is the broad term for numerous conditions in which an individual is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit that average definition of male or female. Not all Intersex conditions are evident at birth; it is not unusual for an individual’s intersexed anatomy to develop much later in life.
There are a variety of types of conditions related to Intersexuality.
Here are some of the most common ones:
occurs in “males” who inherit an extra X chromosome from either their mother or father. These individuals appear to look like boys but after puberty undergo changes, such as lack of body hair, breast development and producing ejaculate without sperm.
includes individuals with a karyotype of XO. In this condition, female sex characteristics are presented but undeveloped compared to that of a typical female
a collection of traits caused by the possession, in a male, of an extra Y chromosome
a collection of traits caused by the possession, in a female, of three X chromosomes rather than two.
the possession of both testicular and ovarian tissue in the same individual
Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS):
the congenital absence of a functional androgen receptor, making the body unable to respond to androgens; female-looking genitals on a male-appeared body.
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH):
a congenital defect of hormonal metabolism in the adrenal gland, causing the gland to secrete excessive levels of androgen; male-looking genitals on a female-appeared body.
Some birth Statistics of various Intersex types
Klinefelter 1 in every 500 - 1,000 births
Turner 1 in every 2,500 births
Triple-X 1 in every 1,000 births
AIS 1 in every 13,000 births
CAH 1 in every 13,000 births
[These statistics are approximations]
One would note the term 'defect' only applies when referencing a medically diagnosed notion of 'normal' functioning and is not the central theme of the intersex person.
Whether discovered at birth or later in life, intersex conditions can pose a number of challenges for the affected person as well as their families. Often people with intersex conditions feel ashamed, isolated, upset or even depressed. Intersex individuals struggle to coexist in a society that leaves very little room for people outside of what is considered normal. Typically people with intersex conditions spend most of their lives coming to terms with their identities and learning to embrace their differences.
(Photo: Example of Ambiguous Genitalia)
Majority of parents with Intersex children believe that “fixing” the condition earlier in their child’s life is the ultimate solution. Since more often than not Intersex individuals have their sex “assigned” to them, questions of morality become increasingly popular. In a society obsessed with normalization, most Intersex individuals struggle to fit into an appointed identity, rather than create their own.
To surgically configure the genitals of an Intersex baby possesses challenges that may interrupt any biological processes humans needs to live and strive. Even though the surgery may be successful appearance-wise, the functions or sensitivity of their genitals may be absent.
As Intersex babies grow up into childhood and adolescence, their bodies will change just like their peers’. It is the job of the parents to educate their child about their body and teach them that they shouldn’t be shame of their bodies. Communication and acceptance is key!
Surgery on intersex children is generally irreversible and may have a severe impact on the child's emotional & social development, development of healthy body image and their personal rights with regards to having control over their own bodies.
Most surgery suggested in infancy is done so out of 'normalisation' rather than any pending medical emergency. Like other medical 'risks' such as testicular/breast cancer, a preferred methodology may be that of monitoring 'risk' factors and delaying invasive surgery until the individual is at an age where they can direct their own course of medical 'treatment'.
The most popular person to date who has been described as such is track and African field athlete Caster Semenya whose gender was and still is being questioned following her victory at the several track meets and finally the 2009 World Championships, her subsequent ordeals with the Track authorities, International Association of Athletes Federation and her re-entry into the sport in June 2010 much to the discomfort of some of her competitors who say she has an advantage due to her masculine physique and supposed high levels of testorone in her system. She won her first race since her temporary absence from the track.
More to come
Here are some posts from the archives on gender, intersexuality and related matters from this blog.
Peace and tolerance.