Intersex People Are Still Misunderstood by Physicians and Family Alike

Intersex: The often-omitted I in LGBTQI (I admit usually don't include it). In addition to it being omitted frequently, it is still very misunderstood by many, including medical professionals as well as parents of intersex children.

Intersex individuals are people who were born with genitals that do not match the shapes of traditional male or female sex organs, and, as such, their bodies do not fit traditional male and female characteristics. Because of this, many doctors decide to perform surgeries in order to "correct" an intersex person's genitals, often asking the parents if they want their children to live as male or female, explains Dr. Arlene M. Baratz, a mother of two intersex daughters, according to Thomas Reuters Foundation. Doctors recommend these surgeries as they believe that the intersex children couldn't possibly live a comfortable life with ambiguous genitals.

Not only is infant surgery incredibly dangerous, but it is also potentially very damaging to one's mental health. Infants, with their limited cognitive ability, are not able to possibly understand their gender in any real sense of the word, so it stands to reason that there should not be any procedures to permanently alter their appearance in regard to sex organs. Yet groups such as Societies for Pediatric Urology and the American Urological Association advocate for such surgeries, despite evidence showing that these surgeries do more harm than good. 

According to Human Rights Watch, the damages following intersex surgeries include irreversible alterations of genitals and gonads that result in the intersex person having to be placed on hormones for the rest of their life, involuntary sterilization, the risks of incontinence, being surgically assigned the wrong sex, and much more. Plus, the surgery is unnecessary at such a young age (or any age, technically), as children are too young to understand the implications of such surgeries and having ambiguous genitals is not a life-threatening incident, so the surgery is completely cosmetic and should only be performed under the consent of the intersex person.

While intersex people do face challenges because they don't fit the male/female mold, the challenges are often external, as many, as stated previously, are ignorant about what being intersex is and what it isn't, and, as such, act in a hurtful way. It is important to understand that intersex people are still humans first, regardless of how their genitals look. Because of this, doctors should hold off on performing and cosmetic surgeries until the intersex person is old enough to understand what the surgery entails and the risks involved with having it performed. More importantly, it is imperative that people get educated on the concept of being intersex so the bigotry and fear can subside. 


h/t: Thomas Reuters FoundationHuman Rights Watch

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