Like every year since 1996, October 26 marks the Intersex Community Visibility Day. A day organized to remember and vindicate the first public action in history in favor of the rights of intersex people.
Why October 26?
The original protest took place on the same October 26, 1996 in Boston, United States. The precursors? Sociologist Morgan Holmes and intersex activist Max Beck of the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA).
Both planned to present their research at the Annual Convention of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), but it decided not to include their papers in the schedule. To try to raise awareness of bad practices related to intersex, Holmes and Beck decided to protest for hours in front of the convention headquarters. For this they had the help of other activists and some LGTB + organizations such as The Transexual Menace.
This almost improvised action led to a necessary day of vindication for the visibility and non-discrimination of intersex people. A day to claim the right to bodily integrity, the right to physical autonomy and self-determination.
What is intersex?
There is a lot of confusion around what intersex is and what it means for the members that are part of that group.
In the scientific community, intersex is known as the presence of both male and female sexual characteristics in the same individual. These characteristics do not have to be visible or obvious, which sometimes makes their correct identification difficult.
A relevant detail that characterizes intersex is genital ambiguity. For example, a person may have a vagina, but lack ovaries. Or he may have a penis, which is actually a more developed clitoris than usual. The proportion of male or female characteristics in an intersex person is highly variable, and they can begin to manifest at any time from birth.
It should not be confused with hermaphroditism, a term that has been used throughout history as a (wrong) synonym for intersex. A hermaphrodite person is one who has a simultaneous presence in his body of both sexes, being capable of producing male and female gametes. In the human species, pure hermaphroditism is unfeasible, it is something only present in the animal world.
According to different studies, the incidence rate of intersex in society is between 0.05% and 1.7%. A percentage very similar to the number of people with red hair, as stated in the UN Free and Equal document. It is estimated that in Spain around 400 intersex people are born each year.
The fundamental problem intersex people face is the impossibility of deciding on elementary features of their own existence. When a disorder of this type is detected in babies, they are usually operated before 18 months to assign one of the sexes. This practice, habitual and inhumane, leaves no room for the person’s sexual choice to be defined or for her to decide on her gender. The complication for them comes at puberty, when many of these people feel a mismatch between their assigned gender and how they truly feel.
Although in 1999 this type of surgery began to be prohibited in some parts of the world, it was not until 2015 that the UN officially denounced it. The High Commissioner for Human Rights produced a report urging all countries to eliminate early genital interventions. In Spain, there are currently pioneering regional LGTB + laws (Madrid, Balearic Islands) that expressly include the prohibition of genital mutilation in intersex babies.
Therefore, it is necessary to continue fighting to respond to two basic demands of the collective: the prohibition of genital surgery in babies and depathologization.