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What is Intersex?
INTERSEX refers to individuals born with biological sex characteristics which are not typically male or female. Intersex people can look typically male, typically female, or androgynous, as there are numerous types of intersex traits comprised of variations in chromosomal patterns, reproductive organs, genitalia and/or hormones. In addition, intersex people identify our gender in a variety of ways, just like non-intersex people, including idenitfying as men, women, intersex men, intersex women, intersex persons, or non-binary intersex persons.
The Intersex Campaign for Equality
On February 19, 2015, intersex activists Dani Lee Harris, Hida Viloria, and Dana Zzyym re-branded OII-USA (founded in 2011 as the American affiliate of the Organisation Intersex International (OII)), by co-founding the Intersex Campaign for Equality. We recognizes that some intersex individuals, particularly particularly gender nonconforming intersex people and intersex people of color, remain stigmatized and marginalized even within the community, and we are dedicated to representing all intersex people regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ability or class.
Intersex Genital Mutilation
Intersex infants and minors are often subjected to medically unnecessary surgeries and medical treatments in order to make their bodies’ sex characteristics conform to the binary male or female sex system. The Intersex Campaign condemns medically unnecessary, nonconsensual treatments performed on intersex infants and minors as Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM), and advocates that intersex people be allowed to make our own decisions about elective, medically unnecessary medical treatments. We believe IGM is driven by interphobia (negative attitudes against intersex bodies and people) and homophobia, which are used to justify the practice despite it being found so harmful that the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child, the World Health Organization (WHO), GLMA (Gay And Lesbian Medical Association), and most recently, three former U.S. Surgeon Generals, have all called for an end to it.
Pathologization / “Disorders of Sex Development”
In 2006, being intersex was pathologized by the global medical establishment with the label “disorders of sex development” (or “DSD”). Our founding director has advocated against the term “disorders of sex development” since 2007, and The Intersex Campaign for Equality has rejected “DSD” since our founding, because we believe it adds to social stigma against intersex people, which make it harder to protect intersex children’s rights to physical integrity and self determination.
Note: While we welcome the use of a modified version of the DSD acronym, representing “differences of sex development”, as an improvement, we believe that we are much more than simply bodily differences, and thus advocate for the rights of “intersex people” as equal citizens, rather than “patients” or “people with differences.”
Legal Gender Recognition for Intersex People
Note: The United States legal system uses the terms “sex” and “gender” interchangeably, as do many trans people. Although we are aware of the difference between the terms, we shall use them in the way the legal system does in order to discuss this legal issue.
We believe that the lack of federal gender recognition for non-binary adults (those who do not identify as men or women) supports IGM by contributing to the perception that intersex infants and minors should be subjected to sex reassignment surgeries in order to make then “fit in” to one of two gender categories: male or female. Dana is requesting an X on their passport –rather than an I for intersex– because we recognize that many non-intersex people also identify as non-binary, that many intersex people are satisfied with their sex assignment as male or female, and that gender categories should not be dependent on biological determinism. In addition, we do not support intersex infants being categorized as anything other than male or female because, at this time, intersex people do not have equal rights and protections, and a non-binary designation could make them targets for state sanctioned discrimination.