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Biden Administration, Advocacy Groups Mark Intersex Awareness Day

Intersex symbol on a hand with yellow backdrop
Image via Shutterstock

On Intersex Awareness Day, many people wear yellow and purple.


The Biden-Harris administration joined the worldwide celebration of Intersex Awareness Day on Wednesday as advocacy groups took the day to discuss the intersection of anti-transgender legislation being based in the country and intersex people's rights.

"On October 26, we commemorate Intersex Awareness Day and honor the many contributions intersex voices have made in the global struggle for inclusion, equality, and dignity for all," wrote State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a statement. "The Department of State is committed to promoting and protecting the human rights of all individuals, including intersex persons, who often face discrimination, harmful medical practices, violence, and social stigma solely based on their sex characteristics."

Price said that this administration incorporates intersex voices and perspectives into American diplomacy and foreign assistance at the State Department. For example, the agency set a precedent by offering an X gender marker option on passport application forms, allowing individuals with intersex, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming identities to specify genders other than male or female as unspecified genders, he said.

Price also announced that Kimberly Zieselman, an intersex advocate and expert, has joined the office of the U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons.

In addition to being the former executive director of interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth, Zieselman wrote XOXY: A Memoir. Zieselman expressed her excitement on Twitter earlier this month.

"Thrilled to finally announce my new role as a Senior Advisor to the Special Envoy for LGBTQI+ Human Rights @StateDept@StateDRL#Intersex#LGBTQ#XOXY (Pinch me!)," she tweeted.

Intersex children's fundamental rights are also being undermined by the increase in anti-transgender legislative proposals across the United States in recent years, according to a joint release by Human Rights Watch, interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth, and the SOGIESC Human Rights Initiative at University of North Carolina's Human Rights Law Program.

The groups called out so-called "normalizing" surgeries, which are usually performed without a patient's consent, usually during infancy or early childhood, on children with intersex variations. Experts note that despite their promise to reduce stigma and prevent gender dysphoria, these surgeries often result in the opposite effect and, at the same time, carry several risks, including loss of sensation, incontinence, psychological trauma, and sterilization.

"State legislation in the U.S. that targets transgender youth is also harming intersex youth," said Erika Lorshbough, executive director of interACT. "When lawmakers propose and pass explicit exceptions for surgeons to operate on intersex bodies before the patients themselves can consent, it makes it clear that these bills are about erasing bodily diversity, not protecting anyone."

In a virtual roundtable last week, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona expressed support for intersex students and denounced the rise of legislation that targets LGBTQ+ students in schools.

"Along with the President and Vice President, we have your back. We respect you. We see you. We want to stand with you. We know we're going to keep fighting and advocating the policies that protect and support you as well," said Cardona.

Educators, students, and families can find helpful resources in the Department of Education's Supporting Intersex Students section.

Former ambassador to the United Nations and current White House domestic policy advisor Susan Rice marked the day on Twitter as well.

"On #IntersexAwarenessDay, we lift up the importance of dignity, visibility, and equality for the millions of people born with variations in sex characteristics. Our Administration is committed to advancing justice, opportunity, and safety for intersex Americans and all Americans," she tweeted.

President Joe Biden stated in his 2021 memo Advancing the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons Worldwide, that it is the United States' policy to end violence and discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics.

Price concluded in his statement, "The United States stands in solidarity with intersex persons, honoring the advocacy of activists, organizations, and governments, and remains steadfast in its commitment to promoting and protecting the dignity and human rights of intersex persons around the world."

Note: This story was updated to reflect information from the Department of Education.

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