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INTERSEX EXPLAINED AND THE ISSUES THAT CONFRONT US

in AUSTRALIA, 16/03/2014

INTERSEX people are born with atypical physical, hormonal or genetic sex characteristics. Historically, the word “hermaphrodite” was used. Hermaphrodite has since become more closely associated, in biology, with species that can perform “male” and “female” sexual functions — something impossible in mammals. Intersex describes 40 or more known diagnoses, most of them genetic, with an extraordinary variety in bodies and identities.

Medicine collectively calls them “Disorders of Sex Development”, a term which pathologises us as having individual disorders that can be fixed. Very many of us are made to physically conform to sex and gender norms.These expectations to become “real men” or “real women” are also what make us part of the rainbow LGBTI family.

Intersex people come in all shapes and sizes, and identities. Gay, queer, and straight, mothers of adopted or natural kids, guys with facial hair, and naturally androgynous people. A minority change gender, but most will have had medical intervention to confirm a sex — and this is often something that we have had no choice about. It doesn’t make us trans*.

Just like there are trans men and trans women, and gay men and even gay women, there are intersex men and intersex women. There are also intersex people who identify as male and female, and others who reject gender categories. Any of those are the right way for an intersex person to identify. Conceiving of intersex as a homogeneous third identity ignores most of us. It ignores what binds us together.

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