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Intersexuality worldwide

2009 to now: Media reports about intersexuality

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"DSD" is an acronym that refers to Disorders of Sexual Development.
It is gradually replacing the term "intersexual."

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2009-JUL: Legal accommodation of intersexual persons:

Elizabeth Lynne sent a written question to the European Parliament titled: "Genital mutilation of intersex individuals in the EU." She points out that for intersexual newborns:

"The notion that such a state must be ‘corrected’ through treatment to make the individual more closely resemble one sex or the other could cloud a clear consideration of what action is in the best interests of the child. Further, non-consensual treatments can have negative effects similar to those recognised as resulting specifically from Female Genital Mutilation, such as increased risk of psychological and physical damage including haemorrhage, infection, infertility, incontinence and mental health problems, as well as specific problems related to the (supposed) particular sex of the individual in question."

She asked:

  1. "Does the Commission not agree that intersex genital mutilation therefore constitutes a grave issue for child well being and rights?"

  2. "Does the Commission have any information on the extent and nature of the specific practice of intersex genital mutilation occurring in Europe?"

  3. "Does the Commission agree that Member States need to carry out awareness-raising actions and research to improve knowledge and understanding of the effects of this phenomenon?"

Mr. Barrot on behalf of the Commission answered about a month later:

  • The term ‘genital mutilation’ refers to procedures involving partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other injury to the genital organs for non-medical reasons. The honourable Member alludes to the medical option of corrective surgery in the context of an inborn or acquired intersexual physical state of a child, which is like any medical treatment subject to scientific review and takes account of children's rights and well being as required by the United Nations (UN) Convention from 1989.

  • No information on the extent and nature of surgeries is available from the European Parliament. The matter is the sole responsibility of the Member States. This is the only answer to the questions that Barrot responded to.

  • "... the best interests of the child have to be a primary consideration taken into account by Member States authorities in all actions concerning children." 1

Of course, the problem is that there is no consensus among human sexuality specialists, physicians, intersexual persons and their families about what the "best interest" of a given child are.

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2011 & 2012: Australia and New Zealand recognize third gender:

Australia started to allow individuals to specify their gender as "X" on passports. New Zealand followed suit the following year.

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2013-FEB: United Nations: Their Special Rapporteur on Torture issued statement concerning surgery on intersex newborns:

The United Nations' Special Rapporteur on Torture (SRT) issued a statement condemning the medical profession’s nonconsensual treatment of intersexuality through surgery on newborns. Georgiann Davis, writing for Ms. blog said:

"Although intersexuality -- which surfaces as 'ambiguous' external genitalia, sexual organs and/or as sex chromosomes that deviate from normative expectations -- rarely poses a health threat, the medical profession continues to perform irreversible surgeries on babies and young children to 'normalize' genitalia under the guise that these procedures will save one from enduring a life full of shame living in their 'abnormal' body.

However, there is ample evidence from feminist scholars that these normalization surgeries harm more than they help individuals with intersex traits. ..."

"Until the medical profession acknowledges that intersex traits are not abnormalities that need to be fixed, but rather a naturally occurring variation, surgeries will continue. We aren’t suggesting medical providers are evil people. Their intentions may be in the right place, but their surgical responses are not. The medical profession must recognize that genitals are not one-size-fits-all. Vaginas vary in appearance. So do penises. Intersex traits are not abnormalities but part of the larger picture of sex variance."

The SRT's report stated:

"These [genital-normalizing surgeries] are rarely medically necessary, can cause scarring, loss of sexual sensation, pain, incontinence and lifelong depression and have also been criticized as being unscientific, potentially harmful and contributing to stigma." 2

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2013-MAY: Southern Poverty Law Center files intersex lawsuits: M.C. v. Aaronson:

Lawsuits were fined in both federal and state court, asserting that South Carolina doctors violated "M.C.'s" due process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. "M.C." was born with ambiguous genitals and subjected to genital surgery while an infant in foster care. The plaintiff claims that "M.C.," who is currently 8 years old, was entitled to a hearing in advance of the surgery. 3

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2013-AUG: Germany becomes the third country to recognize a third gender option:

As of 2013-NOV-01, parents in Germany will be allowed to leave the gender column on birth certificates blank. The Civil Status law has been modified to allow a third gender in order to accommodate intersexual newborns (formerly a.k.a. hermaphrodites) where the child's gender is unclear. This change in the law was triggered by a court decision that if a person "deeply feels" that they belong to a specific gender, that they should be able to choose that gender for themselves.

German passports will now allow the person's gender to be defined as "F," "M," or "X."

Silvan Agius, policy director at the Europeans branch of The International Lesbian and Gay Association said:

"Germany's move will put more pressure on Brussels. That can only be a good thing." 4

"Brussels" is a reference to the European Parliament which is located in that Belgium city.

About one in 2,000 newborns have characteristics of both genders. A major affect of this decision is that parents will feel less pressured to assign a gender to their newborn. This might reduce for them the need to reach a quick decision concerning sex assignment surgery.

Katinka Schweizer from Hamburg University said:

"Intersexuality is not a disease. It is a variant of nature. It is a term that describes many phenomena. There are forms that come with the need to treat the condition. But when it is about cosmetic surgery of the genitals then one should wait long enough until the persons can take their own decisions." 5

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Parliamentary questions," European Parliament, 2009-SEP-02, at: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/
  2. Georgiann Davis, "UN Condemns 'Normalization' Surgery for Intersexuality ,"Ms. blog, 2013- FEB-07, at: http://msmagazine.com/
  3. "Federal Complaint for Unconstitutional Sex Assignment Surgery on Infant," Law Professor Blos, 2013-MAY-16, at: http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/
  4. Philip Ross, "Third Gender’ Option On German Birth Certificates Will Allow Parents Of Intersex Children To Leave Sex Blank," International Science Times, 2013-AUG-17, at: http://www.isciencetimes.com
  5. "Germany approves third gender option for intersex newborns," EuroNews, 2013-NOV-01, at: http://www.euronews.com/2013/11/01/germany-approves-third-gender-option-for-intersex-newborns/

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2013-AUG-22

Last updated on 2013-NOV-03
Author: Bruce A Robinson
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