GUEST POST: October 26 is Intersex Awareness Day

Anne Tamar-Mattis is the Executive Director of Advocates for Informed Choice. AIC uses innovative legal strategies to advocate for the civil rights of children born with variations of reproductive or sexual anatomy. These activities are grounded in a sense of respect and compassion for the children, parents, doctors, and intersex adults involved. Stay informed on AIC’s ongoing work by checking out the AIC Blog


Today, October, 26th 2013 is International Intersex Awareness Day. An estimated one in 2,000 babies is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or a chromosome pattern that does not seem to fit typical definitions of male or female. The conditions that cause these variations are sometimes called “Intersex” or “DSD” (differences of sex development). In recent years, affected adults have begun raising awareness by coming out publicly and questioning the existing model of medical treatment.

People with Intersex or DSD conditions grapple with obtaining sensitive and transparent healthcare and finding places of social and psychological support in a world that continues to promote a dogmatic gender binary in addition to the layering of our many identities including race, age, class, gender identity, citizenship, sexual orientation and disability.

As a community that is integral yet often invisible on the frontlines of many movements around the globe for equality and social justice we have witnessed many changes that impact our lives and our families within the last 18 months:

The 2nd annual international intersex forum organized in partnership by ILGA and ILGA-Europe held in Stockholm, Sweden, including 37 activists from all continents. The 3rd annual forum is coming up in December.


Australia’s new law specifically protecting intersex people from discrimination worked on by tireless advocates including OII Australia and the AIS Support Group Australia.


The World Health Organization, after getting input from Advocates for Informed Choice (AIC) and others, is preparing to make a statement against involuntary sterilization of intersex people.


The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture included involuntary genital surgery on children with intersex conditions in its statement on torture in health care after inviting AIC to submit testimony on behalf of the intersex community.


In partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center, and pro-bono attorneys from both NY and SC, Advocates for Informed Choice filed important impact litigation in the U.S., seeking to hold doctors accountable for the risks they imposed on a 16 month old child by performing unnecessary and irreversible genital surgery, and for failing to provide full information about these risks to caregivers.


In Kenya John Chigiti filed a lawsuit to protect the identity rights and stop unnecessary genital surgery on a 5 year-old intersex individual referred to as Baby A.  Baby A was never issued a birth certificate, a document that gives legal recognition to an individual. The lawsuit also seeks an order directing the government to collate data or statistics on all intersex children across Kenya.


AIC’s Inter/Act program – the only program in the world for youth around the globe affected by Intersex or DSD conditions, – released the informational brochure What We Wish Our Doctors Knew 2012, already reaching over 1200 medical providers.  The next brochure What We Wish Our Parents Knew is expected early 2014.


The second annual Trans, Gender Non-Conforming, Intersex Freedom Rally and Picnic (T.G.I.F) held in Chicago. A free and open to the public event produced by KOKUMOMEDIA gathering people from across the country to address the current state of affairs regarding the local and international TGI community.


The 17th annual Conference of the AIS-DSD Support Group held in Boston. Which brought together over 180- people including families, youth, affected individuals and allies from across the United States and from Canada, Japan, South Africa, Australia and Italy.


The Interface Project, which gathers and share personal stories of people living with an intersex condition or difference of sex development (DSD), to spread the message "No Body Is Shameful”. This project gives names, faces and stories to take the place of fear and ignorance, and lets our community know they are not alone.


This and many more benchmark moments have happened in the last year and a half.  It’s just the beginning. This Intersex Awareness Day we ask you to think about the visibility and support of Intersex and DSD communities.  Building solidarity across identities is complex but crucial work.

We have the power to demonstrate, by the truth of our lives and the joy of this community, that a world of acceptance, compassion, and inclusion is better than a world of fear, shame, and secrecy.  We are creating that world every day.  We are making that road by walking it.