25th Annual Intersex Awareness Day Met with Historic Media Coverage and Advocacy

By Annalysse Mason, Communications Intern GLAAD.org | November 9, 2021

Intersex Awareness Day, a day to celebrate visibility and highlight the issues facing intersex persons worldwide, was observed on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. Here’s a look at what happened during the week and the latest advancements in intersex advocacy. 

The week was marked by a historic win for the intersex and and gender non-binary community. On October 27, the State Department issued its first U.S. passport with a gender neutral “X” marker to intersex and non-binary activist, Dana Zzyym. In a GLAAD press release, Dana was quoted calling the experience “liberating.” They also shared their excitement for other intersex and non-binary U.S. citizens to have passports that reflect their identity. Kimberly Zieselman, Executive Director of InterACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth, was quoted thanking Dana for their “tireless advocacy and commitment to ensuring Americans with nonbinary gender identities, including some intersex people, now have the option to be authentically identified in passports.” 

On this year’s Intersex Awareness Day, Kimberly Zieselman, Executive Director of InterACT stated: “The first-ever White House listening session and public statement gave long-awaited recognition and new hope for protection from the discrimination and harm we’ve endured for over half a century. Additionally … the issuance of the first passport with an “X” marker by the State Department was a reason for celebration. This is a tipping point moment for intersex in the United States–but until large medical associations like the American Medical Association and The American Academy of Pediatrics finally support intersex affirming health care and condemn early harmful intervention on babies and children born with intersex traits, we know we must do more to empower advocates to bring about change.”

Yesterday, InterACT, in partnership with Harvard Law, launched a legislative toolkit to assist community members and allies in their intersex advocacy work. 

Several media outlets also offered nuanced coverage about Intersex Awareness Day, raising awareness of the issues facing the community, as well as key developments in intersex advocacy:  

  • The 19th, a gender and politics news organization, documented a historic milestone for the Intersex community: a virtual roundtable meeting with White House officials and nearly 20 intersex advocates. The meeting, which was the second and largest meeting of intersex advocates with White House officials, served as a space for intersex advocates to voice their greatest concerns about intersex rights and liberties. In interviews with meeting participants by The 19th, the roundtable was described as important, necessary, and hopeful; also mentioned, however, was the need for tangible action towards intersex rights. The roundtable’s read-out can be found here.
  • Pink News highlighted the number of ways the Biden administration observed Intersex Awareness Day. In addition to recognizing the White House’s historic formal denouncement of forced genital surgeries, the article also features official tweets from the State Department supporting the protection of intersex rights. 

Click here: https://www.share.america.gov/what-does-it-mean-to-be-intersex/

  • LGBTQ Nation, in their coverage of the Biden Administration’s support of Intersex rights, incorporated a brief and important history of Intersex Awareness Day. Through the article, we learn that the day is celebrated on October 26th because that is the day intersex activists Morgan Holmes and Max beck “organized a protest of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Boston in 1996”. In shedding light on a number of issues facing intersex people, the article also brings attention to the continued prevalence of non-consensual cosmetic surgeries in the Intersex community.
  • In an article by The Advocate, Biden Administration ‘Committed’ to Protecting Intersex People’s Rightscoverage of the White House’s support of the intersex community is featured alongside novel analysis of a recent intersex study by the Center for American Progress. The study found that intersex people experience heightened discrimination in healthcare, and nearly twice the rate of discrimination compared to LGBTQ non-Intersex people more generally. 
  • NBC News published an informative call to action, Intersex people have been challenging ‘gender-normalizing surgery.’ Doctors are starting to listen. The article advocated for an end to non-consensual, “corrective” surgeries by sharing the story of intersex activist Bria Brown-King. The article shared the controversial history of intersex surgery, detailing how many medical institutions and human rights organizations have condemned the practice. 

To learn more about issues facing the intersex community and how you can get involved, visit https://interactadvocates.org/