California has gone on record as the first US State to denounce “corrective” surgery on intersex children.
California’s legislature passed a resolution, SCR-110, that formally condemns “unnecessary surgery” on intersex babies that is often performed by doctors to “correct” the child’s genitals.
The resolution defines intersex people as “individuals born with variations in their physical sex characteristics” and who “may present with differences in genital anatomy, internal reproductive structures, chromosomes, or hormonal variations.”
The resolution was introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener and co-sponsored by social justice organizations interACT and Equality California.
In a tweet following the passage of the resolution, Wiener said: “Our resolution (
#SCR110) urging the medical profession to delay medically unnecessary genital surgeries on #intersex babies has now fully passed the CA Legislature. This is the first time a state has gone on record supporting the intersex community & opposing these surgeries.”
Our resolution (#SCR110) urging the medical profession to delay medically unnecessary genital surgeries on #intersex babies has now fully passed the CA Legislature. This is the first time a state has gone on record supporting the intersex community & opposing these surgeries. pic.twitter.com/58ZJNpGske
— Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) August 28, 2018
Intersex individuals are estimated to account for 1% to 2% of the population, often present with ambiguous genitalia that don’t fall into the cisgender male and female categories. Their atypical anatomy can present as a larger-than-normal clitoris, lacking a vaginal opening or a scrotum that is divided, making it look more like labia. The usual medical practice is to let parents decide on how to “correct” their child’s genitals at birth or shortly after; and many intersex advocates argue that infants and children are too young to consent to such an invasive and often identity-altering surgery.
The resolution states that “these surgeries are often performed before a child can even speak or stand, meaning the intersex individual is excluded from the decision whether to undergo these irreversible procedures.” Surgeries like these can cause “severe psychological and physiological harm,” including scarring, urinary incontinence, loss of sexual sensation, post-traumatic stress disorder and incorrect gender assignment.
Citing a WHO study, the resolution added that procedures “could be delayed until intersex children are old enough to decide whether they want them are instead performed on infants who then have to live with the consequences for a lifetime.”
It is worth noting that while the bill condones the medical procedure, it still does not ban the same.