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Consultation needed on attempts to “fix” intersex children’s genitalia

Several CBA sections urge the federal government to launch a long overdue public consultation on non-consensual, deferrable and medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex children.

Intersex symbol

The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Community, Health Law, Criminal Justice and Child and Youth Law sections communicated this message in a letter to Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth Marci Ien.

In 2019, the CBA Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Community, Health Law, Criminal Justice and Child and Youth Law added their voice to other 2SLGBTQI+ organizations to ask that section 268(3) of the Criminal Code be amended to ban surgeries on intersex children that are deferrable and not medically necessary until the child is old enough to participate meaningfully in the decision.

Noting that as many as 1.7 percent of the world’s population is born with intersex variations (approximately the same number as people born with red hair), the Sections explained that the majority of the differences in intersex variations pose no immediate health risks and should not be treated until the child can participate in the treatment.

“Yet normalizing surgery to make children born with ambiguous genitalia look more typically male or female has been standard practice for decades,” the 2019 letter stated. “The aim has been to spare children from teasing, rejection and stigmatization and to reduce parental concern of social rejection. However well-intentioned, it is increasingly clear that these surgeries may be more harmful than beneficial.”

In 2023 the CBA Sections are repeating the call for public consultation on surgery for intersex children, and to begin this consultation to coincide with Intersex Awareness Day on October 26, 2023. They add that the federal government should adapt its terminology and use “non-consensual, deferrable and medically unnecessary surgeries” instead of “purely cosmetic surgeries” as the latter expression can be used to demean trans people’s efforts to align their sex characteristics with their gender identity.