Intersex Awareness: LGBTQIA+ and Reproductive Rights

Image Credit
Illustration by Alex Yoon
The ‘I’ in LGBTQIA+ doesn’t stand for invisible. Intersex people are fighting to be heard.

October 26 is recognized worldwide as Intersex Awareness Day. In Austin, advocates, along with City Council, are centering the voices of intersex people by hosting the city’s first Intersex Awareness Day event.

An estimated 1.7% of people are born with intersex traits (that’s about the same number of people born with red hair). Folks who are intersex are born with a variation of sex characteristics from chromosomes and hormones to physical markers. 

Intersex people are not uncommon, but have been silenced due to the consequences of a medical system that seeks binary solutions. Often, intersex individuals themselves are kept from knowing they are intersex.

When a baby is born, genetic and physical markers are evaluated for “healthy” bodies and cognitive abilities. Doctors often identify these markers and provide medically unnecessary gender assignment surgeries to intsersex children with the consent of their parents.

“The desire to force-fit people into societally conditioned boxes has led to sterilizing children and enacting medically unnecessary surgeries on them. These surgeries are irreversible, lead to physical and emotional scarring, and their subjects are un-consenting. They are, to put it bluntly, the coercive application of Western cultural ideals to everyday human bodies.” — Alicia Weigel, Intersex Advocate

Years after surgery, people who are intersex have been prevented from exercising their reproductive rights. Through forced sterilization of children, the medical industry has prioritizied and only allowed for a two-sex dichotomy, upholding the socially contructed binary of checking “M” or “F.”

From a young age, people who are intersex are denied the right to reproductive autonomy without any consent or a way to navigate the medical system. 

The intersex community in Texas is paving a way forward that looks to include protections for  intersex people. This starts with centering people who identify as intersex and holding space for the I in LGBTQIA+.

Join the Austin community on Oct. 26 to learn more about Intersex Awareness Day.