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October 26 is Intersex Awareness Day

Intersex Awareness Day, October 26

Intersex Awareness Day (IAD) is observed globally on October 26. The goal of the day is to highlight the challenges faced by intersex individuals and calls for an end to shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital cosmetic surgeries on intersex children. IAD is a lead-up to the Intersex Day of Solidarity on November 8.  

What is intersex?

Intersex people are born with sex characteristics that don’t meet medical and social norms for female or male bodies. They are often subject to stigma and discrimination as a result. Intersex traits are physical variations in genitals, chromosomes, or other features that relate to the development of sex characteristics. There are many different intersex variations and many different types of intersex bodies.

Intersex people have a wide range of different sexual orientations and gender identities. They may align their physical sex characteristics with their gender identity or the sex category to which they were assigned at birth.

History of Intersex Awareness Day (IAD) 

October 26, 1996 marked the first public demonstration by intersex people in North America.  It took place in Boston where the American Academy of Pediatrics was holding its annual conference. Intersex activists Morgan Holmes and Max Beck participated for the (now-defunct) Intersex Society of North America alongside allies from Transsexual Menace including Riki Wilchins. These activists intended to deliver an address that challenged the opinion that cosmetic surgery to "fix" intersexed genitals was the best course of action. 

Annual commemoration of the day began in 2003. It was started to give what was then a very small community a sense of belonging and create an opportunity to share their stories.

What is happening today?

Today, intersex people deserve the honour of being recognized not only for their unique physiology but for the diversity and opportunity for awareness they bring to the world. 

Egale Canada is an organization that advocates for LGBTQ people in Canada and internationally. Egale has called for an end to mutilating and "normalizing" practices such as genital surgeries and psychological or medical "treatments" of intersex people. Egale calls for intersex people to be empowered to make their own decisions affecting their own bodily integrity, physical autonomy and self-determination. Egale also advocates for ending the registration of intersex children as either male or female, given that, like all people, they may grow up to identify with a different sex or gender.

Internationally, the implementation of human rights protections for intersex people in legislation and regulation has progressed slowly.  In April 2015, Malta became the first country to outlaw nonconsensual medical interventions to modify sex anatomy, including that of intersex people.

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