Intersex voices

From the July-August 2014 issue of News & Letters

Germany recognizes a third gender on legal documents such as birth certificates. Australia’s Sex Discrimination Amendment Bill 2013 makes Intersex people a protected class, with no religious exemptions. In the U.S., Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital has a Gender Identity Clinic which provides physical and mental healthcare and support for gender variant, including Intersex, children and their families. Around the world, organizations are forming to provide safe space and community for Intersex people, as well as education and political action to secure full human rights.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN condemned the forced sterilization of a host of minorities including Intersex people. Their joint report, Eliminating forced, coercive and otherwise involuntary sterilization—an interagency statement, condemns involuntary sterilization practices as “a violation of fundamental human rights, including the right to health, the right to information, the right to privacy, the right to decide on the number and spacing of children, the right to found a family and the right to be free from discrimination.” Many countries force sterilization on the minority populations cited in the report. Involuntary sterilization of Intersex people occurs when an Intersex individual does not agree to the gender assigned to him or her by his or her country.

The report condemns the forced assignment of gender on Intersex infants and children by “corrective” or “gender normalizing” surgeries and treatments. Instead, the WHO and UN recommend that Intersex people be allowed to choose, or not choose, their gender when they reach an age, based on the individual, when they are able to make an informed decision with full and free consent and for Intersex people to be recognized as the gender they choose regardless of any surgeries and treatments they may have undergone.

The UN and WHO recommend training in gender and body diversity for healthcare providers and that patients and their parents be well informed about the consequences of surgical and other medical interventions.

In addition to calling for the repeal of all involuntary sterilization laws, the report strongly encourages individuals to have control over their own reproductive health, access to contraceptive services, information, support and medical records as well as ensuring non-discrimination.

—Elise

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