Scientists: Stop Risky Surgeries Now!

Classification: News

You may have seen ISNA in the news in the last two days! An important article directly linking went out over the Associated Press wire on Friday, and doubled our ordinary high level of web traffic. It was entitled “Surgery May Be Hasty for Unclear Gender” and has appeared in more than 100 national and local news outlets, including the New York Times, CNN, and NBC.

Check out the N.Y. Times if it didn’t appear in your local paper.

Cheryl and I just returned from the event in Washington, D.C., that spurred this flurry of news. The American Association for the Advancement of Science featured a session on “Defining Male and Female: Biology and the Law.” Speakers presented evidence that gender identity development involves (surprise!) more than just how your genitals look. They objected to how people in the sexual minority (including intersex people) are exempted from civil and human rights accorded automatically to others—including the right to privacy (i.e., genital autonomy in the absence of metabolic emergency), to marry who you love, etc.

Our own Medical Advisory Board member Bill Reiner presented, as did Eric Vilain of UCLA, whose research and words support our work. Drs. Reiner and Vilain did a great job talking with the press.

So did a woman we had never met before, Virgina Harmon. Virginia has Klinefelter’s Syndrome and started to transition to live as a woman at age 14. She was eloquent and supportive of ISNAs work—indeed, personally thanked Cheryl for how her work helped her come out as a woman born with KS.

Cheryl and I also spoke to the press there and were on the Saturday panel. This was our message: it is time to stop using children with intersex as research subjects for unregulated, uncontrolled, undocumented experiments on sex development theories, and start recognizing the facts:

There is no evidence that appearance “normalizing” infant genital surgeries are necessary or effective for children with intersex conditions.

There is evidence that they are harmful.

Further, there is evidence that people with interex conditions who are allowed to decide for themselves about whether to use surgeries and exogenous hormones can do well psycho-socially.

Our thanks go out to all the AAAS speakers who spoke so intelligently and eloquently about the rights of people in sexual minority populations:

Dr. Eric Vilain

Dr. William Reiner
Dr. Dana Beyer

Prof. Susan Becker

Special thanks to AAAS and NOGLSTP for sponsoring and hosting this event, and special thanks to donors like you for helping to fund our travel to Washington.

Not bad: We spent about $750 total, made a large number of connections with scientists, reporters, and fellow activists, and reached an audience of millions! How’s that for non-profit efficiency? We are truly grateful for your donation.

With best wishes,

Alice Dreger, Ph.D.
Board President

Intersex Society of North America