U.S.

Trump Administration Says It's in Solidarity with Intersex People. But is it?

Intersex_Trump
A LGTB person poses for a picture during a protest of Trump, June 12, 2017, California. Reuters

The Trump administration said Thursday that it supports people born with genitals that don't confirm to typical definitions of male or female, but the statement is nothing but platitudes if there are no government policies to help such intersex children, critics say.

Officially, the State Department acknowledged that intersex persons "face violence, discrimination, harassment, and persecution on account of their sex characteristics," in a statement released for Intersex Awareness Day. The statement also warned of "forced medical surgeries" that are often performed on intersex newborns before they can give their consent or choose their gender identity.

The Trump State Department said it supports a society in which intersex people are "afforded equal protection and opportunity." 

The statement was similar to one put out by former President Barack Obama's administration, which outlawed discrimination against intersex people in healthcare last year. But like his predecessor, President Donald Trump has not pushed any medical guidelines for health professionals working with intersex children, which critics say makes Thursday's statement hollow. 

Roughly 1 in 2,000 children are born with reproductive organs that are neither wholly male or female.

“The paradigm to default to ... medically unnecessary surgeries for intersex children, began here in the United States. But two decades after the controversy, nothing has changed,” said Kyle Knight, a researcher of LGBT issues for Human Rights Watch.

“Trump’s daughter tweeted for [LGTBQ] pride month, and Trump has said he supports LGBT people. But they aren’t following through on their support. The White House has not been a champion for these people, and that’s scary.”

Parents often opt to have their intersex infants operated on and a gender assigned long before a child is old enough to choose his or her own gender identity. This can lead to problems in adulthood, especially if the child feels he or she has been coerced.

Intersex awareness day began in 1996 when human rights advocates protested the annual conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a group that advocates that intersex children be operated on shortly after birth.

Human rights advocates argue that operating on infants' genitalia before they are old enough to walk or talk is detrimental to children’s mental and physical health, and that the government should take the lead in implementing guidelines for medical professionals working with intersex infants.

“This is a bipartisan issue,” Knight said. “There was a bill proposed in Indiana last year to regulate these surgeries, and it was a Republican who introduced it. There are parents who are deeply conservative Christians who believe God made their babies perfect and how dare surgeons play God with their children.”

In the lead-up to Trump’s inauguration, LGTBQ groups and intersex advocates were concerned that the President would abandon them and cut funding for their efforts. Obama’s State Department made LGTBQ rights a pillar of its foreign policy, providing support and funding to advocacy groups abroad.

Trump’s State Department, on the other hand, has a reputation for being understaffed and unconcerned with foreign aid. And since coming to office, Trump announced a controversial ban on transgender people in the military.

Nevertheless, there have been some minor victories for sexual minorities under Trump. This month, the Department of Justice ordered one of its top hate crime lawyers to investigate the murder of a transgender student in Iowa.

Violence against transgender and intersex people is widespread and at least 23 transgender people were murdered this year around the country. 

Editor's Pick