NEW YORK — Friday, October 26 marks Intersex Awareness Day. interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth, Lambda Legal, and Proskauer Rose LLP have recently released the nation’s first intersex-affirming hospital policy guide, offering concrete steps for medical providers to provide sensitive, non-discriminatory care to intersex patients. “Intersex” describes up to 1.7% of the population born with natural variations in chromosomes, hormones, or genitalia that transcend an outdated understanding of biological sex as a male/female binary.
The guide’s release corresponds to the first successful legislation in the United States acknowledging the non-consensual surgeries faced by intersex people. Passed in August by the state of California, SCR-110 calls for the creation of clear policy encouraging the delay of cosmetic procedures until an intersex individual is old enough to make an informed decision.
Often performed during childhood, the surgeries have been condemned by major human rights groups such as the United Nations, Physicians for Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch, as well as every intersex-led organization in the world.
The guide outlines recommended policies including the provision of affirming mental health care and patient-centered decision making to avoid non-consensual interventions such as clitoral reductions, vaginoplasties, and phalloplasties. Although genital variations typically pose no health risks, many intersex patients report significant trauma resulting from non-consensual medical interventions performed in infancy that can be safely delayed until they are old enough to participate in the decision.
“Solid policy that takes into consideration the needs of the community is essential to giving intersex patients the care that they deserve,” writes urologist and interACT Board member Ilene Wong.
“Without a doubt, this guide will improve medical practice because it’s centered on intersex people’s own experiences. Historically we’ve been a demographic that has not been consulted about our own care,” says Hans Lindahl, interACT’s Director of Communications and an intersex person herself.
“Lambda Legal is proud to partner with an intersex-led organization in the creation of this guide. It is imperative that groups committed to fighting discrimination on the basis of sex recognize that the violence faced by intersex people is a result of the same fear that impacts the LGBT community, especially in the healthcare field,” says M. Dru Levasseur, Director of the Transgender Rights Project at Lambda Legal.
Providers interested in adapting intersex-inclusive policies are encouraged to contact interACT regarding implementation. The guidelines replicate the model of Lambda Legal’s Transgender-Affirming Hospital Policies Guide.
interACT, Lambda Legal, and Proskauer Rose LLP collaborated with intersex patients and physicians from different specialities to create Intersex-Affirming Hospital Policies: Providing Ethical and Compassionate Health Care to Intersex Patients, available as a free PDF download. Hard copies are available upon request via Lambda Legal.
Here are some additional resources for information about the Intersex Awareness Day compiled by interACT:
- Intersex 101 fact sheet
- Article on the history of Intersex Awareness Day
- Guide to intersex hashtags and preferred language
- Intersex ally do’s and don’ts
- Full intersex education toolkit at 4intersex.org
Press release from Lambda Legal