Why do we have a day of solidarity?

Intersex Day of Solidarity marks the birth on November 8th of Herculine Barbin. Herculine was a historical intersex person who documented her life in memoirs all while her sex was policed by legal and medical systems.

This day of solidarity on her birthday was first called for by Organisation Intersex International, a global network of intersex organizations. All people invested in intersex human rights are encouraged to show intersex solidarity.

Today interACT recognizes Intersex Day of Solidarity by lifting up our global partners across the world. Our Director of Engagement, Bria-Brown King, shares why global solidarity is critical for intersex freedom.

Intersex activists from around the world pose for a group photo at the ILGA World 2022 Conference held in Long Beach California.

1) Why do we think about international solidarity on the Intersex Day of Solidarity?

Brown-King: The movement to protect intersex bodily autonomy and an intersex person’s right to self-determination is a global movement. While November 8th is a day to honor and remember the life of Herculine Barbin of France, it is also a day to honor and remember intersex people from countries around the world who have resiliently fought the societal belief that intersex bodies need to be “fixed.” The desire to have our human rights protected exists beyond geographical borders.

Many international human rights organizations, such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch condemn non-consensual surgeries on intersex children and acknowledge them as human rights abuses

Around the world many intersex people share the experience of trauma and discrimination as a result of our intersex traits. Despite the distance between us, intra-movement solidarity provides an opportunity for us to organize around those shared experiences.  We reclaim our dignity, reminding the world that intersex people have always existed throughout history and we’re here to stay.

2) Why think globally when we consider the future of the intersex movement?

Brown-King: Thinking about the future of the intersex movement from a global perspective is important because it requires us to examine intersex issues, strategies and barriers to justice through different frameworks. As intersex activists we examine these issues through a human rights framework

Unfortunately, there’s no global consensus among the respective governments responsible for enforcing human rights laws that the human rights of intersex people are being violated. What happens when  governments fail to protect the people’s basic human rights? According to philosopher John Locke, the people have the right to start a revolution. That revolution, for us, looks like dismantling harmful beliefs about sex and gender—how “biological sex” and gender is dependent on and determined by the body parts a person has. Herculine Barbin and so many others have been challenging this mindset for centuries, and yet society still clings to it.

In many countries including the United States, intersex issues are seen largely as medical “disorders” that need to be corrected through medical interventions. There isn’t much of a focus on the human rights and bodily autonomy of the individual. Though through advocacy efforts we continue to see positive movement in the US within the government and at individual institutions–we celebrate the wins big and small. Globally we celebrate the wins of others, like this year’s intersex rights law in Kenya and a ban on intersex genital mutilation in Greece.

There’s no one-size fits all approach to intersex advocacy in the global context. The approach that advocates might choose to employ in the Global North might look very different than the approach that advocates in the Global South utilize. In some regions aligning intersex issues within the context of the broader LGBTQ+ movement is a good strategy, while in other regions this could be detrimental and counterproductive. While we are all fighting the same fight, we may be required to deploy different strategies to achieve our desired outcomes. The future of the intersex movement requires meaningful transnational collaboration to effectively support the needs of intersex people around the globe.