Supporting Intersex Identities in Healthcare

When we say “intersex”, what do you think of? As Intersex Solidarity Day wrapped up yesterday, we wanted to give you a primer on intersex individuals and how you can best support them and educate yourself. Additionally, As healthcare providers, it is critical to advocate for more comprehensive education and inclusive policies and practices to improve care for intersex people. Read on to learn more about intersex health and ways you can take action to support intersex individuals!

Intersex people are born with variations in their physical sex characteristics that do not align with the traditional binary definitions of male and female. Intersex characteristics are natural and relatively common, with an estimated 1 in 1,500 individuals being born intersex each year. Despite these natural variations in sex presentation, the medical community has historically embraced a harmful and inaccurate model for providing care to intersex individuals, including performing irreversible surgeries on intersex infants. Research has shown that such “gender normalizing surgeries” can impose long-term physical and psychological harm with little research documenting the supposed benefits of such procedures. Thanks to the work of intersex advocates, the medical community is increasingly acknowledging that intersex people have a right to bodily autonomy and do not need their bodies “fixed” without informed consent. The American Academy of Family Physicians is against performing genital operations on intersex children when they are not medically essential. Even so, there is still much more work to be done to address health disparities experienced by intersex individuals. Compared to the general population, intersex people have greater rates of anxiety, depression, and psychological distress symptoms associated with discrimination and stigma.

At Howard Brown, we reaffirm our dedication to protecting intersex people’s rights and to expanding access to comprehensive and affirming healthcare. We believe that all patients have the right to informed consent and bodily autonomy.

To learn more, check out these resources:

Advancing Health Equity for Intersex People

Surgeries on Intersex Infants are Bad Medicine

Human Rights Watch – US: Harmful Surgery on Intersex Children

InterAct Advocates for Intersex Youth “I want to be like nature made”

To take action, check out InterAct’s 26 Ways Allies Can Support Intersex Awareness Day

Tags: Advocacy


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