Nearing the close of LGBT History Month, on October 26th, we remember to celebrate an oft-forgotten group that includes folks from all walks of life, of all orientations, from every corner of the world whose identity is largely hidden from the public. We’re talking about people who are intersexed.
Long ago we used the term hermaphrodite to identify someone who had genitals that were both male and female to some degree. But that term wasn’t really helpful to describe the majority of intersex folks. All human zygotes have the potential to be male or female: it’s a complex series of chromosonal and hormonal reactions that have to occur in sequences to develop into a typical male or female body. Along that sequence, many things can happen that result in an awesome, healthy person whose bits and pieces differ from other peoples.
While approximately 1 in 150 births is intersex to some degree, very few people are open about their experiences. There is a lot of stigma, fear and ignorance surrounding the issue. Some people are unaware of their intersex status until they seek fertility help or a random medical problem uncovers previously unnoticed internal organs. Others still were born with undifferentiated genitals and well-meaning but misguided doctors and parents choose a surgical intervention to assign the infant to one sex or another.
So what’s the purpose of Intersex Awareness Day?
- To remove the stigma about all varieties of intersexuality- and encourage intersex folks to live without shame and secrecy
- To increase awareness of the presence and diversity of intersex people and reduce discrimination against them
- To end unnecessary (and non-consensual) genital surgeries on infants and focus medical interventions in a more patient-centered approach that addresses actual medical problems
- To foster a culture of acceptance towards intersex people
If you’re interested in learning more, check out the links above to find some of the great existing organizations working for these goals!