In numerous Native American cultures, there were those identified beyond gender binary, known as Two-Spirit individuals. These were those who combined traditional gender roles (such as weaving, dress, etc), and categorized both within people of binary sex and intersex individuals. During the colonial period, European explorers were aghast and described such practices as "a most brutish and beastly custom," with objections to same sex marriage and blending "traditional" gender roles. Cabeza de Vaca
Rosa Mifsud, an intersex individual, appeared before the Maltese court for requesting a legal gender change. Being initially assigned female at birth, Rosa was granted the request when seen by medical experts to confirm. While this did indeed dictate some notion of individual control of sex, it still leaves question about how far this extends, given the fact only binary genders and biological factors were included.
Prussian states permitted gender change for intersex individuals 18+. Yet again, while it still permitted these individuals some control of their gender determination, yet still focused on binary sex and gender policies.
Urologist David Innes Williams noticed that there was no distinction in textbooks about childhood development and urology, and thus wrote his own book on it titled "The Urology of Childhood." When presented with an intersex child, however, who was labeled a "pseudo-male hermaphrodite," he declared that "For psychological reasons it is obviously important that the boy at school should pass urine like his fellows" (Higgins et al., 1951: 219), and the presented declaration was surgery to allow for standing-up urination. This was just one of many cases of intersex genital mutilation with regards to making the child in question appear "normal."
In the field of sports, there were concerns about individuals "masquerading" as the opposite sex and skewing the results of competition. Starting in the 1960s Rome Olympics, the International Amateur Athletics Federation (AAIF) established conditions for female athletes to participate in sports (genetic testing) - often leading to barring off intersex and transgender individuals.
David Reimer was an individual who was experimented on by Dr. John Money, and was crucial in understanding the unethical treatment of intersex individuals and forced / corrective "gender" treatments. After a failed circumcision, John Money declared it better to "raise him female" and force him into female gender roles. This and the associated abusive behaviors (including forcing him and his brother into "heterosexual sex roles") eventually lead to his suicide.
At the peak of the Intersex Rights Movement, ISNA was formed to support intersex individuals as well as their family and friends. One of the major focuses of this advocacy was campaigning against the unethical treatment of intersex individuals by the health care system, particularly with "corrective" surgery. While it became defunct in 2008, InterAct carries on its legacy.
Intersex advocates Max Beck and Morgan Holmes amidst other ISNA advocates publically demonstrated outside of Boston where the American Association of Pediatrics was meeting. This event was commemorated with Intersex Awareness day.
David Reimer, after enduring abuse from John Money's experimentation, told his story to and collaborated with John Colapinto on a book accounting his experience, titled As Nature Made Him. The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl. Milton Diamond also published against John Money's claims of unwanted sex change being ethical or effective, using David as a prime case study.
Intersexion is a documentary film which interviewed intersex individuals about their experiences. Topics discussed includes "corrective" surgery, the apathy of the medical field, stigmatization and shame behind intersex individuals in their identity, and other hardships faced both socially and medically.