The Organisation Intersex International (OII) is devoted to systemic change to end the fear, shame, secrecy and stigma experienced by children and adults through the practice of non-consensual normalisation treatments for people born with atypical anatomy, and the arbitrary assignment of a particular gender without an informed consultation with the individual concerned.
We have learned from listening to intersex people and those who love intersex people that:
- Intersex is for many a problem of stigma and trauma; for some gender assignment; for some health; for some combinations of all of these.
- Parents’ desire for a perfect child must not be addressed by surgery on the child.
- The desire for a healthy child is understandable, but we recommend that parents not be counselled to terminate pregnancies because of the possibility that a child may be born intersex.
- Professional counselling and therapy may be beneficial to those trying to come to terms with their situation.
- Complete disclosure is a right, and a necessity, if the individual is to make the best possible choices for their future.
- Gender assignment should be arrived at through negotiation with the individual, in a process of free choice, which may include options not to commit to being either gender.
- Surgeries should not be performed on individuals to reproduce social norms of gender and genital correctness.
- Intersex is not the same issue as transsexuality, although the current medical approach to gender makes it so for some; discussions about transsexuality being a form of intersex are beyond the scope of this organisation, but we acknowledge that assigning transsexuals as disordered is equally as problematic as assigning intersex children and adults as disordered.
- Intersex is not automatically a part of an LGB/T agenda, although we acknowledge that intersex people are sexual or non-sexual, gendered or atypically gendered, beings in ways similar to other people, with human desires, wants and needs. Many intersex people identify as heterosexual, others identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Many intersex people are happy with their sex assignment, others reject that assignment and may or may not identify as transgendered or transsexual.
- Intersex is not an issue which lends itself to a religious or any other ideological agenda, whether LGBT, feminism, transsexualism, fundamentalism, liberalism, Marxism; however, intersex individuals may or may not have spiritual or ideological beliefs, needs and aspirations in the same way as anybody else. It is important that the spirituality inherent in each unique individual is respected and cherished, the insights that may come to those occupying a unique place in cultures listened to, and that doctrinal perspectives on sex and gender not be enforced on those for whom they are meaningless.
FAQ: About the Organisation Intersex International
Q1: What is OII?
The Organisation Intersex International is a non-profit organisation. It was originally incorporated in the Province of Quebec, Canada. The organisation was founded in 2003 by Curtis Hinkle and is a decentralised network established to give voice to intersex people both outside and inside the USA, those speaking languages other than just English, and people who do not fit the medicalised categories of disorder promoted by some other intersex groups. It is for people born with bodies which have atypical sex characteristics. OII resists all efforts to make intersex invisible, including genital mutilation, medicalisation and normalisation without consent and offers another face to intersex lives and experience by highlighting the richness and diversity of intersex identities and cultures.
It is the largest intersex organisation in the world with board members representing almost all known intersex variations. It has board members in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
It provides online support groups in English, French and Spanish and information about intersex on its website in seven languages. Its objective is to bring about systemic change and resist the fear, shame, secrecy and stigma imposed on adults as well as children through both the practice of non-consensual genital surgeries and the arbitrary assignment of a particular gender without informed consultation with the individual concerned. The ethos of the group is that people will hold different views as appropriate to the individual. This often entails treating as optional socially and medically constructed categories such as binary genders, sexual identifications as well as specific and non-specific pathologies. It is about the individual’s right to define oneself with emphasis on “human being” as the only common identity of its members and their struggle to be treated as other human beings.
Q2: Does OII advocate raising children without a gender or as third gender?
OII is in agreement with the renowned intersex expert, Dr. Milton Diamond, who recently stated: “… [intersex] children should not be given surgery to ‘normalise’ their appearance as infants. They should be able to decide for themselves which gender they wanted, if they wanted one.”
OII’s official positions on this and on third gender are available elsewhere on this site.
Q3: Why does OII reject the term “Disorders of Sex Development” used by some intersex organisations?
There are many reasons, the main one being that most intersexed people from around the world have told us they reject this terminology. Also, almost no actual intersex people were consulted about this shift in terminology and the resulting protocols which are based on it. OII is not of the opinion that people who are born with intersex variations do not have health needs. Quite the contrary. What we are saying is that being intersex, or of intermediate or atypical sex, is itself not a disorder which requires medical treatment. The term “Disorders of Sex Development” comprises all the different variations which could result in being intersex and makes our SEX (intersex) itself the disorder. It is obvious that people born of intermediate or atypical sex have health problems. That is what OII wants to be treated, our actual health problems, not gender or other cosmetic changes to make us meet norms for male and female. In discussing health issues with intersexed people from all over the world, we in OII have found that real health issues are often overlooked in intersex people because the emphasis is on the “sex disorder” aspect and since all the different variations have very different causes, doctors are often not aware of the particular health needs associated with a particular variation and the health of the individual is compromised.
After reading the publications of the DSD Consortium for parents and doctors, our board members were very disappointed by the fact that once again the DSD guidelines are primarily about GENDER and assuring parents and doctors that the right gender can be chosen without consultation with the child. We resoundingly reject this.
You can find more detailed information about the DSD controversy on our website.
Q4: What is the mission of OII?
- Campaign in favour of human rights for the intersexed.
- Encourage an exchange of ideas and different perspectives about intersex from various groups and geographical regions.
- Provide information concerning actual life experiences of people with intersex variations to medical personnel working with infants with atypical genitalia, to psychological experts, sexologists, sociologists and specialists in feminism.
- To assist families and friends of intersexed individuals to understand intersex and to cope with the specific problems related to their role as a support person.
Q5: Why does OII include so many people with intersexed variations who rejected their assignment as male or female?
Quite simply because we have been silenced and marginalised by many intersex groups and the medical experts who do not want to deal with this issue. OII is of the opinion that all intersex voices should have representation and we also include many board members who have not rejected their assigned gender and others who feel that neither gender is really appropriate. If intersex is not primarily about gender, then all intersex people, regardless of gender identification, should be included, not just those with firm male or female identities and who have not rejected their male or female gender assignment.
Q6: Why does OII celebrate Intersex Solidarity Day instead of Intersex Awareness Day?
Some groups in the United States wrote to us and did not want us to have information on Intersex Awareness Day on our site. As a result, we consulted our members, many of which are from French-speaking countries, and decided that Herculine Barbin’s birthday was a better day for us to choose since Herculine Barbin is well known in French speaking countries and in other countries also where French is not spoken.
Q7: What can I do to help OII and its struggle for human rights?
It is society which has produced rigid views on sex and sex-assignment; this is what lies behind the inhumane treatment that intersexed children have been subjected to. The medical profession, usually drawn from a particular stratum of this rigid society does not escape the cultural influence which demands only two sexes. It is only natural that the medical profession would see one of its duties as being to correct what to them appears to be abnormal, because this is part of their professional training.
It is clear that the process of raising consciousness is a threefold task involving:
- intersex people themselves
- people who provide healthcare to intersex people
- the wider society within which we all live
Education is necessary, for all three above, and through self-help groups, condition-specific groups, internet groups, doctor-patient representative consultations, LGBT groups, the media and television documentaries this has started to happen. There is still much to do in this area, particularly as much of this to date has been undertaken with a partisan approach which has tended to alienate some groups, and excluded others from representation. Raising awareness of only a limited aspect of the full range of intersex issues is not raising consciousness, it is indoctrination. The raising of consciousness of society, the medical profession, and intersex people themselves to the full range of intersex issues is paramount for all intersex people to achieve equality, dignity, respect, the most appropriate health-care, and acceptance within society.
Human rights organisations and intersex human rights advocates offer the best prospect of informing and influencing people in society, politicians and the medical community.