Thanks to Gabrielle, our Sexology stagiaire, for answering the latest question on our blog!
Q: PLEASE PROVIDE A DEFINITION OF INTERSEX
Intersex refers to a person who’s born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia, or a reproductive system that’s not considered “standard” for either male or female. (Intersex Society of North America)
Here are some examples to represent this concept. A person could be born with a vulva and a vagina but no uterus and ovaries (internal reproductive system), or with a penis and a vagina, or a very large clitoris that resembles a penis. A lot of people are curious about what the range of intersex genitals could look like, but these questions can be quite invasive for intersex people (for any person, really!). This blog has some great diagrams and explanations that avoid using photos of people’s bodies (these are often taken without the person’s consent).
These variations in sexual organs doesn’t mean a person is unhealthy, and in most cases won’t cause them any physical health problems. The big issue in the reality of an intersex person is often the ambiguity and the stigma. Ambiguity by itself is totally fine, but our society doesn’t respond very well to things that don’t fit easily into boxes. In most cases, doctors perform surgery on intersex babies in order to “correct” the situation and to make their genitals fit in the “normal” male/female binary. This sends the message that to be intersex is a problem, when in reality it’s not!
Being informed as parents of an intersex kid or as an intersex person is really important, since there are many myths out there that can have a big impact on a person’s sexual development and identity. Check out the Intersex Society of North America, or these videos produced by 20/20, for more information: