California Becomes First State To Condemn ‘Corrective’ Surgeries On Intersex Children

Members of LGBT community celebrate.
Tristan Fewings / Getty

Advocates for intersex children have been fighting against so-called ‘corrective’ surgeries for decades and California just made history by becoming the first U.S. state to denounce these surgeries. California State Legislature passed a resolution on Tuesday which took a firm stand against medically unnecessary procedures on children who were born with intersex conditions. The resolution places pressure on the medical field to hold off on medically unnecessary cosmetic procedures until the intersex individual is able to make their own informed decision. SCR-110 was introduced by Senator Scott Wiener, a long time advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. In a statement to NBC News, Weiner urged the nation to understand the historic resolution.

“These surgeries can have significant negative impacts on people’s lives, particularly if the gender chosen by the physician and parents is different from the child’s ultimate gender identity.”

‘Corrective’ surgeries can cause irreversible damage to a child’s physical and mental health, and the United Nations has declared the practice a human rights violation as these procedures are usually not medically necessary. Often these surgeries are done without the knowledge or consent of the child (and in some cases, even the parents). Up to 1.7 percent of humans have an intersex condition, according to the U.N., meaning that these individuals are born with chromosomes or genitalia that do not match up to standard binary definitions of male or female. The legislation in California defines intersex as “individuals born with variations in their physical sex characteristics” as well as those who “may present with differences in genital anatomy, internal reproductive structures, chromosomes, or hormonal variations.”

Intersex conditions directly relate to the biological sex characteristics of an individual and are entirely separate from the concept of gender. Legislation like SCR-110 is a landmark victory for intersex activists. Kimberly Zieselman, executive direction of interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth, had this to say about the legislation.

“It means for the very first time a U.S. legislative body has affirmatively recognized that intersex children deserve dignity and the right to make decisions about their own bodies – just like everyone else.”

The discussion of rights regarding gender seems to only be gaining speed in the United States as intersex, and transgender rights, are being brought to the public eye by lawmakers and activists. SCR-110 has no enforcement power yet, but it does send a clear message regarding the rights of individuals with an intersex condition. Intersex individuals have historically been left in the dark regarding their own medical care. SCR-110 is a step towards allowing total self-autonomy for all individuals, regardless of societal norms.