Between 1 and 2 percent of all children are born with variations in their genitalia and sexual anatomy, something that is known by the term “Intersexuality”, or differences in sexual traits or reproductive anatomy of an individual.
When babies are intersex, doctors offer parents to perform surgical interventions to modify their anatomy. These surgeries generally occur by 2 years of age. And yet, in many cases, these types of interventions – such as surgery to cut the clitoris, create a vagina for penetrative sex, remove hormone-producing organs, or move a working urinary opening – are medically unnecessary.
Those who criticize the practice at such an early age argue that many times such surgeries are performed without a discussion and a complete description of the details and consequences of the operation and without the children being able to participate in the decision that will affect the rest of their lives.
The consequences of these interventions include extreme scarring, chronic pain, chronic incontinence, loss of sexual sensation, post-traumatic stress disorder, misassignment of gender, and the need for additional surgeries to treat complications from the original surgery.
Doctors, patients and experts on the subject agree on the importance of wait before operating on children at such a young age.
“These surgeries have to stop,” he said. Beatriz Valenzuela, spokesperson for Equality California (https://www.eqca.org/) in an interview with The opinion. Valenzuela highlighted the need for parents to make an informed decision and for children to be consulted. “At two they are babies, they can’t even speak,” he reflected.
In the Latino community there is a lot of stigma around the issue. For some Latino parents intersex is something totally unknown and they end up leaving such an important decision in the hands of the doctor.
“These surgeries have been done for decades. In the past, in many cases, the parents did not even know, it was a decision that the doctors made on their own, ”he said.
Last week, Scott wiener, Democratic Senator from San Francisco, California, introduced the bill SB 225 (Bodily Autonomy, Dignity and Choice Act) that will allow children and their families to make a decision, once the person is old enough to determine if the change in their sexual anatomy is appropriate for them.
Valenzuela explained that the bill requires wait until children are 6 years old to perform such surgeries. In this way, girls and boys have the opportunity to participate in the decision, and parents can know and evaluate their children more realistically.
“People should have the opportunity to make informed decisions about their own bodies rather than having those decisions made for them and without their opinion,” said Senator Scott Wiener. “This legislation It gives children and their families more time to research and choose whether or not to participate in non-emergency surgeries to irreversibly change a child’s sexual characteristics. We must empower people to make important health care decisions for themselves, especially when health care decisions are associated with a person’s gender assignment and can result in long-term pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and loss of sexual sensation. The intersex community is leading this movement and I am proud to work with a broad coalition of health, civil rights and LGBTQ advocates to get this legislation passed, ”he added.
If approved, SB 225 will delay proceedings to shrink the clitoris, create vaginas, and remove hormone-producing tissues that are often performed in babies, such as clitoroplasty, or reduction or recession of the clitoris; gonadectomy, or procedure to lengthen or divert the urethra from its native orifice; vaginoplasty or mobilization of the urogenital sinus and vaginal exteriorization.
Many adults who underwent these surgeries as infants have expressed deep concern and distress about the procedures. The intersex community is leading the movement to ensure that regardless of a person’s gender identity growing up, all people born with a unique sexual anatomy can have a voice in major healthcare options.
Organizations such as the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and the World Health Organization agree that these surgeries can be harmful and should only be an option when the person can participate in an informed decision.
Valenzuela highlighted the importance of parents making informed decisions and that children can participate.
If you have questions, or need more information, you can visit:
Latino Equality: http://www.latinoequalityalliance.org/