Yr End Report: Celebrating Intersex Education & Legal Recognition in 2016!

2016 heralded some victorious achievements for intersex education, visibility and legal recognition, and the Intersex Campaign for Equality is proud to have played a role. This New Year’s we celebrate that intersex voices are being heard, respected, and amplified throughout the world, and that non-binary intersex Americans have, for the first time, been accurately, legally recognized by the US federal government! For a more extensive, detailed report, see the: ICE 2016 Year End Report

Intersex People Refuse to Lie
After centuries of intersex people being forced to live in hiding by a culture that did not accept us, our associate director Dana Zzyym refused to lie and say they were male or female on their passport application, and sued the U.S. State Department when it rejected their application because they wouldn’t. This past April, Lambda Legal, their representatives in the historic lawsuit, filed their opening brief and response to the federal government’s attempt to dismiss the case, and also used the opportunity to bring attention to the medical abuses that intersex people face. The coverage was greatly appreciated and influential because of the high level of legal and community discourse which the organization generates as the nation’s oldest and largest legal organization fighting for LGBT civil rights.

Victory for Intersex Recognition!
In November, we received news from Lambda Legal that the judge had ruled in Dana’s favor in their historic lawsuit! The judge stated that he found “no evidence that the Department followed a rational decision-making process in deciding to implement its binary-only gender passport policy,” and ordered the U.S. Passport Agency to reconsider its earlier decision to deny Dana a passport. Paul Castillo, lead attorney in the case, stated that, “This is a tremendous victory for Dana Zzyym and other intersex and non-binary citizens, who simply want to be recognized and respected for who they are, to live openly and authentically, and have their government recognize them for who they are.”

This victory means that the federal government can no longer pretend that intersex people are all males or females, which puts us one, very important step closer to ensuring that intersex babies are given the right to make their own decisions about their bodies and identities.

Intersex babies allowed to be who they are!
“I feel blessed that my parents allowed me to be who I am, and I encourage all parents of intersex kids to do the same. Trying to “fix” healthy babies’ bodies to fit social ideals is innately prejudiced, and prejudice is never the solution.”
— Hida Viloria, founding director, Intersex Campaign for Equality

We are touched and thrilled to report that parents have been heeding our call (amplified in the quote above on Intersex Awareness Day 2016, by the United Nations Free & Equal Campaign). Throughout the year, we have been receiving emails from parents who, motivated by our E.D. Hida Viloria’s message, have decided to forego operations for their intersex babies, and to love them as they are, and we have provided support to several who are doing so. These intersex children will grow up healthy and whole, able to make their own choices about their bodies and identities. Our founding vision is that one day all intersex children will likewise be given the right to bodily autonomy and self recognition, and we are thrilled to know that this has started happening.

Intersex Voices Reach College Students Worldwide!
In January, our E.D. HIda Viloria’s essay “What’s in Name: Intersex and Identity” was published by Oxford University Press in the college textbook Queer: A Reader for Writer’s. The essay—originally published in 2014 and the only one by an intersex author selected for the first year writing curriculum textbook– is a groundbreaking examination of how medicalized labels further discrimination and limit human identity, and which labels foster equality for most effectively. After centuries of intersex people being studied and written “about” by others, the essay’s inclusion ensures that thousands of students will learn about intersex people from our own perspective.

National Geographic recognizes we are people, not disorders!
In December, we celebrated an important cultural win: National Geographic Magazine decided, upon our E.D. Hida Viloria and others’ request–not to define being intersex as a “disorder” in their “Gender Revolution” issue. Their editor-in-chief explained, in a subsequent National Geographic article, why it had happened, and why they decided to change the definition, quoting our E.D.: “This definition is opposed by intersex advocates across the globe for the simple reason that it pathologizes us, thereby promoting the erroneous, stigmatizing view that intersex people require ‘fixing'”, wrote Hida Viloria, executive director of the Intersex Campaign for Equality.

We remember the days when it was difficult to have our voices heard, and our allies seemed few and far between, and are happy to say they are a thing of the past. We thank all the dedicated, amazing activists and allies who have supported us in getting this far, and look forward to more victories for equality, acceptance and recognition in the coming year!

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