• Intersex

Intersex is the “I” in LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual).1

“In the area of 1 in 2,000 people are born intersex. These individuals may have mixed genitalia, meaning some combination of ovaries and testes. This comes about either because ovarian and testicular tissue grow together in the same organ or because a ‘male side’ and a ‘female side’ develop in the body. … But intersex people aren’t transgender and, for the most part, they are not well-understood in our society,” according to npr.org.2

“Once called ‘hermaphrodites’ (a term now considered pejorative and outdated), intersex people are not rare, but they are widely misunderstood. Based on a medical theory popularized in the 1960s, doctors perform surgery on intersex children – often in infancy – with the stated aim of making it easier for them to grow up ‘normal.’ The results are often catastrophic, the supposed benefits are largely unproven, and there are rarely urgent health considerations requiring immediate, irreversible intervention,” according to Human Rights Watch.3

The sourced articles below should provide you more information on intersexuality.

  1. What Is Intersex? A Personal Explainer

    “Filmmaker River Gallo gives us the breakdown of what it means to be intersex. GLAAD defines intersex as ‘an umbrella term describing people born with reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or a chromosome pattern that can’t be classified as typically male or female.’ Gallo shares his experience as an intersex person, hopes for the future, and the importance of education about the intersex community.”

    Lumiere Rostick, advocate.com, 2/21/2019

  2. What’s Intersex?

    “The intersex definition is a person is born with a combination of male and female biological characteristics, such as chromosomes or genitals, that can make it difficult for doctors to assign their sex as distinctly male or female. … If a person is born with intersex genitalia, they might be identified as intersex at birth. For people born with more clearly male or female external genitals, they might not know they’re intersex until later in life, like when they go through puberty. Sometimes a person can live their whole life without ever discovering that they’re intersex.”

    Planned Parenthood Federation of America, plannedparenthood.org, accessed on 6/13/2018

  3. What Is Intersex? An Intersex FAQ By Inter/Act – AIS-DSD Support Group

    “Intersex people are roughly 1 in every 2,000 people. That’s as common as natural born redheads! We’re not rare, just invisible. … Can I use the word hermaphrodite? No. Hermaphrodite is a harmful term that is widely considered a slur, please don’t use it. It’s a stigmatizing word that people associate with having both sets of working genetalia, which is rarely possible in humans, if at all. Some intersex folk have started reclaiming the term, but that is for them to decide and use, not for you.””

    Online Resource, aisdsd.org, accessed on 6/13/2018

  4. First, Do No Harm: Ensuring The Rights Of Children Born Intersex.

    “Many of these children undergo surgery in an effort to ‘normalise’ them, despite the fact that these interventions are often not emergency-driven, invasive and irreversible. These children are too young to consent at the time of the intervention and their parents are often not given adequate information and support to make an informed decision about what is best for their children. Such practices can constitute gross violations of their human rights. … Being intersex is about biological features and not your gender identity per se. It’s not about your sexual orientation either – intersex people have many sexual orientations.”

    Online Resource, amnesty.org, accessed on 6/13/2018

  5. Covering The Intersex Community – interACT Advocates

    “It is crucial that media coverage of intersex people use accurate language rather than relying on outdated and inflammatory language.
    Use: ‘Intersex’ – As in ‘intersex traits,’ ‘intersex variations,’ or ‘intersex bodies.’ … Avoid: ‘Hermaphrodite’
    This term is outdated, medically inaccurate, and is considered derogatory.”

    Online Resource, interactadvocates.org, accessed on 6/13/2018

  6. California Resolution Urges Doctors To Delay Surgery On Intersex Youth

    “A new resolution has been introduced to the California state Legislature, raising the possibility that the state could be the first to try and protect intersex children from what’s known as intersex genital mutilation. The resolution, known as SCR-110, was introduced by state senator Scott Wiener and calls on medical professionals to delay any procedure that is deemed medically unnecessary until an intersex person can decide for themselves if they want surgery.”

    Elly Belle, teenvogue.com, 6/12/2018

  7. We Need To Talk About Intersex Awareness Day

    “My doctor told me that I had Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (PAIS), which is one of thirty intersex traits. I was assigned male at birth but my body does not respond to testosterone as often as other males and this led to breast development as well as a lack of hair growth on my body and just a slight deepening of my voice during puberty. If you don’t know what any of this intersex talk means let’s start by defining it! InterACT Advocates for Intersex Youth defines intersex as an umbrella term that refers to people who have one or more of a range of variations in sex characteristics that fall outside of traditional conceptions of male or female bodies. … About 1 in every 2000 babies born are intersex; that’s equivalent to about 1.7% of the world’s population.”

    Jonathan Leggette, glaad.org, 10/26/2017

  8. Stop Performing Nonconsensual, Medically Unnecessary Surgeries On Young Intersex Children

    “The procedures are done before it is possible for the individual child to consent or even communicate their gender to medical providers making legal and medical sex assignments for them. Justified by parents, doctors, and others, at least in part, by a desire to forcibly avoid the future stigma of a perceived nonconforming body, these surgeries can lead to a lifetime of trauma for the intersex infants on whom they are performed.”

    Chase Strangio, aclu.org, 10/26/2017

  9. US: Harmful Surgery On Intersex Children

    “Doctors in the United States continue to perform medically unnecessary surgeries that can inflict permanent harm on intersex children, Human Rights Watch and interACT said in a report released today. Despite decades of controversy over the procedures, doctors operate on children’s gonads, internal sex organs, and genitals when they are too young to participate in the decision, even though the surgeries could be safely deferred.”

    Online Resource, hrw.org, 7/25/2017

  10. Intersex Patients ‘Routinely Lied To By Doctors’

    “Doctors in the UK routinely lied to patients with disorders of sex development known as intersex conditions, the BBC has found. … A child born with CAIS is genetically male but their body does not respond to the hormone testosterone properly, so the external appearance of their genitals will look entirely female. … Malta became the first country to outlaw non-consensual medical interventions on intersex, in 2015. Intersex UK is one of several British organisations now lobbying for corrective surgery to be outlawed in the UK.”

    Dr. Faye Kirkland, bbc.com, 5/22/2017

  11. The ‘I’ In LGBTI Stands For Intersex. Here’s What It Means.

    “You’re probably used to hearing the term ‘LGBT,’ but ‘LGBTI’ might be new to you. … Because intersex people are born with unique biological characteristics, they are different from transgender people, who do not identify with their assigned gender identity. Ironically, many intersex people receive unwanted surgeries and hormone treatments that transgender people have to fight for.”

    ShareAmerica, share.america.gov, 6/14/2016

  12. OutFront: Activist Brings Intersex Rights To Forefront

    “Doctors told Pagonis the cosmetic surgeries were necessary so they could one day have sexual relationships with men, something the 11-year-old had trouble understanding. The surgeries left [Pidgeon] Pagonis desensitized and psychologically scarred with little interest in sex. ‘I was angry and hurt and felt robbed of an opportunity to live a genuine life without all the anger and sadness,’ added Pagonis, who learned about the full extent of the surgeries in college. ‘I didn’t have a complete body. I was ashamed.’ … Pagonis will only be fully satisfied if and when the medical industry stops performing surgeries on children who are intersex. In the meantime, the responses Pagonis receives from the intersex community — including many who are just beginning to come out and tell their stories — are rewarding.”

    Julie Compton, nbcnews.com, 5/31/2016

  13. Why Intersex And Transgender Are Very Different

    “One of the challenges in explaining Intersex is that we often confuse it with transgender. Yet very few people who are transgender are intersex. In many ways, the conditions aren’t even related. Intersex tends to be about reproductive organs that aren’t clearly male or female, while transgender is about a person’s experience of being male or female.”

    Paul Joannides PsyD, psychologytoday.com, 4/30/2016

  14. Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome

    “Androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) is a rare condition that affects the development of a child’s genitals and reproductive organs. A child born with AIS is genetically male, but the external appearance of their genitals may be female or somewhere between male and female. Someone with AIS may benefit from psychological support, and in some cases may have treatment to alter the appearance of their genitals. Most people born with the condition are unable to have children, but they’ll otherwise be perfectly healthy and able to lead a normal life.”

    National Health Service, nhs.uk, 1/14/2016

  15. What Does It Mean To Be Intersex?

    “Other intersex individuals may have genetically inherited chromosomal abnormalities such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, which may result in masculinization of the genitals in people born with XX chromosomes, or androgen insensitivity syndrome, when the body doesn’t respond to testosterone and a person has XY chromosomes and feminized genitalia. If you’ve never heard of intersex, you’re not alone, says Georgiann Davis, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas sociology professor and intersex person, in her October column ‘5 Things I Wish You Knew About Intersex People.’ (You may have heard the old term ‘hermaphrodite,’ but that term is no longer used; it suggests bodies that encompass all male and all female organs at once, which is not the case.)”

    Barbara J. King, npr.org, 11/19/2015

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Footnotes

1. ucdavis.edu, 5/2/2018

2. npr.org, 11/19/2015

3. hrw.org, 7/25/2017