|Participants at an International Intersex Forum in Malta, 2013.|
Intersex Awareness Day is today, October 26. It is an internationally observed day designed to highlight human rights issues faced by intersex people.
“Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.
Intersex Awareness Day marks the first public demonstration by intersex people in North America, on October 26, 1996, outside the venue in Boston where the American Academy of Pediatrics was holding its annual conference. Intersex activists Morgan Holmes and Max Beck participated for the (now-defunct) Intersex Society of North America, alongside allies from Transsexual Menace, including Riki Wilchins.
Holmes has written that the event was intended not as a demonstration but as participation in the conference. She states that Beck and Holmes had intended to deliver an address, "on long-term outcomes and to challenge their still-prevailing opinion that cosmetic surgery to "fix" intersexed genitals was the best course of action," but were "met, officially, with hostility and were escorted out of the conference by security guards." The group only later demonstrated, carrying a sign saying "Hermaphrodites With Attitude."
The commemoration day itself began in 2003 with the establishment of a central awareness raising site by Betsy Driver and Emi Koyama. A central awareness raising site was later re-established in 2015 by Morgan Carpenter with Laura Inter of Brújula Intersexual, and support from Open Society Foundations.
Intersex Awareness Day is an international day of grass-roots action to end shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital cosmetic surgeries on intersex children. The day also provides an opportunity for reflection and political action.
Last year on Intersex Awareness Day, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights launched an awareness Web site, while UN experts, including the Committee against Torture, the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, along with the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and United Nations Special Rapporteurs called for an urgent end to human rights violations against intersex persons, including in medical settings.
Multiple governmental bodies made statements, alongside many civil society organizations. Official recognition included statements by the United States Department of State and Australian Human Rights Commission also made statements, The South African government acknowledged a need for action to prevent human rights violations, and there was a first event in Kenya.
In June 2017, the U.S. State Department statement was cited in a policy paper by Joycelyn Elders, David Satcher, and Richard Carmona, three former Surgeons General of the United States, calling for a rethink of early genital surgeries on children with intersex traits.
For more information on intersex issues, visit the Intersex Day Project Web site at intersexday.org.