“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