Twelve years ago, the nascent intersex movement was still trying to find its way in a world where few people knew what intersex was, and fewer people were openly talking about their own intersex status. The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) was still going strong, and a few diagnosis-specific organizations were starting to turn up on the internet to provide support and information about specific types of intersex to those affected and their families. Two years earlier in 2002, Bodies Like Ours came on line in an effort to reach out to intersex people by providing an online forum and information about intersex that was not focused on specific traits but, rather, the experience and state of intersex – what it means to be born with a body that that doesn’t fit the standard definitions of what it means to be male or female.
Sometime in mid-2003, Emi Koyoma, who had worked at ISNA and was by then running a website of her own called The Portland Intersex Initiative, or IPDX, and I, Betsy Driver, co-founder of Bodies Like Ours, started to kick around some ideas on how to get more media attention about intersex, and how to get campus organizations to host a speaker or perhaps some other type of informational session about intersex. We decided that we needed to come up with a day to recognize intersex and some of those behind the movement.
It didn’t take us long to come up with October 26. I think it was Emi who came up with the date. It was the anniversary of a 1996 ISNA protest, under the banner of Hermaphrodites with Attitude, and in conjunction with allies from Transexual Menace, in Boston where the American Academy of Pediatrics was holding their annual meeting. We quickly agreed the demonstration would be the day we recognized and set forth to building a website and sending out some press releases.
We framed Intersex Awareness Day as a grassroots effort to raise awareness around intersex. We encouraged other organizations to join in with it. In short, we put it out there in the hopes that different groups and different people would somehow take up the banner and make it into something. That first year, 2003, nothing much came of it. We didn’t even launch the website until less than a month before October 26th.
We did, however, make it into the syndicated News Of The Weird that first year. While that may seem at first to have been an affront, they actually did us a huge favor by printing that little blurb trying to make light of our idea; it gave us incredible exposure since Weird News was a syndicated service and went out to thousands of print outlets. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to get publicity.
Once 2004 came along, word had spread about Intersex Awareness Day. Events were planned throughout the world by different advocates and were taking place in community forums, on campuses, and in community centers.