On January 31st, California Senator Scott Weiner (Dem. San Francisco) introduced legislation to prohibit medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex babies–what intersex activists have all been fighting for!

Since the start of the intersex movement over two decades ago, our main objective has been to put a stop to the harmful, irreversible practice of subjecting intersex babies to what are essentially infant sex reassignment surgeries in order to make them typically male or female. As with every movement, many steps were needed.

In 2017, Senator Weiner introduced another intersex affirming bill, SB 179, co-authored with Senator Toni Atkins. Passed into law on October 15, 2017, SB 179, The Gender Recognition Act, allows California citizens to have their sex/gender legally recognized as neither male nor female but non-binary (note: we use “sex/gender” because the terms are conflated in law). The bill came on the heels of intersex activist Sara Kelly Keenan becoming the first legally recognized non-binary Californian in 2016.

During testimony leading to the passage of SB 179, Weiner heard first hand accounts from Keenaqn and others about the harms of medically unnecessary intersex surgeries on infants. Over the following year he learned more from our colleagues at interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth, who co-sponsored
the bill with Equality California, and the American Civil Liberties Union of California.

SB 201 is co-authored by Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose) and Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Bill Quirk (D-Hayward).

“Everyone deserves autonomy about who they are and what medically unnecessary surgeries they undergo,” said Senator Wiener. “This legislation allows individuals to choose for themselves if and when they undergo life-altering medical procedures. Parents and doctors have a critically important role to play in the health and well-being of their children, but we should not deprive individuals of the right to choose whether to undergo invasive surgeries that are cosmetic, medically unnecessary and associated with long-term permanent health consequences. It’s particularly important to allow individuals to make their own healthcare decisions when a medical procedure makes potentially irreversible decisions about a person’s gender assignment – a decision that each person should be able to make on their own.”

We thank Senator Weiner and everyone involved in drafting and introducing SB 201, and also the many who have worked bravely and passionately over the years to enable this historic moment!