Intersex people are born with physical sex characteristics that don’t fit medical and social norms for female or male bodies. Intersex traits are natural manifestations of human bodily diversity.
Intersex variations is not the same as gender identity (who you are – male, female, gender non-conforming, non-binary, transgender) or sexual orientation (who you are attracted to – heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay, asexual, pansexual). People born with intersex variations have the same diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity as everyone else. While LGBT activists and Intersex activists may work together, it is important to be clear about the difference and prevent misunderstanding.
Why do we need to consider the rights of people with intersex variations?
Not all intersex traits are visible in infancy. Intersex variations might become apparent prenatally, at birth, at puberty, or in adulthood. They may become apparent when trying to conceive.
Intersex people experience stigma, shame, discrimination, trauma and human rights violations due to natural sex characteristics. Unwanted medical interventions, body shaming, and discrimination in access to healthcare, education, other services are commonplace in many countries. Being intersex is rarely a health issue in and of itself. For this reason the United Nations has said
Intersex people are born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies… Because their bodies are seen as different, intersex children and adults are often stigmatized and subjected to multiple human rights violations, including violations of their rights to health and physical integrity, to be free from torture and ill-treatment, and to equality and non- discrimination.
Intersex people still have to fight for bodily autonomy and genital integrity – the right to be who and how they want to be. In the UK intersex people are confronted with gaps in legal protections, especially in terms of protection from non-consensual medical interventions and protection from discrimination. In recognition of this, an international day was established to raise awareness of intersex variations.