Founded in 2012, The Houston Intersex Society (THIS) is an all-volunteer BIPOC led Houston-based grassroots non-profit organization for, by, and about intersex people.
An intersex person is someone born with a body that has anatomical, hormonal, and/or genetic traits that are in between the typical definitions of male and female. The estimated rate of those noticeably intersex at birth is 1.7% of the population. The social and medical practice of categorizing people into a sex and gender binary has alarming human rights-violating consequences for intersex bodies. People with intersex variations face shame, stigma, discrimination, and violence. Intersex infants and children are widely subjected to traumatic non-consensual cosmetic genital surgeries, invasive unnecessary examinations, and other forced medical interventions, with life-long consequences, including sterilization and irreversible genital mutilation. There are very few legal frameworks to protect intersex people from multiple forms of discrimination, institutional violence, and human rights violations.
Both co-founders of THIS knew each other as teenagers in an LGBT youth group, but because of shame, stigma, and secrecy, neither one was open about their intersex status. They were both isolated and in need of community and kindred spirits. They reconnected as adults at a local community center and upon learning that they both felt the same isolation while sitting next to each other every Friday night for years as teenagers; they decided to create an organization that very day.
THIS aims to empower and enrich the lives of intersex people while working to end shame and create visibility through education, community events, and the arts.
We created our organization with the intention to be visible to other intersex people, to advocate for those intersex individuals unable to advocate for themselves, to encourage legislation to protect intersex bodies, and to educate medical providers so they can provide adequate care to intersex people. For our intersex community, the most pressing issues are ending medically unnecessary genital surgeries on intersex minors, ensuring access to adequate competent healthcare, and creating legal protections.
THIS’s mission of improving the quality of life for intersex people is accomplished by engaging in advocacy, outreach, education, and visibility through the arts.
We prioritize traditionally under-served people within an already marginalized community and focus on the accessibility needs of intersex people in racial and class demographics that are often overlooked by larger intersex organizations.
THIS provides direct patient advocacy, emergency assistance, and supports community development by hosting regular events and arts programming that increase visibility and awareness. Additionally, THIS hosts an intersex history and art archive and organizes art projects as “iPOCA Collective” (intersex People of Color Artists Collective).
By meeting with officials, assisting with intersex related research projects, educating policy makers, and developing innovative intersex arts programming; THIS has paved the way for meaningful change in the services the community relies upon.