Sex and Intersex

Updated: Oct 27, 2018



Around 1.7% of the world’s population is born intersex.

What’s intersex, you ask?

Intersex is a term used to describe people that have ambiguous sexual anatomy and do not fit into the binary notion of male or female.

How is it different from transgender, you ask?

Being intersex is a biological condition whereas being transgender is a psychological condition. We very often confuse the two terms but transgender is how people wish to identify.  It relates to gender identity. For example, a man can choose to identify as a woman but that doesn’t mean he’s biologically a female.

Intersex people were called hermaphrodites, a term now considered to be pejorative.

We assume intersex to be a condition that people are born into but that’s not always the case. It can be discovered at puberty, as an adult or even when one is dead ( and autopsied ). It’s possible to sail through life without the person themselves or anyone knowing they’re intersex.

Intersex people have existed since ancient times, but we refuse to give them any legal recognition.

Why do we feel that this degree of ignorance is acceptable?

Unfortunately, in some of the most developed countries like Germany and the US, surgeries on intersex infants are being performed to make them fit into the binary way we have of looking at sex. Some consider it to be a disease that needs to be ‘cured’ or ‘fixed’.

Should parents be given so much liberty to choose this for their children?

Many people would argue that parents want their children to have a ‘normal’  life and in order to do that they willingly subject their kids to such a thing. They want their kids to be able to evade the gruesome psychological trauma they will have to go through.

But in such cases, shouldn’t parents condition their children to believe that it’s natural and there’s nothing ‘wrong’ or ‘damaged’ about them? Shouldn’t we identify our lack of acceptance and make space for a third gender in all aspects of our lives? Shouldn’t we not deprive them of their basic human rights?

Some people I’ve talked to argue that too much choice given to them will only confuse them. But does that mean we take away their right to choose? The problem is that we are making this decision for them instead of letting them decide independently when they can.

These surgeries are countless and people have to deal with hormonal intervention throughout their lives. The results are often catastrophic, and the benefits are unproven.

Instead of the parents deciding this for the kids, shouldn’t the child have a say in whether or not they want to spend the rest of their lives getting surgeries and being administered with hormones?

One step that can be taken to rectify this and protect intersex babies is by means of banning such surgeries at infancy (unless they’re absolutely necessary for health reasons) and just letting them be. And since a newborn isn't capable of making that decision for themselves, we should wait and give them a choice of whether they’d like to go for surgery, when they’re adults and have fully functioning mental capacities. There’s only one country that currently bans these forms of medical interventions, Malta.

At the end of the day, people would much rather have their natural selves be acknowledged rather than having to take unnecessary hormones throughout their lives or undergo surgery, but they don’t really have a say in it since the parents have already had the surgical procedure done on them as infants. I hope we accept our ignorance and evolve into an open, adaptable and kinder society where parents won’t have to worry about discrimination against their children, a world where an intersex child doesn’t have to choose between the girl’s or the boy's team.

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