"You can't undo surgery": More parents of intersex babies are rejecting operations

“Gender normalizing” surgeries have been performed on intersex babies and children since at least the 1950s, often in secrecy, without ever telling the children. In the following decades, some people who underwent these surgeries as children began to speak out against them as human rights violations. Some said they had been assigned the wrong gender, while others had endured severe complications, including sexual dysfunction and infertility.

As their stories piled up, advocacy groups began calling for better education and support for parents of intersex children, as well as for limits on these types of operations. The advocates do not oppose surgery for intersex people in general, but they believe that if the goal is more cosmetic than medical, it’s a choice children should be allowed to make for themselves when they’re older.

This view is gaining traction. Three U.S. surgeons general, the United Nations, the World Health Organization, Physicians for Human Rights, the American Academy of Family Physicians, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned medically unnecessary surgery on these children. In August, California became the first state to pass a resolution condemning the operations, though they are still legal there.