Introduction to Intersex

A large percentage of us have heard or used the term hermaphrodite one time or another, but not everyone is familiar with the word “intersex.”

Today, the word intersex has replaced the outdated words hermaphrodite as the title used about people who do not have typical female or male physical characteristics.

In this article, we will be painting a clearer picture of what intersex is by giving the definition and doing a review of the effect it has on individuals who are born that way.

What Is the Definition of Intersex?

Intersex is a term that is used to describe people who are born with unusual sexual anatomy, and not a word used to describe those who changed their sexual anatomy through hormones, surgery, or any other form of treatment.

The people who deliberately alter their sexual anatomy are called transgender. Some examples of transgender people are actress Laverne Cox of “Orange Is the New Black” and Caitlyn Jenner.

There is a vast difference in the extent to which individuals are affected by being intersex, and there is a variation in the degree to which intersex characteristics are problematic for people.

Social acceptance plays a significant role in the extent to which having intersex characteristics affects people negatively.

Because medical professionals all over the world are not consistently adequately trained to understand intersex issues, these medical professionals do not often provide the best advice or support for the parents of newborn babies with intersex characteristics.

Common Intersex Characteristics

There are several ways people can be affected by being intersex, and some of them include appearing to have a small-sized penis (micropenis) — either on a “girl” or a “boy ” with a larger than the normal clitoris.

Also, the baby may appear to have a labia that doesn’t have a vaginal opening or a scrotum that is divided in two so that it looks like a labia.

Also, the urethral opening might not be located in the regular place, or may not have naturally developed at all, and the testes may not be descended, which means they are inside of the person’s body rather than in the scrotum.

These confusing differences may affect individuals who either appear to be male or female. Also, the development of breasts may or may not happen as expected from the person’s presumed gender.

Causes of the Condition

Some individuals are born intersex because they have an unusual combination of the Y and X chromosomes, which determine gender.

Nevertheless, here are some people whose bodies do not respond to the messages of the sex hormones the usual way; this makes them not to develop typical sex characteristics.

Although, in rare cases, intersex characteristics may be an indication of an underlying medical condition. If your child or anyone you know has any of these features, then it is essential to see a doctor before more problems developed.

The Impact of Being Intersex

Intersex is a sexual minority, and this puts people with these qualities at risk of substance abuse and addiction problems.

They have to deal with bullying, shunning, ridicule, or several other negative behaviors from people who are gutted and do not understand what the condition is about.

Unfortunately, for a very long time, people who are intersex are called names such as hermaphrodite and other hurtful names.

Several controversies in sports involve intersex people, and they have made headlines. Examples of such cases are retired German tennis player Sarah Gronert, who identifies as female, and South African runner Caster Semenya.

While the general public remains very unfair to these people, creating awareness to promote acceptance of intersex people is the best way to make them feel like regular people that they are.

Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.