Is Austria ready to break the taboo on intersex people? 

Neither male nor female but rather somewhere in between --  almost 2% of the population is born intersex. It is as common as red hair and yet hardly anyone talks about it publically.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Is Austria ready
to break the taboo on intersex people?  - NewsMavens
Hanne Gaby Odiele. An intersex top model.

Why this story matters:

"The world is colorful! The social norms are not," claims the position paper of the Association of Intersex People of Austria (VIMÖ), founded in 2013. Their situation is a topic hardly ever discussed publically and considered to be a taboo. Every year, 20 to 25 Austrian newborns cannot be classified within the binary sex system. They are somewhere in between and thus intersex.

Being intersex is not a disease but is often treated as such. The current legislation and the state of medical knowledge allow for infants and children to be subjected to irreversible sex-altering surgeries, when they are too young to consent.

"Few families openly deal with the fact that their child is intersex. Most of them are only able to think in binary categories," Stefan Riedl explains.

He is a pediatrician at the MedUniversity Vienna and deals with variants of sexual development. Our goal should be to prevent doctors from opting for early surgery, he claims.

The Austrian Bioethics Commission recommends something similar. In the future, intersex people should be protected from medical interventions that do not correspond to their own wishes, according to a recent statement by an advisory committee for the federal Chancellor.

The decision of the German Constitutional Court to introduce the third gender in the birth register caused quite a stir recently. Such changes, which are already implemented in Australia and Nepal, could soon become a reality in Austria. The Austrian Constitutional Court has announced its decision in this regard for 2018.

In my article "Our child is inter", I tell the story of Tobias Humer and his parents, who are committed to the visibility and freedom of choice of intersex people in Austria. They fight to finally break the taboo on intersex persons.

Details from the story:

  • Every year, 20 to 25 Austrian newborns cannot be classified within the binary sex system. They are somewhere in between and thus intersex.
  • A study published in the American Journal of Human Biology estimates that 1.7% of the world's population is intersex.
  • Being intersex is innate but not always visible from birth. It manifests itself in the set of chromosomes, in the gonads or in the primary or secondary sexual characteristics.
  • Being intersex is not a disease but is often treated as such. The current legislation and the state of medical knowledge allow for infants and children to be subjected to irreversible sex-altering surgeries, when they are too young to consent.
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