Intersex Awareness Day: Calls to end forced intersex surgeries

Today is Intersex Awareness Day – the “I” in “LGBTI” – and Australian advocates are calling for more action on intersex health issues.

Intersex people are born with internal or external sex anatomy that doesn’t fit typical definitions of “female” or “male”. Physical variations in intersex people can include chromosomes, internal organs and genitals.

Nearly two-percent of the population is born with intersex traits – similar to the number of people born with red hair – but young intersex people often undergo irreversible and unnecessary surgeries that have the potential to cause lifelong health issues and psychological harm.

Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia said that one of their top priorities was the recognition of intersex people’s right to bodily integrity, including through a ban on “medically unnecessary modifications” to the sex characteristics of intersex children.

“We still have so much work to do to get governments prohibiting unnecessary and irreversible intervention on intersex children, to have intersex groups funded and to increase society’s awareness and understanding of intersex people,” OII’s Tony Briffa said.

“Incredibly inappropriate interventions are still routinely inflicted on intersex children in hospitals in Australia and New Zealand today.

“Intersex Awareness Day is a great opportunity for conversations to take place and for allies to help support our cause.

Briffa urged everyone to read Australian intersex people’s stories and learn about the issues they face.

“The reality is that people born with intersex variations are wonderfully diverse, with great variation in sex characteristics, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions,” Briffa said.

Earlier this year, a group of intersex representatives from Australia and New Zealand gathered to launch the historic Darlington Statement, outlining key priorities for the intersex community.

The statement calls for law reform to protect intersex people’s bodily autonomy, more effective oversight of clinical decisions, and better access to affirmative health care and peer support.

Various events are taking place around Australia to mark Intersex Awareness Day. Brisbane’s Story Bridge was lit in purple and yellow on Wednesday night in recognition.

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