By John Clise
October 26 of each year is a day to bring awareness to the intersex community, as well as the struggles, dangers, and health concerns, among intersex individuals face in life.
According to Wikipedia, intersex people are individuals born with any of several sex characteristics including chromosome patterns, gonads, or genitals that, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies”. Though the range of atypical sex characteristics may be obvious from birth through the presence of physically ambiguous genitalia, in other instances, atypical characteristics may go unnoticed, presenting as ambiguous internal reproductive organs or atypical chromosomes that may remain unknown to an individual all of their life.
Being intersex is not as rare as you might think, but it is a condition invisible to outsiders, and some people do not discover they are intersex until they reach puberty. The percentage of intersex individuals is reported nearly 1.7 percent, which about the percentage as red heads.
Additionally, intersex people face stigmatization and discrimination from birth, or following the discovery of intersex traits at stages of development such as puberty. Intersex people may face infanticide, abandonment, and the stigmatization of their families. Globally, some intersex infants and children, such as those with ambiguous outer genitalia, are surgically or hormonally altered to create more socially acceptable sex characteristics. However, this is considered controversial, with no firm evidence of favorable outcomes. Such treatments may involve sterilization. Adults, including elite female athletes, have also been subjects of such treatment. Increasingly, these issues are considered human rights abuses, with statements from international and national human rights and ethics institutions (see intersex human rights). Intersex organizations have also issued statements about human rights violations, including the 2013 Malta declaration of the third International Intersex Forum. In 2011, Christiane Völling became the first intersex person known to have successfully sued for damages in a case brought for non-consensual surgical intervention. In April 2015, Malta became the first country to outlaw non-consensual medical interventions to modify sex anatomy, including that of intersex people.
This year, Intersex Awareness Day had been officially recognized by the Biden administration with U.S. State Department Spokesman Ned Price issuing a statement on the administration’s support of intersex individuals, as acknowledging the issues faced each day by these folks.
“On October 26, we proudly recognize the voices and human rights of intersex people around the world,” Price said. “The Department of State is committed to promoting and protecting the rights, dignity, and equality of all individuals, including intersex persons. It is the policy of the United States to pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics, while acknowledging the intersections with disability, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, or other status.”
Price pointed out that intersex persons are subject to violence, discrimination, and abuse on the basis of their sex characteristics. Many intersex persons, including children, experience invasive, unnecessary, and sometimes irreversible medical procedures. The Department supports the empowerment of movements and organizations advancing the human rights of intersex persons and the inclusion of intersex persons in the development of policies that impact their enjoyment of human rights.
“We stand with the activists, intersex human rights organizations, and others in civil society who tirelessly work to advance the human rights of intersex persons with governments, international institutions and organizations, and communities around the world,” Price added.
“All human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear no matter who they are or whom they love,” President Biden said earlier this year.
To learn more about intersex folks, click here.