Intersex variations occur (though rarely) in species which use sexual reproduction. Intersex people are born with sex characteristics that lie between those of typical males and typical females. Hermaphrodite is a term that gets confused with intersexual, and while all hermaphrodites are intersexual, not all intersexual people are hermaphrodites. The clinical term 'disorders of sex development' (DSD) is very controversial.
An intersex individual's genitalia may be atypical in some way. It can be difficult to determine if an intersex baby is genetically male or female (with XY chromosomes or XX chromosomes). They may also have male and/or female secondary sex characteristics (such as body shape). However, there is a wide range of variation in sexual anatomy. There are many more subtle forms of sex anatomy, or sex chromosome differences. These don't even show physically. Some won't show up until later in life. Sometimes, the variation may appear when the baby reaches puberty or becomes an adult. It may not even be detected in an individual's lifetime, but as technology gets more advanced, that chance dims down.
Population figures[change | change source]
Up to 1.7% of people may be born with an intersex variation. A child born with genitalia atypical enough to call in an expert occurs in about 1 of 1,500 births. More information on the frequency of different causes is available.
Causes[change | change source]
The most common intersex variation is a hormone condition. This causes genetically female fetuses to have a more masculine body appearance, because the babies' adrenal gland produces higher levels of androgen hormones (hormones that act like testosterone). This may cause the female baby to appear male even to doctors and parents.
Genetic Abnormalities[change | change source]
Some intersex people may be so because of abnormalities with their sex chromosomes, resulting in genetic disorders. One disorder known as Turner's Syndrome, is when instead of having an XX (female) or XY (male) genotype, a person has X0. A person with Turner's Syndrome usually looks like a girl, but they are shorter in height and do not go through puberty, meaning they cannot reproduce.
Another genetic disorder is Klinefelter Syndrome, where a person has an XXY genotype. This disorder affects men, causing infertility, smaller genitalia, and less facial hair. Men with this disorder can have a variety of symptoms which can be so unnoticeable that they may never be diagnosed.
Medical interventions[change | change source]
Surgery may be used on intersex babies to give a more usual cosmetic appearance. This is sometimes thought to make children more normal, but this idea lacks evidence and is contested. Early cosmetic medical interventions can lead to problems in later life, including decreased sexual function and sensation. The children concerned cannot consent to those surgeries, and their parents may not understand the full implications. There is no medical consensus about surgical interventions, including their type, timing, necessity and conduct.
Medical interventions can cause mental and emotional harm to the child when it grows and begins to go through puberty. Children may not feel like they are the gender that is assigned to them by their parents or doctors, causing issues with gender identity. Some people believe it is best to leave the genitalia as it is when the child is born and allow them to make decisions about it when they are old enough.
Human rights[change | change source]
Civil society organizations and human rights experts have called for an end to medical interventions on intersex children that are carried out for social reasons. United Nations and other human rights experts regard these medical treatments as harmful.
In 2011, Christiane Völling became the first intersex person known to win a legal case taken because of non-consensual surgical intervention. In April 2015, Malta became the first country to end medical interventions to modify the sex anatomy of intersex children.
Activism[change | change source]
As intersexuality becomes more recognized all over the world, there are many activist groups created to promote recognizing and supporting members of this community. One major activist group known as the Intersex Society of North America, or INSA, teaches people what intersexuality is and the harms of children having gender assignment surgery without their permission to consent.
One of the major issues intersex people face is other people who are not intersex making them feel uncomfortable about their sex and gender. Intersex people may not feel the need to identify themselves at all in their lifetimes, preferring to maintain ambiguity. However, those who are not a part of this community feel as though people need to chose and be more clear about their genitalia. This invasion of privacy is often protested against and discussed by activist groups who believe intersex people are allowed to be private and deserve to be treated the same as those who are not intersex.
References[change | change source]
- Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. "United Nations for Intersex Awareness". Retrieved 2016-11-12.
- "Free & Equal Campaign Fact Sheet: Intersex" (PDF). United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 2015. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- "What is intersex?". ISNA. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
- Davis, Georgiann (11 September 2015). Contesting Intersex: The Dubious Diagnosis. New York University Press. pp. 87–89. ISBN 978-1479887040.
- Holmes, Morgan (September 2011). "The Intersex Enchiridion: Naming and Knowledge". Somatechnics. 1 (2): 388–411. doi:10.3366/soma.2011.0026. ISSN 2044-0138. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
- Senate of Australia; Community Affairs References Committee (2013). Involuntary or coerced sterilisation of intersex people in Australia. Australian Senate. Canberra. ISBN 978-1-74229-917-4.
- "How common is intersex? | Intersex Society of North America". Isna.org. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
- Blackless, Melanie; Charuvastra, Anthony; Derryck, Amanda; Fausto-Sterling, Anne; Lauzanne, Karl; Lee, Ellen (March 2000). "How sexually dimorphic are we? Review and synthesis". American Journal of Human Biology. 12 (2): 151–166. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1520-6300(200003/04)12:2<151::AID-AJHB1>3.0.CO;2-F. ISSN 1520-6300. PMID 11534012.
- Kolodny, Robert C.; Masters, William H.; Johnson, Virginia E. (1979). Textbook of sexual medicine (1st ed.). Boston: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-50154-9.
- Reference, Genetics Home. "Turner syndrome". Genetics Home Reference. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
- Reference, Genetics Home. "Klinefelter syndrome". Genetics Home Reference. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
- Lee, Peter A.; Nordenström, Anna; Houk, Christopher P.; Ahmed, S. Faisal; Auchus, Richard; Baratz, Arlene; Baratz Dalke, Katharine; Liao, Lih-Mei; Lin-Su, Karen; Looijenga, Leendert H.J.; Mazur, Tom; Meyer-Bahlburg, Heino F.L.; Mouriquand, Pierre; Quigley, Charmian A.; Sandberg, David E.; Vilain, Eric; Witchel, Selma; and the Global DSD Update Consortium (2016-01-28). "Global Disorders of Sex Development Update since 2006: Perceptions, Approach and Care". Hormone Research in Paediatrics. 85 (3): 158–180. doi:10.1159/000442975. ISSN 1663-2818. PMID 26820577. S2CID 29118431. Retrieved 2016-01-30.
- Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics NEK-CNE (November 2012). On the management of differences of sex development. Ethical issues relating to "intersexuality".Opinion No. 20/2012 (PDF). 2012. Berne.
- Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (October 24, 2016), Intersex Awareness Day – Wednesday 26 October. End violence and harmful medical practices on intersex children and adults, UN and regional experts urge
- Council of Europe; Commissioner for Human Rights (April 2015), Human rights and intersex people, Issue Paper
- Liao, Lih-Mei; Wood, Dan; Creighton, Sarah M (28 September 2015). "Parental choice on normalising cosmetic genital surgery". The BMJ. 351: –5124. doi:10.1136/bmj.h5124. ISSN 1756-1833. PMID 26416098. S2CID 20580500. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
- Valentine, David; Wilchins, Riki Anne (1997). "One Percent on the Burn Chart: Gender, Genitals, and Hermaphrodites with Attitude". Social Text (52/53): 215–222. doi:10.2307/466740. ISSN 0164-2472. JSTOR 466740.
- ILGA-Europe (December 2, 2013). Public statement by the third international intersex forum. Malta.
- International Commission of Jurists. "In re Völling, Regional Court Cologne, Germany (6 February 2008)". Retrieved 27 December 2015.
- Reuters (1 April 2015). "Surgery and Sterilization Scrapped in Malta's Benchmark LGBTI Law". The New York Times.
- Government Gazette Archived 2011-06-09 at the Wayback Machine, Republic of South Africa, Vol. 487, Cape Town, 11 January 2006.
- Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013, No. 98, 2013, ComLaw, C2013A00098, 2013.
- On the historic passing of the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013 Archived 2014-10-06 at the Wayback Machine, Organisation Intersex International Australia, 25 June 2013.
- Malta (April 2015), Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act: Final version
- Cabral, Mauro (8 April 2015). "Making depathologization a matter of law. A comment from GATE on the Maltese Act on Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics". Global Action for Trans Equality. Archived from the original on 4 July 2015. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
- OII Europe (1 April 2015). "OII-Europe applauds Malta's Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act. This is a landmark case for intersex rights within European law reform". Retrieved 3 July 2015.
- Intersex Society of North America. CityTV (Firm) (2001), Intersex: redefining sex., Intersex Society of North America, OCLC 48584948, retrieved 2019-12-04