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U.S. urged to ban intersex children ‘normalization’ surgeries

Advocacy groups: Procedures ‘inflict irreversible’ harm

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U.S. Capitol, gay news, Washington Blade

Advocates have urged U.S. lawmakers to ban “normalization” surgeries on intersex children. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Two advocacy groups have called upon the U.S. to ban “normalization” surgeries on intersex children.

The Human Rights Watch and interACT note in a 185-page report they released on Tuesday that intersex people in the U.S. “are subjected to medical practices that can inflict irreversible physical and psychological harm on them starting in infancy.”

The report summary indicates intersex children have undergone surgeries that “reduce the size of the clitoris for cosmetic reasons” and remove gonads that force them to receive hormone replacement therapy for the rest of their lives.

“Many of these procedures are done with the stated aim of making it easier for children to grow up ‘normal’ and integrate more easily into society by helping them conform to a particular sex assignment,” it reads. “The results are often catastrophic, the supposed benefits are largely unproven, and there are generally no urgent health considerations at stake.”

“Procedures that could be delayed until intersex children are old enough to decide whether they want them are instead performed on infants who then have to live with the consequences for a lifetime,” adds the report.

Researchers interviewed 30 intersex adults, two intersex children, 17 parents of intersex children and 21 healthcare providers who work with intersex people. The report includes testimony from those who underwent so-called “normalization” surgery as children.

Dierdre, a 55-year-old intersex woman, told researchers she has had at least six surgeries between 1970-1978.

“I basically recall pain and hurt . . . down there . . . in the genital area,” said Dierdre.

An intersex woman in California discussed the impact of having doctors examine her body when she was a child.

“All of these exams on my body as a kid sent a strong message that I was freakish, and that I had something wrong with me that had to do with my sex,” she said.

Surgeries ‘assault on our bodies’

The report notes 1.7 percent of babies are born intersex. It also indicates one out of every 2,000 of them are “different enough that doctors may recommend surgical intervention.”

Surgeries to “normalize” the sex of intersex children emerged in the U.S. in the 1960s.

InterACT Executive Director Kimberly Zieselman on Tuesday told reporters and advocates who attended a Chicago press conference that medical providers have committed “assault on our bodies.”

Zieselman and others who spoke noted some medical providers have begun to refuse to conduct these surgeries on intersex children. Zieselman stressed it is “not enough.”

“It’s time for these surgeries to stop,” said Zieselman. “These surgeries tell us we need to be erased before we can tell them who we are.”

The State Department last October issued a statement on Intersex Awareness Day that stated intersex people “routinely face forced medical surgeries that are conducted at a young age without free or informed consent.”

“These interventions jeopardize their physical integrity and ability to live free,” it read.

Former U.S. Surgeons General Joycelyn Elders, David Satcher and Richard Carmona last month expressed their opposition to “normalization” surgeries for intersex children that are not medically necessary. Zieselman on Tuesday noted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last year added intersex people to those who fall under the provision of the Affordable Care Act that bans discrimination in health care based on sex.

“Of course now we have a new administration,” she told the Los Angeles Blade.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture in 2013 issued a report that notes intersex children who undergo “involuntary genital normalizing surgery” face a series of complications that include “irreversible infertility.” The World Health Organization is among the international bodies that have also taken a position against the practice.

The Associated Press on Tuesday reported the American Medical Association is considering a proposal that would discourage “normalization” surgery on intersex children. The news wire said other U.S. medical associations are also reviewing the issue.

“The U.S. government and medical bodies should put an end to all surgical procedures that seek to alter the gonads, genitals or internal sex organs with atypical sex characteristics too young to participate in the decision,” said Human Rights Watch and interACT in a press release that announced their report.

A law that took effect in Malta in 2015 bans doctors from performing “surgical intervention on the sex characteristics of a minor” until he or she can provide “informed consent.”

The Chilean government in 2016 released guidelines that urge doctors to no longer perform “normalization” surgeries on intersex children. Germany since 2013 has allowed parents to designate the gender on their children’s birth certificates as “indeterminate.”

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Transgender immigrant activists march to White House

Marchers demanded end to ICE detention of trans, HIV-positive people

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Transgender immigrant activists who marched to the White House on June 23, 2021, stand in the intersection of 16th and H Streets, N.W., near Black Lives Matter Plaza. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — More than 100 people marched to the White House on Wednesday to demand the Biden administration end the detention of transgender people and people with HIV/AIDS in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities.

Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado and other marchers left National City Christian Church in Thomas Circle after organizers held a “funeral” for three trans women — Roxsana Hernández, Victoria Arellano and Johana “Joa” Medina Leon — who died while in ICE custody or immediately after the agency released them.

Hernández, a trans woman with HIV from Honduras, died in a hospital in Albuquerque, N.M., on May 25, 2018, while in ICE custody. Arellano, a trans woman with HIV from Mexico, passed away at a hospital in San Pedro, Calif., while in ICE custody.

ICE released Medina, a trans woman with HIV from El Salvador, from its custody on May 28, 2019, the same day it transferred her to a hospital in El Paso, Texas. Medina died three days later.

Hernández’s family has filed a lawsuit against the federal government and the five private companies that were responsible for her care.

Isa Noyola, deputy director of Mijente, one of the immigrant advocacy groups that organized the march, emceed the “funeral.” Noyola played a message that Hernández’s nephew in Honduras recorded.

“The state does not recognize our humanity,” said Noyola, who became emotional at several points during the service.

A press release that announced the events said 25 trans women who had previously been in ICE custody participated. They, along with other participants, blocked traffic at the intersection of 16th and H Streets, N.W., near Black Lives Matter Plaza for several minutes before they marched into Lafayette Square.

March participants also carried three pink coffins that represented Hernández, Arellano and Medina. They propped them up on a security fence along Pennsylvania Avenue before they staged a die-in.

The march took place a week after Mijente and seven other immigrant advocacy groups in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and acting ICE Director Tae Johnson demanded the release of all trans people and people with HIV who are in immigrant detention facilities.

The White House on Tuesday announced asylum seekers who saw their cases closed under the previous administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy will be allowed to enter the U.S. in order to pursue them. Vice President Kamala Harris, who traveled to Guatemala earlier this month, has also acknowledged anti-LGBTQ violence is one of the “root causes” of migration from Central America’s Northern Triangle.

‘Our only crime is to seek opportunities, to seek refuge’

Li An “Estrella” Sánchez, a trans woman from Mexico’s Veracruz state who the U.S. has granted asylum, is among those who participated in the march.

She told the Los Angeles Blade during an interview in Lafayette Square after the march that she spent 13 months in ICE custody at three Georgia detention centers — the Atlanta City Detention Center, the Irwin County Detention Center and the Stewart Detention Center — before her release in 2013. Sánchez, who founded Community Estrella, an Atlanta-based organization that advocates for ICE detainees who identify as LGBTQ, said she and other trans ICE detainees face inadequate access to health and solitary confinement, among other things.

“I know first hand what they felt,” said Sánchez, referring to the three trans women who died in ICE custody or immediately after their release. “I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy to be in a jail.”

“Our only crime is to seek opportunities, to seek refuge, to seek protection, to seek security,” she added.

Sánchez also had a message for President Biden.

“Listen, because the people are continuing the fight,” said Sánchez. “You have promised to support the LGBT community and you are really forgetting the immigrant community.”

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Chaos erupts at Virginia school board meeting over trans students rights

Two people arrested, two others injured

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Screenshot via WJLA ABC 7 News Washington

LEESBURG, Va. — The Loudoun County School Board abruptly ended its meeting Tuesday as chaos erupted after parents who were against the school district’s implementation of Policy 8040 failed to observe rules regarding disruptions and decorum.

Loudoun Now reports Vice Chair Atoosa Reaser made the motion to curtail public comment about an hour after that portion of the meeting began. A brawl then broke out between members of the public, and Loudoun County Sheriff’s Department deputies were called to clear the room. 

Two people were arrested, and two people also suffered minor injuries. The names of those who were taken into custody and injured have not been made public.

The school board resumed its meeting at 6:30 p.m. after it ended the public comment session and deputies cleared the room. The school board entered into closed session to meet with legal counsel and discuss negotiations involving a bid award.

In light of the events that transpired at the school board meeting, a group of LGBTQ groups in neighboring Fairfax County in a statement called upon prominent community members to condemn the anti-transgender hate in Loudoun County.

“A coalition of organizations based in Northern Virginia is calling on local officials … to condemn the rise of anti-LGBTQIA+ hate, in particular animosity towards transgender and gender-expansive students, on display in Loudoun County,” reads the statement 

“In addition, the coalition is asking for the denouncement of support for this hate from other local groups, including the Fairfax County Republican Committee, the Family Foundation of Virginia and the Family Research Council,” it adds. “Finally, the members of these organizations are requesting visible displays of support for LGBTQIA+ students, particularly trans and gender-expansive students, in both words and deeds.”

More than 300 people attended the school board meeting, with many of them opposing Policy 8040 which would allow transgender students to use their preferred name and pronouns regardless of the name and gender in their permanent education record. The proposed policy would also not require them to provide any substantiating evidence.

Parents also expressed their support for Policy 8040 during the public comment session.

They spoke in favor of inclusivity and equality in the Loudoun County School District.

Parents who were against the policy cited the need to respect biology and privacy as their arguments. In addition, some speakers, including former state Sen. Dick Black expressed anger at the previous school year’s events such as the suspension of physical education teacher Tanner Cross after he refused to refer to trans students using their preferred pronouns.  

“The crowd repeatedly cheered public speakers who lashed out at school board members and denounced the plan that would provide bathroom and locker room access based on a student’s gender identity,” WTOP News reports.

Only 51 of the 249 speakers who had signed up for public comment ended up speaking before Reaser’s motion was passed.

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Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards vetoes trans youth sports bill

Discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana

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Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) (Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana’s Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday that he has vetoed a measure that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools. 

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

Further, it would make life more difficult for transgender children, who are some of the most vulnerable Louisianans when it comes to issues of mental health. We should be looking for more ways to unite rather than divide our citizens. And while there is no issue to be solved by this bill, it does present real problems in that it makes it more likely that NCAA and professional championships, like the 2022 Final Four, would not happen in our state. For these and for other reasons, I have vetoed the bill.”

The Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper’s State House reporter, Blake Paterson, noted that [the law] would have required athletic teams or sporting events for women at public institutions be composed only of “biological females,” or those who presumably were listed as female on their birth certificates.

The measure won Senate approval 29-6 and cleared the House 78-19. Those margins are wide enough to override a governor’s veto, though it’s unclear whether lawmakers will return to Baton Rouge to do so.


“Governor Edwards deserves enormous credit for urging Louisianans to reject the politics of division and to focus on what brings us together, including a shared concern for vulnerable children. As his veto message rightly notes, transgender youth already face huge challenges,” Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, (NCLR) told the Blade in an email. “Banning them from school sports would not make any child’s life better or safer, but it would bring discredit and economic hardship to the state, which likely would lose NCAA and professional championships. Governor Edward’s veto message is a model of clarity and compassion. We need more leaders with his courage.”

The ACLU reacted in a tweet saying:

 

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