In the human population, approximately 1.7% of people are born with sex traits (including a set of chromosomes, gonads and genitals) that do not fit the typical definitions for male and female bodies, i.e. intersex people. This number is comparable to the number of people born with red hair. That is, in Ukraine, with its population of 46 million people, there are almost 800 thousand intersex people.
Intersex people were known in all historical epochs, in the religious cultures of Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity. In the 17th century, the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church Petro Mohyla had a special prayer in his liturgical book, which said: we shall baptize this baby as a human being. Once the baby grows up, reaches maturity and willingly becomes a member of the church, they may have a freedom to identify themselves and choose their name. Hence, Ukraine has got a deeply held tradition of recognition and respect to people who are different from others.
At present, however, intersex people still remain down the sideline: unrecognized, excluded from public life, stigmatized, while their rights to physical integrity, quality healthcare, labor rights, as well as respect for their honor and dignity continue to be violated. The vast majority of intersex people do not know about their distinctiveness simply because of the lack of awareness among health professionals and in the society at large, as well as poor diagnostic methods. In general, there is a poor understanding or knowledge in the Ukrainian society about intersex people and what makes them different from the others. There is no understanding of the deeply rooted medical, psychological, educational, social and legal problems that these people face from birth, as well as the problems faced by parents of intersex children.
One of the most dramatic problems in Ukraine is the continued practice of the barbarian surgical interventions performed on intersex infants and children, with no medical reason, with no reason other than to simply “cut off the useless” or to “shape up what is missing”, in order to “regularize” sexual traits. In the civilized world, such surgeries have been recognized as redundant, harmful, mutilating and causing irreparable damage to both physical and mental health. Simply put, such a surgery cannot transform a naturally intersex person into an “ordinary man or woman”.
Also visit the photo exhibition “Beauty and Dignity of Intersex People” currently held at the Museum of History of Kyiv, featuring the works of photographers Katya Repina from New York and Carla Moral from Spain. They travelled around the world for many years, taking photos and collecting impressive stories of intersex people. Articles with their photos were published in The Washington Post, NY Times, Vogue, and The Time.
Main photo: photo from the exhibition