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INTERSEX PEOPLE (intersex men, intersex women, and intersex persons) refers to individuals born with, or who develop naturally in puberty, biological sex characteristics which are not typically male or female, known as Intersex Traits. Intersex people look very typically male, typically female, and everything else, as there are about thirty different types of Intersex Traits, comprised of variations in chromosomal patterns, reproductive organs, genitalia and/or hormones.
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 (ICE). ICE recognizes that some intersex individuals, particularly those of us with nonbinary gender identities, 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.
With a total national population of 318 million, there are an estimated 3.1 and 5.4 million Intersex indiviuals living in the United States. Currently however, the United States (and most nations) only recognizes “male” or “female” as federal gender categories, and intersex infants and minors are often subjected to non-consensual, medically unnecessary procedures–commonly known as “normalizing” surgeries by the medical community and Intesex Genital Mutilation (IGM) by many advocates–in order to make their bodies’ sex characteristics conform to this binary male or female sex system. IGM is driven by negative attitudes against intersex people, aka inter phobia, which are used to justify IGM despite the practice being found so irreversibly harmful that institutions including the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child have called on all nation states to ban it.
In addition, being born intersex is currently pathologized as a “disorder of sex development” (or “DSD”) by the medical community, just as being gay or lesbian was as a “psychosexual disorder” until 1973, and being trans* was as a “gender identity disorder” until May, 2013. ICE’s founding members have advocated for de-pathologization of intersex people since the inception of DSD, because we have seen that it adds to preconceptions and social stigma against intersex people that make it difficult for parents to protect intersex children’s human rights to bodily autonomy, physical integrity and self determination.
Noe: We welcome the use of a modified version of the DSD acronym, representing “differences of sex development”, as an improvement, but believe that intersex people are much more than bodily differences, and thus advocate for the rights of “intersex people” as equal citizens, rather than “patients” or “people with DSDs”.