The Current

Stop gender assignment surgery on intersex children, says advocate

What to do if your child is born with sexual anatomy that doesn't fit the norm? For years, the answer has been gender assignment surgery, but The Current speaks to two intersex guests who want this invasive practice to stop.
Intersex advocate Morgan Holmes says Canada should stop infant sex assignment. (Courtesy of Morgan Holmes )

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For decades, intersex people have been subjected to invasive surgery to alter their anatomy — often at a very young age.  

Intersex Flag (Courtesy of Morgan Holmes )
A recent lawsuit in the state of South Carolina hopes to bring an end to such interventions on children and babies.

Vic* was born with an intersex condition [*his name has been changed to protect his identity]. Genetic tests determined he was a girl but he tells The Current's host Anna Maria Tremonti they were wrong. 

"I identify as a male. But if I had any other choice, I would identify as that. By this binary system that we have right now, we're just lying to ourselves." 

Vic's parents raised him as a girl. He says that was what he was assigned and remembers being a tomboy, playing with boys until he was 15-years-old. In practice, Vic says he was a boy and an ultrasound and chromosome tests showed Vic had what is called "androgen insensitivity symptom."

Vic is in his 30s now, but tells Anna Maria Tremonti, "I pretty much lost all my youth. It's gone." 

The medical interventions intersex people endure can involve years of repeated surgeries and hormonal therapies, and they can result in long-lasting physical and psychological trauma.

Morgan Holmes wants to see the elimination of this invasive practice on young children.  

"You cannot assault somebody and then take it back and this is what the EU determined is that these are forms of torture carried out on some children," Holmes tells Anna Maria Tremonti.

Holmes is an expert on how the medical community treats people who are intersex and is intersex herself. She says  the interventions are based on the agenda of the medical community not the parents of an intersex child.

"Typically the medical community around that child panics. Then the next step is to try to explain to the parents why they're panicking."

Holmes feels when the choice is removed from infancy, the right to develop oneself is taken away. 

For Vic, the pain he went through because others couldn't tolerate his appearance made it harder for him to accept himself. 

"I just want whatever was with me … like when I was born, and I want to die like I was born — untouched."

The Current did ask the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Pediatric Society and The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada about policies and protocols regarding intersex births. We have yet to hear back.

This segment was produced by The Current's Marc Apollonio.