“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
In 2016, Intersex Awareness Day was approaching on October 26th. In different parts of the world, groups would gather, but everyone mostly recognized this important day online. Intersex Awareness Day was created by activists such as Betsy Driver to mark one of the first acts of resistance in 1996 when Hermaphrodites with Attitude and Transexual Menace protested the American Academy of Pediatrics Conference in Boston. Their demand at that time was the same as today: Give intersex people autonomy over our bodies!
The Intersex Justice Project formed to revive this spirit of protest because we recognized protest is not only powerful but often one of the only tools accessible to oppressed groups. On the 20th anniversary of the first protest, we issued a statement by intersex people of color as a love letter to intersex people of color (IPOC) in the movement. We were specific about IPOC because so often the contributions and labor of Black and people of color in social justice movements are often ignored, overlooked, and co-opted. We wanted to create a space for us as intersex people of color to exist, feel safe, and empowered.
In 2017, we revived our tradition of protest and organized the first U.S. protest in decades at the doorsteps of Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. We demanded that Lurie end intersex surgery, and also issue a public apology and create reparations in the form of free medical care and psychological support to atone for the harm that survivors have endured. We chose Lurie as a site of protest since one of our co-founders, Pidgeon Pagonis, was harmed there and it had been a goal of theirs since finding out what happened to them to end it from happening to others. Our strategy was to focus our energy on one children’s hospital because we recognized our limited capacity and that hospital would set an example for other hospitals to follow.
Now we stand at the cusp of something great.
On July 28th, 2020, after prolonged pressure from our three-year #EndIntersexSurgery campaign, Lurie Children’s finally issued a statement that included an apology to the people who have been harmed and pledged to stop the cosmetic and medically unnecessary surgeries for six months as they explore comprehensive and informed (by intersex consultants!) intersex care. We always knew we would win, but we didn’t think it would be this soon. Today we acknowledge this as a win, a victory for a community not used to victories, but the fight continues; we will continue putting pressure on Lurie to implement comprehensive healthcare that intersex children and adult survivors of these harmful interventions deserve.
We recognize our COUNTLESS supporters who made signs and showed up for protests, donated money, authored press releases and news articles, liked, retweeted and reposted our stuff, and above all continually showed us love and support at times when our well had run dry.
Thank you everyone who ever supported IJP and our #EndIntersexSurgery campaign. We love you.
Saifa and Pidgeon
We Rally Because
By IJP co-founder Sean Saifa Wall
We rally again in front of Lurie’s Children’s Hospital because one rally WAS NOT ENOUGH.
We have patiently waited for years for doctors to acknowledge our humanity and in return they have pathologized us.
We became human guinea pigs as they mutilated and sterilized our beautiful intersex bodies.
We may be traumatized, “damaged”, and scarred, but above all we are tired.
We are tired of waiting for our liberation to come and have decided to grab our destiny from those who took it away from us.
Although intersex traits do not discriminate, society does.
For those of us who are disabled, living with HIV, poor, Black, undocumented, migrant or immigrant, transgender and all of those laboring under white supremacy and capitalism, we know that we cannot wait for our oppressors to recognize our sovereignty and freedom.
Although we have accepted funding for our pain and media recognition for our suffering that does not take away accountability from the bastards that continue to do harm in the name of medicine.
We demand justice.
Our time is now.
End Intersex Surgery.
Written and transcribed by Pidgeon Pagonis
All Photos (unless otherwise noted) are courtesy of Love & Struggle Photos
The Intersex Justice Project (IJP) and Houston Intersex Society (THIS) worked together last month to co-organize IJP’s second protest and rally outside of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago as part of our #EndIntersexSurgery campaign. Close to 100 people, 30+ of which were intersex, showed up to demand that Lurie become the first hospital in the United States to ban medically unnecessary “cosmetic/corrective” procedures on intersex children.
Dear Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome & Differences of Sex Development Support Group (AIS-DSD SG),
We would like to applaud the recent strong position you took in this joint statement with Interact, in which you co-announced that you would be in solidarity with the global intersex activist community by not participating in a study that had no initial input from intersex people--championing the South African disability rights movement’s slogan Nothing About Us, Without Us. You noted that the clinical researchers should have known better, for various reasons, including that both Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital have “shown their strong support for our community by sponsoring AIS-DSD SG continuing medical education conferences [CME] and support group meetings.” You also rightfully pointed out, “we cannot allow ourselves to be bystanders in yet another study that neglects our priority for community based participatory research.” We couldn’t agree more.
Last Year's 2016 Statement
As this year is coming to a close, the intersex people of color movement has seen triumph and setback. M.C., a young Black intersex child whose genitals were mutilated by the state of South Carolina while in foster care, received a court victory when his case settled out of court for $440,000. Although the sum is a pittance for the trauma that this young person has endured and what he will face in the future, this is the first time that the state has recognized the sovereign rights of an intersex child, let alone a Black intersex child. M.C.'s bravery allows us as intersex people of color to assert ourselves and claim our rightful places in the movement for bodily sovereignty. Thank you M.C.
Traducción de Brujula Intersexual: Un doctor me pidió conversar acerca de por qué no deberían cortar a los bebés intersexuales – Aquí está mi respuesta. Por Pidgeon Pagonis http://bit.ly/2yGHh3i
On October 5th, the Washington Post published this amazing long-form article on the intersex movement--featuring a number of my dear friends and fellow activists. It’s not often that a major publication dedicates 6,000 words of thoughtful, nuanced journalism to our community.
The piece featured intersex people talking about our painstaking work to end a decades-old and thoroughly debunked medical paradigm that says our bodies are so wrong that doctors should be able to surgically alter us however they want--without our consent and when we are too young to participate in the decision. This is what happened to me at Lurie Children’s (formerly Children’s Memorial) in Chicago; I was operated on three times as a kid, for no medical reason, and without my knowledge or consent. I’ve been living with the fall-out ever since. It was mutilation. And I’m not alone in my conviction--three former US surgeons general came out against the practice, as have the Board of Trustees of the American Medical Association, the United Nations, the World Health Organization...and the list goes on…
On October 26, 2016, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of intersex activists picketing the American Academy of Pediatrics in Boston. This moment gave us what we now know as Intersex Awareness Day.
Since then, we’ve had a multitude of voices at the forefront letting the world know they too are intersex and there’s nothing unhealthy or shameful about it. From the (now defunct) Intersex Society of North America’s, Hermaphrodites Speak!, to the more recently released Buzzfeed video, “What It’s Like to Be Intersex,” intersex people have been using media to spread the message that we are survivors of medical violence and our stories are important for the wellness of all people--intersex and non-intersex--alike.
These acts of bravery, in addition to countless hours of labor by intersex people and allies all across the globe, have laid the foundation for what we now understand as the intersex movement.