The international LGBTQIA+ community celebrated Intersex Awareness Day on Saturday, Oct. 26. This annual day of advocacy aims to draw global attention to the voices, stories, and human rights of intersex people, as well as end the shame, stigma, and erasure associated with being intersex.
Intersex Awareness Day was established in 2003 by Emi Koyama and Betsy Driver, two U.S. intersex activists who, according to Driver, wanted to create “a grassroots effort to raise awareness around intersex” and give “what was then a very small community a sense of belonging and something to talk about.” They also wanted to commemorate the first public intersex demonstration in the United States, which took place in Boston, Massachusetts on Oct. 26, 1996; on this day, the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA), the first (now defunct) North American intersex support organization, joined with their allies, the trans liberation group Transexual Menace, to protest against The American Academy of Pediatrics for intersex bodily autonomy.
According to the ISNA, “intersex” is an umbrella term used for a variety of natural variations in which a person is born with reproductive or sexual characteristics that don’t seem to fit the typical binary definitions of female or male. Them. reports that intersex people make up approximately 1.7 percent of the population.
Intersex Awareness Day is also a time to debunk pervasive myths and misconceptions surrounding being intersex; one such myth is the belief by medical institutions that being intersex is “a condition that needs to be corrected,” per Amnesty International. As a result, intersex children often undergo surgeries to “normalize” their bodies and “correct” sex variations. These invasive procedures are performed without the intersex child’s consent and can result in major health problems, including infertility, chronic pain, and psychological trauma. And based on research by Amnesty International, these surgeries also constitute a human rights violation.
Another important upcoming date and annual event is Intersex Day of Solidarity, also known as Intersex Day of Remembrance, which was first held Nov. 8, 2005, and marks the birthday of Herculine Barbin, a famous French intersex writer.
Both Intersex Awareness Day and Intersex Day of Solidarity create opportunities for people to actively support the intersex community. In honor of these two days, interACT, an intersex youth advocacy organization, in collobration with the Intersex Justice Project, provided more than two dozen ways that allies can help intersex people everyday. Some of the many tips they provided are: (1) think about the language you use or have learned from sex education classes; (2) dedicate time to learning about the intersex community’s history and the invasive surgeries performed on intersex people; and (3) donate to an intersex organization, most of which are severely underfunded. You can also read books by intersex people, or simply use hashtags like #IntersexAwarenessDay, #IntersexSolidarityDay, or #EndIntersexSurgery to raise awareness and start an ongoing conversation with your peers online.
Today is #IntersexAwarenessDay ? Intersex people should be respected and have a right to make decisions about their own bodies ?
All this month, intersex youth are sharing #MyIntersexBody stories ? Learn more with @interACT_adv‘s resources: https://t.co/OmlgSPRaga pic.twitter.com/AXAFLdK2gi
— The Trevor Project (@TrevorProject) October 26, 2019
✨#Intersex ally tip 2/26✨
Think about language you learned in sex ed class. Take a min to upgrade! Describe body parts in plain, non-gendered terms, e.g. “XY chromosomes” instead of “male chromosomes.” Always ask individuals what they prefer. Read more: https://t.co/GlKPbnvZly
— interACT (@interACT_adv) October 2, 2019
October 26th is #IntersexAwarenessDay! Please check out @interact_adv to learn about national and state level efforts, and to read #MyIntersexBody stories about the real experiences of intersex people ⭐️ Thanks so much to interACT for this collaboration! pic.twitter.com/orWpi8oSWk
— Rebecca Sugar (@rebeccasugar) October 26, 2019
Because nobody deserves a forced sex change, and that’s especially true of vulnerable children who can’t give consent. Join us as we fight to #EndIntersexSurgery!
Follow @IntersexJustice & @interACT_adv
and sign our petition: https://t.co/FlCWJBqKRp ??✊? pic.twitter.com/j8CDCEsD5c
— #EndIntersexSurgery (@Pidgejen) October 27, 2019
Header photo via Wikimedia Commons
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