Intersex Issues Slowly Gaining Visibility

Recently, a high-profile article ran in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution detailing the life of Danni Lee Harris, the Atlanta Police Department's LGBT liaison. The article details Officer Harris' very public announcement of her newly understood intersex identity, an identity she only learned of during the summer.

Officer Danni Lee Harris. Photo by Marcus Yam.

Officer Danni Lee Harris. Photo by Marcus Yam.

The article in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, and the subsequent spread of online communication about her story is only the peak of the iceberg in the new wave of visibility surrounding intersex people and their stories. From Oprah to Good Morning America the stories of intersex people have been shared with growing accuracy and fairness.

On the heels of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's article came a new book by Katrina Karkazis surrounding the stories between doctors, parents, and adult intersex people.

Written by a medical anthropologist and Senior Researcher at the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University Fixing Sex: Intersex, Medical Authority and Lived Experience has a focus on intersex visibility. From an article in the Medical Center Report of Stanford's School of Medicine:

"Karkazis has emerged from her research with the conviction that more attention needs to be paid to intersex individuals as complete people, rather than as specimens of unusual biology."

Officer Harris's s decision to share her story with the people of Atlanta coincides with some of Karkazis' statements on the need for lifting shame and stigmatization. The online magazine Political Affairs profiled Officer Harris in early December. The magazine concludes that Officer Harris has:

"increased local and national discourse about intersex and minority gender constructs in a forthright and professional manner."

Officer Harris was initially reticent to discuss her identity with the public. From the article:

"'This was so personal... I felt vulnerable when I was presenting...[however] people have been very supportive. It's been overwhelming. Both the personal and professional feedback have been welcoming and warm.'"

Officer Harris' experience is exactly what Karkazis is hoping to achieve through her work, a welcoming community that sees an entire person. Karkazis, as quoted in the Medical Center Report:

‘We need to look at what contributes to the flourishing of human beings in general, and think about how to achieve that for these kids,' she said, noting less than 1 percent of studies examining outcomes of treatment have looked at patients' long-term quality of life.

She also thinks brand-new parents need to get the message that a baby's intersex diagnosis isn't a calamity. We need doctors, Karkazis said, who will tell these worried parents, ‘I've seen this before. It's OK. There's no reason your child cannot have a marvelous life.'"

You can learn more about the book by listening to a podcast between the author and Stanford's Center for Biomedical Ethics' Executive Director of Communications, Paul Costello.

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