voices of intersex people and intersex advocacy organizations, such as interACT and Intersex Justice Project. Tahirih is committed to ending gender-based violence and reaching collective liberation, which means we must put a stop to these invasive and unnecessary surgeries that harm intersex youth.
Intersex rights are human rights. We stand in solidarity with the intersex community and support the movement to #EndIntersexSurgery. To educate yourself further, check out these ways to support Intersex Awareness Day.