Protest Against Intersex Surgery Draws Hundreds in NYC


On Saturday (October 28), 150 intersex activists and their allies protested outside New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College to demand an end to non-consensual surgery on intersex youth.

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we are responsible for queer people everywhere. it’s time for all LGBTQ+ folk to stand up for intersex rights. our bodies our choice. unfortunately still to this day all over the globe surgeries are being performed on intersex babies at birth and shortly after without the child’s consent to fit the recent historical binary construct. CHANGE YOUR HEARTS NOT OUR PARTS. thank you @adameli and @voices4_ for putting this protest together. #endintersexsurgery specifically non consensual. please follow @intersexjusticeproject to find out how you can help.———————————————————————— since so many people are asking “what is intersex?” i’m adding a definition from the @interact_adv website. interact is an intersex organization: “Intersex” refers to people who are born with any of a range of sex characteristics that may not fit a doctor’s notions of binary “male” or “female” bodies. Variations may appear in a person’s chromosomes, genitals, or internal organs like testes or ovaries. Some intersex traits are identified at birth, while others may not be discovered until puberty or later in life. People with intersex traits have always existed, but there is more awareness now about the diversity of human bodies. People with intersex bodies, like anyone who may be seen as different, sometimes face discrimination, including in healthcare settings as early as infancy.”

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Hosted by direct action activist group Voices4 and the Intersex Justice Project one day after Intersex Awareness Day, the demonstration centered non-consensual intersex surgeries practiced by Weill Cornell, and in particular the employment of Dr. Dix Poppas, the Chief of Pediatric Urology, who has a history of performing genital cutting, or clitoral reduction surgeries, on intersex children, according to a press release provided by Voices4.

“I was castrated at New-York Presbyterian Hospital by Dr. Terry Hensle when I was 13 years old,” Sean Saifa Wall, co-founder of the Intersex Justice Project, said in a statement. “As an institution, this hospital has and continues to harbor practitioners that continue to advocate for intersex genital mutilation such as Dr. Hensle, Dr. Dix Poppas, and Dr. Anke Ehrhardt, a protege of Dr. John Money—and it needs to end.”

Protesting in the rain, activists demanded apologies from Weill Cornell to the intersex patients they’ve harmed, greater support for intersex-led patient advocacy, a ban on non-consensual intersex genital surgeries and hormone therapies, and disciplinary measures to be taken against Dr. Poppas.

“I’m protesting today because change can’t come fast enough for intersex people,” said Hans Lindahl, Director of Communications and Outreach, in a statement. “In 1997, the first North American intersex activists to publicly protest normalizing genital surgeries as violations of bodily autonomy were written off as a vocal minority by doctors in the New York Times. Today, despite nearly every international human rights organization rallying on our side, we’re still dismissed. They’ll give us ’treatment teams’ and ’improved technology,’ but they won’t give us delay or informed consent, what our community has been demanding for decades. We’re still not centered in our own healthcare.”

“Intersex” refers to people who are born with one or more physical sex characteristics that don’t fit typical notions about male or female bodies. Variations may be in their chromosomes, genitals, or internal organs like testes or ovaries. Some intersex traits are identified at birth, while others may not be discovered until puberty or later in life. As many as 1.7% of people are born with intersex traits—about the same number who are born with red hair.

Lamar Dawson is a pop culture junkie and pop diva addict living in Manhattan. Follow him on everything @dirrtykingofpop.