Intersex people suffer human rights violations and discrimination in Germany – from medically unnecessary, harmful interventions to everyday exclusion. In this photo series, six people share their experiences and their hopes for political and social change.
Intersex people are born with a variation in sex characteristics, so their bodies cannot be assigned to the prevailing definitions of what is considered male or female. This can include variations in their chromosomes, hormonal balance or the appearance of their genitals.
It is estimated that 1.7% of children worldwide are born with sex characteristics that are not aligned with the conventional idea of what is considered to be a girl’s or a boy’s body.
Growing up as they are
On the whole, intersex people are healthy. However, only a few of them are allowed to grow up as they are. In Germany most intersex children are operated on or undergo hormonal treatment – without any medical necessity for these interventions.
This common medical practice attempts to seemingly ‘normalise’ those children whose sex characteristics are considered ‘ambiguous’. Thus begins the ordeal for the people concerned: testicles are removed; an enlarged clitoris surgically reduced. Sometimes the vagina or penis are remodelled. Typically, several operations are performed over a number of years. They cause pain, scars and nerve damage, and can lead to the loss of sensitivity in the sex organs. Removing a person’s gonads causes sterility, and means they will need to take artificial hormones for the rest of their life. But most importantly, sex-assignment interventions are irreversible and cause survivors to suffer serious, lifelong physical and emotional harm.
No interventions on healthy intersex children
All this is known, yet the interventions in Germany remain common medical practice. From Amnesty International’s perspective, these are human rights violations. Intersex people have a right to health, self-determination and bodily integrity. These interventions on healthy children must be stopped.
Instead, the treatments should be postponed until the people concerned are old enough to participate meaningfully in the decision-making process and give their informed consent to potential interventions.
Listening to intersex people
In daily life intersex people are constantly confronted with confusion, prejudice and ignorance whether when checking in at the airport, paying at the supermarket checkout or registering with the medical practice. Whenever forms of ID supposedly don’t match the person, intersex people have to give a public explanation on the spot. This is also often the case where no unisex toilets are available.
In this photo series, Anjo, Charlie, D*, Eves, Lucie and Steffi share their personal experiences, their view on intersex and set out their pressing demands for political and social change. Their voices need to be heard to raise awareness and increase acceptance until it is clear to all that everyone has a gender: their own.
Photos: Chris Grodotzki / jib collective
Interviews: Andreas Koob
Illustration: INTER*SHADES © Alex Jürgen*