Intersex human rights funding – a pressing issue

Dan Christian Ghattas

Intersex issues are human rights issues. So where is the funding for our movement?

According to the UN at least 1.7 per cent of the global population, or, as of 2020, more than 132 million people were born with intersex traits, that is, with sex characteristics that don’t fit typical definitions of male and female. Even now, in many countries, intersex infants, children and adolescents are subjected to surgery and treatment to try to change their sex characteristics and appearance, causing terrible physical, psychological and emotional pain.

Trauma, taboo, secrecy and shame

Until the mid-20th century intersex individuals were rarely subjected to unwanted surgery. Then, in the 1950s, in an era when pressure to conform to social norms was often unyielding, infants born with so-called ‘atypical’ genitalia were increasingly subjected to surgical procedures such as clitoral reduction, vaginoplasty, gonadectomy and hormonal treatment, primarily to ‘normalise’ gendered appearance. At the same time, the existence of intersex people was made invisible, with doctors telling parents to not disclose their child’s variation to anybody, including the child themselves. Intersex adults would be told that they were a singular case. Trauma, taboo, secrecy and shame became, and still are, constant companions of intersex people.

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