Major children’s hospital becomes first to apologise for ‘harmful and wrong’ cosmetic genital surgeries on intersex babies

Intersex justice activists

A major children’s hospital in the US has become the first in the nation to apologise for performing unnecessary genital surgeries on intersex babies.

After a years-long advocacy campaign backed by Indya Moore, Angelica Ross and Gabrielle Union, the Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago finally acknowledged that its policy of operating on intersex babies was “harmful and wrong”.

Over the years the hospital had performed countless unnecessary procedures, such as clitoral reductions, castration and vaginoplasties, to make children conform to gendered social norms. It has now agreed to end this unless medically necessary.

“We empathise with intersex individuals who were harmed by the treatment that they received according to the historic standard of care and we apologise and are truly sorry,” the hospital’s top doctors said in a statement.

They thanked the “brave individuals” who spoke out about the harmful standard of care and assured them that the Sex Development Clinic now “recognises this truth”.

The statement went on to say that the hospital is “evolving” its policies on intersex care in light of advocates’ testimonials.

Going forward it will not perform any irreversible, medically unnecessary genital procedures, particularly clitoroplasty, until patients can “participate meaningfully in making the decision for themselves”.

The intersex community had long called for an end to such surgeries, pointing out that the biological sex created for them at birth doesn’t always correspond with their gender identity later in life. The high-risk surgeries can also lead to painful physical problems.

Several high-profile LGBT+ advocates boosted a petition to end intersex surgeries at the hospital, which ended up reaching over 46,000 signatures.

Pose star Indya Moore described the procedures as “a form of conversion therapy” and warned they could open the door to other non-consensual ‘therapies’.

Activists attribute Lurie’s apology and policy change in part to the hospital’s own staff speaking up, especially the first employee to do so, Dr Ellie Kim, who tweeted on 13 July about the controversy.

“I think it’s a great step in the right direction,” Kim, who is transgender, told CNN. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, to say the least, but at least for now, in my opinion, it’s a major victory and a major step forward.”