Since 2004, Oct. 26 is celebrated as Intersex Awareness Day, an initiative by the Intersex Day Project that encourages people to take action and share the histories and stories of the intersex rights movement.
Intersex Awareness Day commemorates the anniversary of a protest held by members of the intersex community during the annual American Academy of Pediatrics convention in 1996. Activists gathered in action against the standard practice of invasive gender-based surgeries that many intersex children have been forced to undergo without consent.
To understand the importance of Intersex Awareness Day, it’s also necessary to have an accurate definition of what it means to be intersex. People who are intersex were born with a genetic, genital, reproductive, or hormonal configuration that isn’t easily categorized as “male” or “female.”
Medical professionals often assign a binary sex to babies who are intersex. Historically, it has also been common practice for medical providers to perform surgeries at or shortly after birth to try to make the bodies of intersex babies conform to a binary sex. This practice is what many people gathered to protest in 1996, and is largely considered outdated and harmful.
Being born intersex does not dictate what a person’s gender will be -- intersex people can have any gender identity, just like endosex (non-intersex) people. Regardless of the types of chromosomes or reproductive organs people have, they can identify as women, men, non-binary, agender, etc.
There are as many different ways to experience being intersex as there are intersex people. Just like with other genetic characteristics or factors in a person’s development, being intersex is both normal and common. For many reasons, it’s difficult to determine how many people in the U.S. are intersex, but a close estimate is 1 in every 50 people. If you think about how many people you’re close with personally, how many accounts you’re connected to on social media, or how many coworkers and classmates you’ve had, it’s likely that you know many people who are intersex.
Today, the movement for intersex awareness is consistently growing as more and more people come to understand what it means to be intersex and share their stories with others. Organizations like InterACT are working toward creating a positive understanding of intersex identities for the upcoming generation of young people who are beginning to define and understand their own gender identities.
For more resources and information about intersex identities, visit InterACT’s website.