The TransAdvocate Challenges WPATH’s Support of IGM & DSD

We have always believed that intersex and trans people should support each other and work together as allies. Sadly, this has not always been the case. In the fantastic article “Owning Endosex Privilege and Supporting the Intersex Community: WPATH, Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM), and Sex Variant Bodies“, trans lesbian feminist and ally extraordinaire Margo Schulter examines many of the ways in which trans advocates such as the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) have failed to support intersex people in our struggle for bodily autonomy and self determination.

Schulter calls out WPATH for supporting the use of nonconsensual “corrective” surgeries–aka Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM)–at its 2016 conference in Amsterdam. She examines the ways in which doing so not only harms intersex people, but contradicts WPATH’s stated vision, stating:

“As an organization committed to informed consent as a prerequisite to ethical sex [re]assignment surgery, WPATH must therefore join the intersex community, and human rights forums including the UN and EU, in opposing IGM and calling for all nations to follow the example of Malta and Chile in outlawing this violent form of child abuse….

Only an intersex person’s autonomous desire and fully informed consent at an appropriate age can justify such genital surgeries. It is imperative that WPATH be as forthright and assertive in affirming these simple ethical standards as it is, for example, in opposing immediate surgery for enduser [non-intersex] children who may express a strong desire to transition in every way, with enthusiastic support from their parents. The message, otherwise, is that intersex people are of a lesser kind, whose personal and bodily autonomy does not really count.”

Schulter also cites the WPATH’s use of the objectionable label “Disorders of Sex Development” to describe intersex people. She encourages the WPATH to honor the intersex community’s rejection of the label, just as they rejected the use of “Gender Identity Disorder” to describe trans people, and calls out the hypocrisy of not doing so.

“Closely following the above quotation on the allegedly “objective and value-free” use of DSD language, WPATH notes the proposal current in 2011 for DSM-5, and since adopted, “to replace the term gender identity disorder with gender dysphoria.” (Ibid. at 208.) So it would seem that the term “disorder” is not so objective or value-free when applied to trans people, whether endosex or intersex. If the term is objectionable when applied to gender variant people, and thus worth changing, it is at least equally objectionable when applied to intersex people generally.”

In addition, Schulter examines endosex–non-intersex–privilege. She outlines two forms of it which trans community members often fail to acknowledge, and why it behoovesthem to do so and to act as allies to the intersex community. A thorough, well-researched, brilliantly intersectional and supportive piece; long, but well worth the read. Big thanks to Margo Schulter for being such an intelligent, passionate supporter of trans-intersex allyship, and to The TransAdvocate for running this piece!

Owning Endosex Privilege and Supporting the Intersex Community: WPATH, Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM), and Sex Variant Bodies