FAQ

What does Intersex Mean? What Makes Someone Intersex?

FAQ

What does Intersex Mean? What Makes Someone Intersex?

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. Healthcare workers usually decide this based on whether a baby has a penis or a clitoris. Someone’s assigned sex has nothing to do with their gender! Sometimes, people are born with privates that don’t match what a doctor would classify as either male or female. These people are intersex.

However, just because some intersex people are identified at birth, doesn’t mean all intersex people are! Some only learn about it when they go through puberty, or get special testing as adults. Some people never find out they’re intersex! This could happen because the part of their body that would be considered intersex isn’t visible, and they never have any reason to get specialized testing done.

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. Many people think of sex as being a spectrum, like gender!

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.

Some of the conditions are:

  • Persistent Mullerian Duct Syndrome
  • Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome
  • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
  • Klinefelter Syndrome
  • Anchoria
  • Hypospadias

These might seem like 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 may recommend surgeries they don’t need, especially when they’re younger and don’t know their medical rights. People who don’t know what it means to be intersex may 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. It’s everyone’s responsibility to educate themselves and treat people fairly! Learning more about these conditions and the real people who have them can help.

Some intersex conditions come with 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 LGBTQ+? Are they queer?

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 or similar problems as many people in the LGBTQ+ community. They might be treated unfairly or have to fight for certain rights related to their gender and bodily autonomy. Because of that, some intersex people do identify as queer, and they may be included in the longer 2SLGBTQIA+ acronym. But, some intersex people don’t think of themselves as part of that community, and that’s okay too!

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.

More info

Project 10

SAUVE METRO A Montreal organization that works to promote the personal, social, sexual and mental well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning youth…

What is Intersex?

GoAskAlice’s article delineating the definition of intersex, the most common intersex condition, prevelance rates, and society’s definition of gender and how that might affect those…

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