10 Facts To Understanding Intersex Better

When gender is not a boy or a girl: intersex and the situation now

By Caren M
10 Facts To Understanding Intersex Better

What is Intersex

Intersex is an evolutionary term that represents sets of human sex anatomy that defy the bounds of the binary male and female system that is considered ‘normal’.

Intersex people were previously referred to as hermaphrodites or congenital eunuchs. These terms are considered misleading because the term hermaphrodite is used in plants and other organisms to refer to species with both male and female systems. Individuals with intersex characteristics do not have both male and female systems so the term hermaphrodite was wrong to use in the first place.

The Raise Of Awareness of Intersex

Intersex advocates have been active since the 1990s. The establishment of Uk and Australian Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome Support Groups was followed by the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA).

Intersex awareness is gaining awareness with famous people coming out as intersex, like Hanne Gaby Odiele- Belgian supermodel.

Intersex-safe places will show the intersex flag

Nevada legislators have introduced a bill that will ban surgeries on children too young to understand or consent to them, which passed the state Senate but died in the Assembly. This has led to other states trying to pass bills that condemn surgeries as well.

Intersex forums coming up all over the world to provide a safe space for intersex people to share their experiences. Such forums and societies include ISNA and InterAct.

Famous People Who Are Intersex

1. Hanne Gaby Odiele

Hanne Gaby Odiele, @vogue, @diversity_rules/Instagram

The Vogue supermodel revealed she was intersex last year, disclosing that she was born with internal testes that were surgically removed when she was 10. She has androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) which means she has male chromosomes but her body has not responded properly to testosterone so the penis was not formed. She had surgery at the age of 18 to reconstruct her vagina, and now she campaigns against Intersex Genital Mutilation and advocates that children should be given the opportunity to decide on surgery for themselves.

2.Taylor Lianne Chandler

@realtaychatic/Instagram

In 2014, the ex-girlfriend of Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps revealed that she was born intersex. She was assigned male at birth under the name David Roy Fitch, but she spent the majority of her childhood behaving like a girl. She took testosterone blockers and estrogen enhancers before undergoing corrective surgery at a later date. Now she's an activist on gender and trans issues and works with a variety of organizations

3. Jim Ambrose

Jim Ambrose, @introtogender/Instagram

Jim first spoke publicly about his body, his childhood, and his family at the University of Minnesota in 1997. He was 20 years old. A year later he left his hometown of Baton Rouge, LA and began volunteering for the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) where he traveled advocating for the rights of intersex people. In 2000 Jim appeared in the award-winning short film, XXXY. He co-founded The Interface Project in 2012. His activism and personal story have been featured in diverse publications and programs including CNNThe Discovery ChannelMontana Public Radio, and The New Yorker

10 Facts About Intersex To Understand Them Better

Although we live in a modern world, the intersex community has been shrouded in myths and mysteries and for those of us who would like to understand the people that fall under this umbrella term better, here are some facts to work with.

1. Intersex is an umbrella term

Intersex refers to a variety of terms that deal with gender variations. Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome refers to a body’s cells' inability to respond to male chromosomes or androgens, XY. It could be a variation of physical traits that don’t fit the typical ‘male’ and ‘female’. A child born with mosaic genetics that varies from the XX or XY type.

2. It’s more common than you think

People think intersex characteristics are rare but centrally to popular belief, it is estimated that around 1.7% of the world population have conditions relating to intersex. This number is comparable to 2% of the redhead population. This means that Intersex is not that uncommon and is estimated that 1 in every 2000 kids is born with intersex characteristics.

3. Intersex awareness day

Awareness of Intersex has come a long way and officially intersex people have a special day to celebrate their uniqueness. 26th October is the official day set aside worldwide to celebrate intersex people. As the day nears, learn something about intersex and help in raising awareness.

4. Intersex people are at risk of substance abuse and other mental conditions

Due to the lack of awareness and general stigma associated with issues to do with gender fluidity, intersex people are at a higher risk of substance abuse, depression or even suicidal tendencies.

If you are struggling, or know someone with mental health issues mentioned, please contact the national suicide prevention lifeline 

5.  Intersex does not necessarily fit the male-female spectrum

Many people born with intersex traits don’t identify as either male or female. Depending on how they were nurtured, some intersex people start identifying with the opposite sex they were assigned at later dates in their lives. Some just choose to live a gender-fluid life, without identifying as either female or female.

6. It is more than a physical condition

Intersex is more than just having sex organs that do not fit the assigned male or female systems. Intersex can present itself in various ways including appearing to have a small penis or a scrotum that is divided so it looks more like a labia, having a larger than usual clitoris without a vaginal opening. Or, a person may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of her cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY.

Other Chromosomal characteristics show XY chromosomes on a normal-looking girl. Born without a uterus and other internal organs that don’t match the physical body.

7. Intersex is not transgender

Intersex is not to be confused with transgender. While intersex presents itself on a spectrum of various manifestations, a condition one is generally born with involving sex organs and genes, transgender means reassigning of sex to a person, either male or female.

8. Characteristics can be identified at any stage of life

Some intersex conditions can be identified while the person is still an infant. These conditions are mostly physical in nature. However, some conditions are not diagnosed until the child hits puberty and they fail to undergo the changes associated with this stage of development. Some people still are born with intersex conditions that are not identified until much later in life or never at all.

9. Intersex people are at risk of developing other health conditions

Intersex is not all about just differences in sex characteristics. Children with intersex conditions may develop other health conditions and it is important for parents with intersex to make sure they make informed decisions on the health of their child.

10. Intersex people are human

An intersex community, @diclegebitra/Instagram

There is a lot of discrimination going on for intersex people and most communities hide or excommunicate them. People born with intersex characteristics are taught to despise their difference and they hide who they are, often not wanting people to know they are different and this leads to an unhealthy social life including choosing not to be in relationships.

What is Next For The Intersex Community?

A lot is being done to improve awareness of intersex. Many people are coming forward, including famous people to raise awareness of what it means to be intersex.

Many of these people are advocating for the rights of intersex people, which includes the awareness of genital mutilation on kids born with intersex characteristics, dealing with discrimination and acceptance in the community.

Let us be more accepting of each other

As we go on to celebrate Intersex awareness day, intersex people are gearing up to raise more awareness, stopping of intersex corrective surgeries and fighting for intersex rights. Intersex is not something to be ashamed of and if you are a person with intersex characteristics, or you know one such person, we recommend that you join any one of the forums mentioned above for more support.

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Summary

It’s time that parents, doctors, and society at large eased up on the rigidity of gender. Gender fluidity is the message now and accepting people for who they are. There is nothing wrong with the way a child is born and everything is where it was supposed to be in the first place.

Intersex people are humans too, with as much right as you do to be happy in their own body and instead of working so hard to tear them down, perhaps we should be joining hands to support them.

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