Answers and questions

Answers to the most common questions about intersex people.

Various factors that lead to the special development of sexual characteristics, generally called intersex-factors. These factors can cause certain features in the structure of the external genitalia, internal genital organs, sex chromosomes or sex hormones. The most common among them are the following:

  • external genitalia, which cannot be categorized unequivocally as male’s or female’s;
  • incomplete or unusual development of internal genital organs;
  • inconsistency between the external genital organs and internal genital organs;
  • peculiarities of formation of sex chromosomes;
  • peculiarities of development of testicles or ovaries;
  • excessive or insufficient production of sex hormones;
  • the inability of the body to respond to sex hormones.

“Intersex” [lat. Inter … – between, in the middle and in the lat. Sexus – sex] was originally a medical term, which was later begun to apply more widely to people with specific characteristics of sexual development. Many intersex experts also recommended using as a term the word-combination: “peculiarities of sexual development”.

There is no unambiguous answer to this question. Experts can’t even come to the agreement of what exactly meets the criteria for belonging to the intersex people. Public institutions still do not collect separate statistics about intersex persons. Some experts believe that for every 1,500 children, up to 1 child with intersex characteristic is born. At the same time, the UN statistics indicates that in the world there is from 0.5% to 2% of intersex people.

Sex disruption is a medical term used by the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) to describe the full range of inborn sexual characteristics associated with intersex variations. In the medical literature, SD is interpreted as “a condition associated with the clinical and biochemical manifestation of the discrepancy between the genetic, gonadal and phenotypic sexes of the child.”

People, tangent to intersex movement, use this word-combination to justify their interaction with medical institutions. In attempts to avoid negative connotations associated with the word “disruption”, some use the term “diversity of gender formation”.

According to the classification of ICD, intersex-people are persons for whom certain characteristics are characteristic.

We will name some of them:

  • Congenital hyperplasia of the adrenal glands, which leads to overproduction of hormones in the adrenal gland and causes masculinization of the genitals in newborns.
  • Deficiency of 5-alpha reductase, in which the low level of the enzyme, 5-alpha reductase, causes incomplete masculinization of reproductive organs in newborns.
  • Partial insensitivity to androgens, in which the cells do not respond normally to testosterone and related hormones, which leads to incomplete masculinization of the reproductive organs in newborns.
  • Insufficient development of the penis, in which the child is born without a penis.
  • Complete insensitivity of androgens, in which the cells do not respond to testosterone and related hormones, causes the formation of female genitalia in infants with male chromosomes.
  • Klinefelter variation, in which the newborn males are born with an additional X (female) chromosome, which usually causes incomplete masculinisation and other features of sex formation.
  • A variation of Shereshevsky-Turner, in which newborns of a female come to light with one, not two, X (female) chromosomes, which causes the peculiarities of development.
  • Vaginal agenesis, in which newborns are born without a vagina.

Not always. Some peculiarities of sex formation, inherent in the intersex, lead to the birth of infants with genitalia, which can not be uniquely identified as male or female (so-called ambiguous genital organs).

These signs of an intersex are usually found at birth. However some features listed above likecongenital hyperplasia of the adrenal glands, deficiency of 5-alpha reductase, partial insensitivity to androgens and genital angiosis, as well as the other four listed above, namely complete insensitivity to androgens, Klinefelter variation, Turner variation and vaginal agenesis – usually do not lead to ambiguous changes in the genitalia and may not be diagnosed with the birth of a child. Infants born with such characteristics have external genitals similar to other children. Their affiliation with intersex people may become apparent in their lives later, often in puberty.

When a child is born with ambiguous sex organs, doctors conduct an examination and perform laboratory tests to determine the child’s sex. It is important immediately to find out that the child is an intersex.

Unfortunately, all surgery interventions as regards to intersex babies are often not necessary, in addition, they occur without the consent of the patient due to childes age. The results of such interventions are often loss of sensation, pains, sterility and psychological traumas.

An important goal in determining the sex is to preserve the reproductive function where it is possible, as well as to ensure proper functioning of the intestine and bladder, while preserving the sensitivity of the genital organs.

As usually there is no an immediate medical need for surgery to “rearrange” the sexual organs of the child and to make them more clear as male or female. Sometimes an operation is needed to correct features that may harm the child’s health. Parents, doctors and intersex people can have different thoughts about how and at what age it is necessary to carry out an operation to change the appearance of the genitalia that can be perceived ambiguously.

To date, there is not enough evidence and no research has ever been made that confirm that such decisions should be taken immediately. Today the prevailing opinion is that the decision on surgical intervention can only be taken by the intersex person himself, reaching the mature age.

Life experience and medical practice indicate that people born with intersex features are not always satisfied with the sex that was defined for them. People with intersex peculiarities sometimes believe that the sex determined to them at birth is not always suitable to them; so they are deciding to live in the sex that they feel as their own. But there is still very little information about this.

The sexual orientation of the intersex people is extremely individual. And therefore, to tie it to a general definition of sexual orientation is not worth at all.

The biggest problem of intersex people is the ignorance of society about their existence in this society. Deprivation of legal and social recognition. Intersex people are actually left alone on themself.

Intersex people are forced to live in conditions of stigmatization, discrimination in education, employment, health care, sports, access to social services, and the receipt of documents certifying their identity.

  • The right to life, liberty and personal integrity.
  • The right to freedom from discrimination.
  • The right of a person to preserve thyself personality.
  • Humiliation and uncoordinated medical interventions.
  • The right to health.
  • The right to privacy.
  • The right to a family.
  • The right to participate in public and cultural life.
  • Formulate their attitude to sex, gender and intersex personality issues.
  • Learn to correctly talk about sex and sexuality problems, using established terminology.
  • Do everything possible to ensure that intersex people are not harassed, persecuted, or discriminated against.
  • Intersex people, members of their families, friends and partners often benefit from communicating with people who have similar problems that are experiencing similar situations and find a way out by overcoming difficulties.

As for intersex people, it is not necessary to speak of “intersexuality”, “intersexual” or “intersexual”, as well as to use the fictitious word “intersexity”, which is formed with the help of the abstract suffix – ity. The term “intersex”,  refers only to sex biology, and only in this form it should be used, it has nothing to do with the concept of sexuality. It is correct to say “intersex”, “intersex-person”, “intersex-people”.

To date, the terms hermaphroditis, hermaphroditism, pseudohermaphroditism are considered obsolete, and are therefore rarely used in practice.

No, intersex is a biological feature of the formation of a person’s sex, whereas gender is the way a person positions thyself in society. A person who has no inherent sexual intersex-features should not call himself an intersex.