“I” is for Intersex

Today’s post is to let you know about a non-profit organization doing important legal advocacy work on behalf of a group that many people know only as the “I” on the end of “LGBTQI.” Just for the record, that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning—and the “I” is for intersex.

A person born with an intersex condition or DSD (differences of sex development) may have genitals that don’t look like most people’s; the person’s sex chromosomes or reproductive organs may not fit medical expectations. Sometimes, doctors aren’t sure whether an intersex baby is a boy or a girl, leaving the doctor and the parents confused about what to do.

Unfortunately, all too often the response is to perform irreversible “normalizing” surgeries, based on a belief that “correcting” the child’s gender assignment will benefit the child—and sometimes on a belief that the gender assignment will prevent the child from growing up to be gay or lesbian. In fact, these unnecessary and nonconsensual surgeries cause enormous harm to children.

Advocates for Informed Choice (AIC) is the only organization in the U.S. to undertake a coordinated strategy of legal advocacy for the rights of children with intersex conditions. In the short time AIC has existed, the organization has:

  • · Published extensively on intersex and the law
  • · Established ongoing advisory relationships with treatment teams at leading hospitals and universities.
  • · Facilitated apologies from leading hospitals to an intersex adult for harm resulting from childhood medical care.
  • · Advised parents about their rights on legal issues ranging from medical malpractice to school bullying.
  • · Catalyzed three federal investigations of human research involving intersex children.

I’m sharing this information because I’m appalled by the current standard of care for intersex children and impressed by AIC’s tactics and plans for changing it. I want people to notice, support, and spread the word about this important legal work on behalf of a ridiculously underserved part of our community.