AIC Announces E.D. Transition & Staff Changes

AIC has an exciting announcement! Anne Tamar-Mattis will begin working full time as AIC’s Legal Director, and Kimberly Zieselman will be stepping up to the position of Executive Director on September 1, 2014.Please read letters from both Anne and Kimberly below: Dear friends, I’m going to tell you a secret:  I never really wanted to be an Executive Director.  I went to law school because I wanted to practice law, and by the end of law school I knew that defending the rights of children with intersex traits or differences of sex development would be an important part of my career.  I founded AIC and became its Executive Director because there simply was no other organization that had the capacity to do that work.  While I have been both humbled and honored to have the opportunity to work in service to this community, there is much in the job of E.D. that is not about practicing law.  That is what I love to do, and I have often wished that I could devote more of my time to lawyering on behalf of the community. Now, I have that opportunity.  For the last year, I have been working closely with Kimberly … Continue reading

“Love is the Best Medicine”: Why I am Proud of my Intersex Family

Earlier this month (6/1/14) Arlene Baratz, AIC Board member, spoke at Sunnyhill Unitarian Universalist Church (Pittsburgh, PA) and gave an inspiring speech raising intersex awareness in honor of Pride month. Read to uncover Arlene’s personal journey with intersex as she describes what it was like to complete medical school and the surprise she had when her daughter turned six. I’m honored to be here as we kick off Pride Week, celebrating the diversity of sexuality and gender in our community. This has been an exciting year for LGBT rights, with the Supreme Court declaring the DOMA unconstitutional last June, the US Census Bureau recognizing married LGBT couples as families, and our own governor allowing marriage equality to stand in PA. This was hard to imagine in 2008 when California passed Proposition 8 restricting marriage to “one-man-one-woman.” It looks like we will all finally have the legal right to marry and create families with whomever we love.  And equal heath care is on the horizon too. After an investigation showing that LGBT people’s health is worse than it should be, our government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded a huge new research project to find out why this is so and … Continue reading

Turning the Lens Inward: Interview with Anne Tamar-Mattis

AIC is proud to share the first in a series of interviews with key leaders and supporters who have helped make AIC the strong organization we are today! To kick off the series and in celebration of her upcoming 45th Birthday, our first interview is with AIC Executive Director Anne Tamar-Mattis: 1.     How did you become involved with or what’s your first memory of hearing about AIC? I founded AIC!  The idea for a legal project grew out of a paper I wrote in law school, but I had been an ally of the intersex community ever since I met my spouse, Suegee, in the early 90’s.  It was the beginning of the intersex movement, and through Suegee I met many other intersex activists and leaders.  When I went to law school, many of my intersex friends asked me why it was that the law had done so little to protect them as children.  I began to investigate, and learned that there was a lot we could do through legal advocacy to protect the rights of children with intersex traits.  But there was no organization with specialized knowledge of intersex issues that had ever tried to take on this issue.  Once I realized that, I knew we had to … Continue reading

M.C. v Aaronson, One Year Out

One year ago today, Advocates for Informed Choice filed lawsuits in state and federal court in South Carolina on behalf of “M.C.”, a young boy with an intersex condition who had been subjected to irreversible genital surgery while in state custody in an effort to make his body appear female. It’s been quite a year. I especially want to recognize the courage and strength of M.C.’s parents, Pam and Mark Crawford. They are busy parents, who now have the additional job of helping their child make sense of what was done to him before they adopted him, when he was too young to have a voice. They are not the kind of people who love the spotlight. But they bravely stood up for their son, and they handled the onslaught of media attention that followed with grace and with obvious love for their child. They wanted to make sure that what happened to their son didn’t happen to other children. As Pam Crawford said, “We hope that by speaking out and taking legal action, we will help other children born with intersex conditions and their families avoid suffering the pain that our son will be forced to deal with for … Continue reading

The Journey My Mother Missed

Like so many others I encountered this past Easter Sunday, I took time out of my celebration to visit my mother’s grave and to take some of my spring rose garden’s first blooms to honor her and remind myself of the promise of Easter. In my faith, this holiday reminds me that there is life after death and that transcendence and transformation will come from struggle and strife in this journey we call life.   My mother passed away almost ten years ago. In the past decade so much has happened for me personally as an Intersex person. Somehow, in the divine planning of my life, whether you call it fate or a preordained master plan, her departure from this world seemed to coincide with my finally beginning the process of reconciling my unique life circumstance that had gone unexamined or understood for far too long up to that point. In the spring of 2004, just months before my mother would succumb to decline from Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicted her very early in life, I made my first attempts at reaching out to find others “like me.” The world was just getting connected using a relatively new medium called the … Continue reading

AIC on Huff Post Live with host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin

Watch AIC’s April 21st, all star panel on Huff Post Live including Board Members Sean Saifa and Dr. Arlene Baratz and staff  Pidgeon Pagonis and Anne Tamar-Mattis with fantastic host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin.  If you have not yet seen these amazing folks in actions, now’s your chance–it will be the best 20 minutes of your day!    

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