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January 31, 2023 RAPID RESPONSE

Dotting the “I”s: What Lawyers Should Know About Intersex Variations, Bodily Autonomy, and Policies Impacting the Intersex Community

Legal professionals across the country have witnessed the wave of harmful bills targeting transgender youth in recent sessions, but many don't know that a second community is frequently impacted by these discriminatory efforts as well: intersex children, who have innate variations in their physical sex characteristics that challenge the stereotypes associated with male and female bodies. For the estimated 1.7% of the population with intersex traits, issues like access to sports teams and school restrooms, and mistreatment in healthcare or the workplace, are just as relevant as they are to other communities under the LGBTQI+ umbrella that often suffer discrimination more visibly—but intersex people are frequently left out of these discussions, largely due to a lack of public awareness. The most pressing intersex rights issue is the ongoing practice of harmful, medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex infants and children to forcibly conform their sex characteristics to what is considered "typical" for the sex category to which they are assigned. While these surgeries have taken place in the United States for decades, the first attempts to legitimize the practice in domestic law have emerged only recently: the same state bills that attempt to ban transgender youth from accessing the gender-affirming care that they want and need often make an explicit exception to allow these unnecessary and non-consensual procedures on intersex children to continue. This presentation covers what you need to know about the intersex community and relevant legal issues they face; how current legislative and medical policy trends impact the rights and well-being of intersex youth; and what lawyers and advocates can do to help, concluding with a discussion of proposed ABA Resolution 511 on safeguarding intersex autonomy.


  • Sylvan Fraser, Legal and Policy Director, interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth
  • Erika Lorshbough, Executive Director, interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth


  • Bobbi M. Bittker, Town Councilperson, Bedford, New York; Chair, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee, ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice

Co-Sponsors: ABA Center for Human RightsABA Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice, ABA Council for Diversity in the Educational PipelineABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity



ABA Resolution 511: Safeguarding Intersex Autonomy

Intersex-Inclusive Language and Messaging

interACT Advocates

Human Rights Watch and interACT, "'I Want To Be Like Nature Made Me': Medically Unnecessary Surgeries on Intersex Children in the US"

Rewire News, "Intersex People Want to End Nonconsensual Surgeries. A California Resolution Is Their ‘Warning Shot.’"

Katharine Dalke, Arlene Baratz, and Julie Greenberg, "Protecting Children with Intersex Traits: Legal, Ethical, and Human Rights Considerations"

"Mapping the Intersex Exceptions," interACT's collaboration with HRW and the UNC Human Rights Law Program to track intersex surgery exceptions in the bills restricting gender-affirming care

Out & Equal and interACT, "Supporting Intersex Inclusion in the Workplace"

Harvard Law School LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic and interACT, Intersex Legislative Advocacy Toolkit

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