Intersex Awareness Day Awareness!
Intersex Awareness Day Awareness!
October 26th marks Intersex Awareness Day. The main goal of this day to raise awareness about the treatment of children with intersex conditions by the medical establishment, as well as the stigmatization’s and errors around the definitions and understandings of what intersex is. Intersex Awareness Day was initiated in 2004 by the prominent intersexual advocates Emi Koyama, founder of the Portland, OR based activist and advocacy organization Intersex Initiative (IPDX) and Betsy Driver, founder of Bodies Like Ours — an online community forum created for intersex individuals to share their experiences.
The date being placed on October 26th is homage to the historic demonstration against the 1996 annual American Academy of Pediatrics conference held in Boston MA. This demonstration, generated by members of the intersex advocacy group Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) and members of the transgender rights activism organization, The Transexual Menace, protested the academy on the basis of their allowance and encouragement of non-consensual surgeries on children with intersex conditions under the pretense of their being “corrective surgery”.
Between Intersex Awareness Day (October 26th) and Intersex Solidarity Day (November 8th), advocates call on the wider community to have active conversations regarding education on the human rights issues that surround intersexuality.
What Is Intersex?
The definition of intersex varies from source to source. According to the now defunct ISNA, “‘Intersex’ is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male”.
The variety of conditions that define intersex can range from the atypicality of gonads and chromosomes, to enzyme deficiencies. Intersexuality is an umbrella term that covers a broad array of conditions. According to the ISNA, the amount of people whose bodies differ from standard male or female is 1 in every 100 births, and the number of surgeries that happen to children with these bodies is 1 in every 1000 births.
The medical practices regarding intersex children are controversial and seen by many as systematic human rights violations performed by pediatricians and doctors, yet they are considered by society as acceptable. Intersex advocates call for an end to non consensual genital procedures on children. Some view the practice as an act of genital mutilation.
The authors Emi Koyama, and Lisa Weasel in their paper titled; “From Social Construction to Social Justice: Transforming How We Teach About Intersexuality” cite that currently, “the standard treatment for intersex conditions involves surgical and hormonal interventions that are designed to alter the appearance of the body so as to make it more visually “normal,” but do not necessarily address any particular health issues”. These alterations are performed mainly before the age of consent, and can lead to lifelong complications for the individuals.
Intersex advocates have discovered that as a general practice, the information about the hormonal and surgical alterations is routinely kept secret, is limited, or is misrepresented to the child. In an interview in 2014, Driver discusses learning that, like many others, she and her mother were told that she was the only one to have the intersex condition Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. Many individuals under the umbrella of intersex experience this level of secrecy regarding their conditions.
Let’s Do Better!
Koyama calls on non intersex allies to interact with intersexuality from an intersectional perspective, and a perspective that acknowledges that, “As an ally, you will not get to hear from 99% of the people you are working to advocate for.” There is an intense amount of medical and social stigmatization and shame allotted to people with intersex conditions. Koyama calls on all marginalized sexual and gender identities to acknowledge that intersex individuals exist beyond analysis. She asks us to “not use intersex people merely to illustrate the social construction of binary sexes.”
The Purpose of Intersex Awareness Day
Intersex Awareness Day is a day to acknowledge the individual experiences of people with intersex conditions, the history of language surrounding intersex conditions, the dehumanizing and complicated medical practices used on children, and the people that have worked hard to create spaces and organizations for the advocacy of people with intersex conditions.
Resources and Activists You Should Know!
For more information regarding intersex issues, programs and resources, research people such as Emi Koyama, Betsy Driver, Morgan Holmes, Laura Inter, Max Beck, Lisa Weasel, and organizations such as Brújula Intersexual, The Intersex Day Project, Intersex Initiative, InterACT, and The Intersex Society of North America.