Parents and Doctors, Hold Off on This 'Devastating' Surgery

Don't operate on intersex kids until they're the age of consent and can fully participate
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 9, 2017 9:40 AM CDT
Parents and Doctors, Don't Operate on Intersex Kids
"The results of these cosmetic surgeries are often catastrophic and the supposed benefits largely unproven."   (Getty Images/knape)

When Kimberly Mascott Zieselman was 15, she had surgery she now says caused "irreversible harm" due to others' "discomfort with difference." In her op-ed for USA Today, Zieselman explains how, as a young teen, she didn't get her period like other girls, and when her parents took her to get examined, doctors made a surprising discovery: She was intersex, meaning a person born with both male and female characteristics. In Zieselman's case, that meant that even though on the outside she appeared female, she had male XY chromosomes and testes (instead of ovaries and a uterus) inside her body. She had androgen insensitivity syndrome, so that her body resisted male sex hormones called androgens and led to an external appearance of being female.

She says her parents agreed, per physician advice, to have her "healthy gonads" taken out, "without my knowledge or consent." She was also placed on a lifelong hormone replacement therapy, as her natural hormones had halted. She says these types of "non-consensual and medically unnecessary procedures" on intersex kids have been common since the '60s, with "often catastrophic" results and "largely unproven" benefits. "We are erased before we can even tell our doctors who we are," she writes. Zieselman believes most doctors and parents think they're doing the right thing—but she notes the "devastating impact" on patients and says "every human rights organization that has considered this practice has condemned it." "The right thing is to wait until an intersex person can participate in these life-altering decisions," she writes. Read the full piece. (More opinion stories.)

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