COMMENT: Ending stigma and pain for intersex youth

Image: Jon Kudelka/TLRI
Image: Jon Kudelka/TLRI

Historically, people with variations to their sex characteristics have been an isolated community.

Isolated from their demographic community, their peers and family and most importantly other people with variations. This isolation occurs through internalised stigma or, as we understand it, shame - not able to discuss their variation or what has happened to them or even understand why it has happened to them. Specialists that pathologise the variation and focus their conversations on "fixing" - people with variations do not need fixing, they are not broken.

They might need support or emergency life saving operations, but on the whole they don't need surgeries until they are old enough to consent to them. I have personally talked to and have read many stories on people that have had early medical interventions. It's never just one surgery because surprisingly scar tissue does not stretch but babies grow into toddlers who then continue to grow hence more surgeries are required to fix the fix.

Care givers aren't always given all the information to make an educated decision, they most probably don't realise there are other options. Or that the surgery requires "aftercare".

These people all have one thing in common: they are harmed beyond belief physically and psychologically as children - this is lifelong harm. The statistics state people that have had early medical interventions that were not necessary are more likely to die an early death, be molested and need more state funds to care for their physical and mental health.

Everyone should have bodily autonomy, everyone should get to choose what happens to their body. Parents-to-be need education on what options they have if their child is born with variations and be able to speak to a wide variety of people in the community, care givers that have children with variations, advocates that have a wider knowledge of their child's variation.

The Tasmania Law Reform Institute recommendations including enacting new laws that establish clear rules about when a person can consent to medical treatment will go a long way to reducing the harm caused to people with variations to their sex characteristics. We need to protect infants and children from non-consensual unnecessary surgeries.

We need to stop this internalised stigma and reduce mental health issues in people with variations to sex characteristics.

  • Simone-lisa Anderson, Intersex Peer Support Australia, Tasmania.
This story Ending stigma and pain for intersex youth first appeared on The Examiner.