Gender issue bill would affect intersex children in custody of the state 

click to enlarge File photo of Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, in 2013. - PHOTO BY LESLEY WEIDENBENER
  • File photo of Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, in 2013.
  • Photo by Lesley Weidenbener

By Sarah Ramon

Rep. Edward Clere, R-New Albany, hopes his bill about consent for intersex children in state custody will open up a broader discussion on gender issues.

“It’s not a familiar topic,” Clere said. “I’m hoping to spark interest in the issue here in Indiana.”

House Bill 1242 would prevent intersex children in the custody of the state from receiving gender differentiation procedures, unless medically necessary. Juvenile courts would allow those children to provide their own consent if certain conditions are met. The conditions include an evaluation by a psychologist or physician, the provision of full knowledge of risks and benefits of the procedure, and the maturity to provide informed consent.

The bill defines an intersex child as a person under the age of 18 and has the reproductive organs or external sexual characteristics of both a male and a female. The various gender differentiation procedures covered in the bill include any gender assignment surgery, genital surgery or hormonal treatment.

A case in South Carolina influenced Clere to create the bill.

“There was a lengthy piece in the Atlanta Monthly Magazine in 2014. It was about a case in South Carolina in which a child who was in custody of the state of South Carolina underwent gender assignment surgery as an infant and later identified as a male even though the state had decided to surgically alter the child to remove male physical characteristics,” said Clere.

HB 1242 only applies to intersex children in custody of the state of Indiana.

“I wanted to keep the bill very narrowly focused and so I decided to limit it to children who are in the state’s custody,” Clere said. “I didn’t want to get into the issue of parental rights. I think that’s another area that may need to be addressed in the future. But this is simply an attempt to introduce the issue and raise awareness and protect children who are in the state’s custody.”

In the South Carolina case, the intersex child who identifies as a male will never be able to reverse the gender assignment procedure designated for females. Clere believes this bill will aid in avoiding a similar situation in Indiana.

“The idea is to prevent the state from making an irreversible decision for a child and letting the child make that decision at such time as the child has the maturity and understanding to make an informed decision,” said Clere. “Based on my reading about this issue, it’s been common practice for these irreversible procedures to be performed long before a child has any capacity to be involved in making the decision or even the ability to be aware of the condition.”

HB 1242 has been assigned to the Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee.

“I guess I’m hopeful the bill will receive a hearing and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to have a very constructive discussion about it and maybe even use it as a way to open a broader discussion,” said Clere.

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