Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Intersex Solidarity Day – November 8th


The "I" in LGBTQI+ can be a bit underrepresented, so here are a few quick facts:
Intersex people are born with physical or biological sex characteristics (such as sexual anatomy, reproductive organs, hormonal patterns and or chromosomal patterns) that are more diverse than stereotypical male female bodies.
  • Approximately 1.7% of the population is intersex.
  • Being intersex is as common as having red hair.
  • November 8th is Intersex Solidarity Day (link to the allies page: https://oii.org.au/allies/)

March 2017 marked the release of the Darlington Statement by Australian and Aotearoa/New Zealand intersex organisations and independent advocates
.
This statement sets out the calls and priorities for intersex people in our countries. It calls for an end to legal sex/gender classification systems for one thing, and it asks for legislative protection from discrimination, among other things. 
Another call to action from the Darlington Statement is an immediate stop of deferrable medical interventions, including surgical and hormonal interventions, that alter the sex characteristics of infants and children without personal consent.

This might be surprising, but there are still "normalising" or "correcting" interventions performed on children and adolescents with intersex variations.
In Australia. In 2017.
These unnecessary medical practises are happening to make bodies look more stereotypically female or male. Opposition to this practise is becoming stronger, citing evidence of harm, their non-urgent cosmetic character, and a lack of evidence of supporting claims of necessity or timing. 

As the United Nations states
"In countries around the world, intersex infants, children and adolescents are subjected to medically unnecessary surgeries, hormonal treatments and other procedures in an attempt to forcibly change their appearance to be in line with societal expectations about female and male bodies. When, as is frequently the case, these procedures are performed without the full, free and informed consent of the person concerned, they amount to violations of fundamental human rights."

These surgeries can result in permanent infertility, decreased sexual function, and the dependence on otherwise unneeded hormonal replacement therapy among other things.

Consider the story of Kimberly Mascott Zieselman
, executive director for interACT, who recounts her unnecessary surgical intervention and the toll it's taken on her life.
"Doctors and parents are doing irreversible harm solely due to discomfort with difference."
Kimberly was born with XY chromosomes and internal testes instead of ovaries and a uterus, and her body developed to appear typically female. 

Doctors removed the testes when Kimberly was 15, and she was not consulted - her parents consented for her. This decision has resulted in a lifetime of hormone replacement therapy. 
Doctors also wanted to "created a more typically sized vagina" via invasive surgery, but her parents refused.

Or Katharine B. Dalke
 who had the same Complete Androgen Insensitivy Syndrome as Kimberly (meaning her body didn't respond to male hormones and so developed an externally typical female body). This was discovered during surgery when she was 6.
Her physicians decided that her intersex status be kept secret from her as "intersex people who find out might commit suicide"
"Even when I entered medical school 10 years ago, we were taught, without robust scientific evidence, that an enlarged clitoris is "abnormal" and that otherwise healthy undescended testes in a girl are always "precancerous." Textbooks told me that "ambiguous genitalia" in a newborn baby constituted a "social emergency"—one that required immediate intervention."

The vast majority of intersex infants are healthy - they don't medical treatment. So why are doctors still interfering? There seems to be no evidence that "normalising" is necessary.
Is it just personal, uninformed, presumption?
"Parents of children with intersex traits often face pressure to agree to such surgeries or treatments on their children. They are rarely informed about alternatives or about the potential negative consequences of the procedures, which are routinely performed despite a lack of medical indication, necessity or urgency. The rationale for these is frequently based on social prejudice, stigma associated with intersex bodies and administrative requirements to assign sex at the moment of birth registration"
Performing unnecessary surgery on healthy infants because of social prejudice seems like something that shouldn't happen in a modern Australia. But it is, and this goes to show what some intersex people have to stand against in a heteronormative society.
Like this rather disturbing article. It details a Dept of Health and Human Services Victoria document referring to medical intervention of intersex infants, children and adolescents because of, and as late as 2013, "risk of social or cultural disadvantage to the child, for example, reduced opportunities for marriage or intimate relationships..."
This reference to marriage has since been removed, what OII.org.au states might be "a sense of embarrassment at the human rights violations that OII Australia has documented and reported in submissions"- but consider the idea that not even five years ago surgeries on infants were possibly occurring so they would be more marriageable in later life? It's absurd.
When we live in a society that places so much emphasis on gender roles, and people don't fit into those categories, they are seen as abnormal. But it's our society's assumption that there are two absolute genders fuelling this problem.
If we learn from a young age that biological sex includes female, male and intersex variations, then these sorts of gender binary assumptions will be defeated with the knowledge that difference does not need to be "normalised". 

Awareness will help treat assumption. 

By: Tee Linden

3 comments:

  1. Thanks, Tee - timely and interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great post!!Thanks for sharing it with us....really needed.Our expertise is in all areas of Criminal Law (including everything from assault, apprehended violence orders, drink driving & drug driving, traffic offences, computer crime through to drug importation and murder trials) and we have a high profile within the Criminal Law area. Sydney Sexual Assault Lawyers

    ReplyDelete

Follow by Email