Advocates for Informed Choice Speaks with philosopher and intersex ally Dr. Ellen Feder about her forthcoming book Making Sense of Intersex: Changing Ethical Perspectives in Biomedicine

Reflecting upon what prompted her to author Making Sense of Intersex: Changing Ethical Perspectives in Biomedicine, American University philosophy professor Ellen Feder explains that she did not initially set out to write a book.  However, after 15 years of study, field research and collaboration with the parents of intersex children, intersex youth, and adults, Feder felt both a commitment and need to do so.  Further, Feder believed that by using the tools of philosophy she could conceive of a new framework to examine ‘the problem of intersex’ or more specifically how it is understood as ‘a thing to be fixed’ within biomedical institutions.  Her book aims to elucidate a new understanding of the ethical violations that have and continue to persist as a consequence of identifying intersex as ‘fixable’.  Making Sense of Intersex also refigures the “problem” of intersex to show that there are many possible sites of intervention beyond the reshaping of children’s bodies.  The book explores ways to help parents adjust to changing expectations and to fully embrace new conceptions of ethical parenting. Feder is a parent herself and a seasoned contributor to discussions on the ethical concerns of the treatment of infants, children and adults with atypical … Continue reading

AIC’s Anne Tamar-Mattis Speaks at Freedom House in Washington DC on Thursday, April 17th

Thursday, April 17th, Advocates for Informed Choice founding Executive Director, Anne Tamar-Mattis will speak at Freedom House in Washington, DC at an event entitled, A Discussion on the Human Rights of Intersex Persons: Deepening Awareness and Strengthening Activism.  The event, which will begin at 10:30 am and concludes at noon will also feature philosopher and American University Professor Dr. Ellen Feder, and  intersex activist Karen Walsh.  It will be moderated by Chloe Schwenke,  Vice President for Global Programs of Freedom House. Freedom House has provided this event overview: While there is growing interest in and commitment to the protection and promotion of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, most people have only a minimal understanding of the issues and priorities that distinguish the “I” population. By engaging with two key intersex allies – one a leading activist and the other a prominent academic, and with the input from a highly respected “out” intersex activist, Freedom House invites you to a long-overdue discussion with profound human rights content.  Founded in 1941, Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world.  It was the first US organization to champion the advancement of freedom globally.  Freedom House’s headquaters … Continue reading

South Carolina Court Rejects Attempt to Delay Justice for M.C.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A South Carolina court has rejected a motion by the state Department of Social Services and two hospitals to delay a case charging that they performed a medically unnecessary sex-assignment surgery on a 16-month-old child. The recent decision by the 5th Judicial Circuit Court means the defendants will now have to answer for their decision to castrate the child known as M.C. without any medical necessity. The defendants had sought to shield themselves from claims of medical malpractice, negligence and gross negligence. “The court’s decision moves M.C. a step closer to justice,” said Kristi Graunke, Southern Poverty Law Center senior supervising attorney. “This ruling holds doctors accountable when they recommend such drastic and irreversible procedures for infants but fail to ensure caregivers are fully informed about the risks and options.” M.C. was born with an intersex condition – a difference in reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definition of male or female. When he was just 16 months old and in the care of the South Carolina Department of Social Services, doctors and department officials decided the child should undergo sex assignment surgery to make M.C. a girl. “Our young client was profoundly harmed … Continue reading

Advocates for Informed Choice Around the Nation: Bringing our work to Long Island’s Youth

Since our inception, Advocates for Informed Choice has prioritized reaching out to and organizing with intersex youth and educating the adults who can most make a difference in their lives. On Friday, March 21st our organization furthered this work: Director of Advancement Kimberly Zieselman and Youth Leadership Coordinator Pidgeon Pagonis presented to 100 school psychologists and social workers in Nassau County, Long Island. The in-service education program led by Kimberly and Pidgeon was convened by the Nassau County Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) which serves the 56 school districts of Nassau County, Long Island and 225,000 K-12 students. Judith Geizhals, PhD, a Long Island based child psychologist and intersex ally, joined AIC for the presentation, specifically helping to make connections between the information Pidgeon and Kimberly provided and the related issues school based counselors are likely to encounter. Kimberly explains, “it was really exciting to be approached for the presentation by Nassau County BOCES Chief Psychologist Nichole Adams as it both illustrates and validates the importance and relevance of intersex issues in their school system.” The two-hour training provided an overview of intersex issues and the most prevalent experiences of intersex children and youth along with the personal stories of the presenters. Kimberly and Pidgeon also introduced … Continue reading

Alice Dreger featured article in Pacific Standard: Do You Have to Pee Standing Up to Be a Real Man?

In February Alice Dreger published an article which explored the construct of gender and the current medical model lack of psych-social support for boys born with hypospadias in Pacific Standard. “Males are sometimes born with a urinary meatus (what kids might call “the pee hole”) somewhere other than the tip of the penis, which can make it difficult to meet this last demand. When a doctor notices it, a newborn lad gets hit with a diagnosis of hypospadias. Parents of boys with hypospadias are often led to believe “corrective” surgery is necessary and worth the risks, however, Urologists don’t typically suggest that, before consenting to surgery, parents talk to the men in the Hypospadias and Epispadias Association” Offering resources and examining the messages we impart to American boys learning about what makes a “real man”: compassion, acceptance, joy, and love.  Read the full article here Alice Dreger is a long time supporter of AIC and professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. She has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. Pacific Standard is a print magazine and website that grapples with the nation’s biggest social, … Continue reading

Birthday story by Mani Bruce Mitchell

Mani Bruce Mitchell, AIC Board Member and Executive Director of Intersex Trust Aotearoa New Zealand (ITANZ)                                   A few weeks ago I was innocently asked when my birthday is.   An innoxious  enough question, but one that left me paralyzed and back dancing in the shadows of my past.   I will be perfectly frank, I mostly hate my own birthday, it’s a day that holds so much pain and memory. In fact  for  most of my adult life I have simply avoided the fact and not ‘celebrated’ or even acknowledged the day.   Last year however I agreed to do something different , it was 60th birthday and I did have a large celebration with people I love and who have supported me, worked with and been near on this extraordinary journey that has been my life.   I can feel an explanation is needed.   I am an intersex person, and as it is for a number of us my birth was a traumatic event that had very little to do with joy or celebration.   I came to know about my … Continue reading


I tore off the first index finger of my right hand whilst hurtling down hill on a mountain bike years ago. I was in Surrey at the time. Well, I was in a pickle, truth be known.   I used to ride hard in those days, and hold the ‘bars like Kenny Roberts: first index finger and thumb gripping the bars, the remainder wrapped around the brake levers. Trouble was I was heading downhill at speed, and airborne. The bike stopped before me, and in compliance with the laws of physics, I took off over the bars, with only my right index finger securing me to the bike. You know the rest.   I got my head stitched at a military hospital after a tank hatch dropped on my bonce. That was in Surrey as well. I can’t say any more. I’m not allowed.   My knee was all my own fault. I went along to support a few chums in a charity sixa-side footy competition, and ended up making up the numbers in the team. I snapped two cruciate ligaments that day, and did irretrievable damage to the cartilage. That really was a bummer. The surgeon told me I … Continue reading

Advocates for Informed Choice & GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality respond to National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health invited comments on critical issues in child development for children and families affected by intersex conditions/DSD.  AIC teamed up with GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality to respond   AIC response to NICHD RFI

2013 a year of Change

What an amazing year it’s been, for AIC and for the intersex/DSD communities!  2013 was a year of unprecedented progress for this movement:  the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture , the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Australian Senate, and the 3rd International Intersex Forum all issued statements unequivocally condemning involuntary genital-normalizing surgery and other human rights violations faced by intersex people.  Australia passed historic legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of intersex status.  Around the globe, intersex people and their allies are increasingly standing up and demanding their human rights, through local movements and through international collaboration.   In the midst of all this excitement, AIC filed the first lawsuit in the United States challenging a medically unnecessary sex assignment surgery on a child with an intersex condition.  The child, known as M.C., was needlessly subjected to irreversible feminizing genital surgery as an infant in the care of the South Carolina Department of Social Services, and now identifies as a boy.  In August, we achieved our first victory in the case when a federal district court ruled that such a procedure could violate the child’s constitutional rights.   We achieved another kind of milestone when the Liberty Hill … Continue reading

Sometimes Today Is The Day It Gets Better by Linda Anfuso

Some days the struggle for acceptance and understanding as an intersex person can seem overwhelming.   For the past thirty years my husband and I have traveled to schools throughout the US and the UK, with enrichment presentations about Diversity. I am intersex, and a lesbian, and he is gay. We are lovingly married to each other in an asexual relationship. We are both writers and artists, and many of our books deal with diversity issues.  We have spoken with hundreds of thousands of young people ranging from eight years old to college students. We tell our students that they can change the world for good. We tell them that it gets better. Some days we wonder if our words are getting through.   Today was an amazing day.   Dennis was meeting with a small group of students from our own local high school, in our own very small New England town library.   He talked about his experiences as a cartoonist and children’s book author, he shared with them how our society pigeonholes and stereotypes everyone, and how this practice can devastate some people.   He talked about his own struggles being ostracized for who and what he … Continue reading