News (USA)

Biden administration recognizes Intersex Awareness Day

Biden administration recognizes Intersex Awareness Day

The U.S. Department of State issued a statement denouncing forced genital surgery on intersex youth today, which is Intersex Awareness Day.

“We recognize the voices of intersex people around the world,” the Department of State tweeted. “Here at the Department, we are committed to promoting and protecting the human rights of intersex persons.”

Related: UN says forcing intersex athletes into medical interventions violates human rights

The tweet linked a government webpage that explains that intersex refers to people who have “variations in reproductive or sexual anatomy, or [have] a chromosome pattern that doesn’t fit with what is typically considered male or female.”

The site says that nearly one in every 2000 people is intersex, and many don’t find out about it until later in life.

In a separate tweet, the Department of the State quoted a speech President Joe Biden made earlier this year: “All human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear no matter who they are or whom they love.”

Intersex Awareness Day is on October 26, the same day intersex activists Morgan Holmes and Max Beck organized a protest of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Boston in 1996. The day started be recognized as Intersex Awareness Day in 2003.

The day raises awareness about the human rights struggles facing intersex people, including the right to bodily autonomy, abandonment by parents, discrimination, and legal recognition

Non-consensual cosmetic genital surgery remains common for intersex youth in the U.S., even though the United Nations has denounced the practice as a human rights violation. In 2013, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Torture called on all countries to ban “genital normalizing” surgeries.

“Too many people assume, without really thinking about it, that everyone can be fitted into two distinct and mutually exclusive categories: male or female,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein at a 2015 U.N. meeting human rights violations involving intersex people.

“Such violations are rarely discussed and even more rarely investigated or prosecuted. The result is impunity for the perpetrators, lack of remedy for victims, and a perpetuating cycle of ignorance and abuse.”

Republican lawmakers across the country introduced bills this year to ban gender affirming health care for transgender youth, with many of the bills specifically attacking gender affirming surgery even though it is not performed on minors.

While the lawmakers called such surgery “genital mutilation” when talking about transgender people, their concern for such surgery didn’t seem to apply to intersex youth who are forced to undergo it. The bills included exceptions for cosmetic genital surgery for intersex youth, showing just how much work needs to be done to raise awareness.

Just this past year, several athletes with intersex conditions – all from Africa – were banned from several track events at the Olympics under a new rule.

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