Intersex is a word for someone whose body doesn’t fit the medical definition of male or female. They might have hormones, genes, or body parts that aren’t just male or female. There are lots of ways someone can be intersex. A lot of people don’t know they’re intersex. Some only learn about it as they get older!
Being intersex isn’t something that needs to be fixed. Lots of people who are born intersex have healthy bodies that they’re happy with. Some people use the word as an identity, medical label, or both. It can mean different things to different people.
Being intersex is pretty common! There are about as many intersex people as people with red hair.
What does intersex mean?
When someone’s born, they’re usually assigned a sex at birth. That means a healthcare worker said they were either male or female. They usually decide because they either see a clitoris or a penis. Someone’s assigned sex has nothing to do with their gender! Sometimes, people are born with privates that don’t match what a doctor thinks a boy’s or a girl’s should look like. These people are intersex.
Not everyone who’s intersex knows about it when they’re born. Some people only learn about it when they go through puberty or get special testing.
When people go through puberty, they develop secondary sex characteristics. These are things like breasts, facial hair, or body type. Sometimes people develop secondary sex characteristics that are different from the ones of their assigned sex.
A lot of people think that everyone’s privates, hormones, and chromosomes are all either male or female. But, a lot of people have both or some that overlap. Some people never find out they’re intersex.
What makes someone intersex?
Most people are intersex because they have a medical condition that affects their privates, genitals, hormones, or chromosomes. Having a condition like this doesn’t mean that someone is unhealthy! Just because there’s a medical word for these things doesn’t mean there’s something wrong.
- Persistent Mullerian Duct Syndrome
- Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome
- Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
- Klinefelter Syndrome
These are complicated medical terms. But they’re just words that doctors use to talk about someone’s body. Lots of these conditions are common! Most people who have them live long, healthy, and happy lives.
How does it affect someone’s life?
There are lots of ways to be intersex. It affects everyone’s life differently!
People who are intersex might be treated unfairly. Doctors can recommend surgeries they don’t need. People who don’t know what it means to be intersex can still judge them. Sometimes people are uncomfortable with the idea that another person’s body doesn’t look a certain way, even if they’re healthy.
This is a kind of bigotry and it can hurt. It’s called intersexphobia or interphobia. If someone feels these ways, it isn’t intersex peoples’ fault. Learning more about these conditions and the real people who have them can help!
Some intersex conditions come with other health risks or make it harder to get pregnant. But others have no health risks at all! How it affects someone’s life depends on the person. Everyone has a different experience.
If you’re intersex and you’re not sure what that means for your health, you can talk to a doctor who has worked with people with your condition before.
Are intersex people 2LGBTQA+?
Intersex is a word that describes someone’s body. It’s about the sex characteristics someone has. It’s not a gender or a sexual identity.
People who are intersex can have any gender identity. That means they can be a man, woman, non-binary, genderqueer, agender, or any other identity. They can also have any sexual orientation. They can be straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual, or anything else!
Lots of people who are intersex face the same problems many people in the 2LGBTQA+ community. They might be treated unfairly or have to fight for certain rights. Because of that, some people include them in the 2LGBTQIA+ acronym. But some intersex people don’t think of themselves as part of that community.
The way someone feels about their sex and gender is personal. It’s not okay to assume how someone identifies based on their medical history or how their body looks. People might have bodies that are similar or different from other people, and that’s okay! What’s important is knowing what’s healthy for you and what you want for your body.