Intersex is the umbrella term referring to a variety of congenital conditions or variations of anatomy. The result of any one of these conditions means that a person has a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical notion of either a ‘male’ or ‘female’ body. This may be diagnosed shortly after birth, or at puberty, or in some cases, later on in life.
Many intersex people are surgically ‘corrected’ at a very young age into a sex configuration that a doctor assumes will match the gender they grow up into. These surgeries are nearly all medically unnecessary and can mean that an intersex person loses fertility, sensation, and above all, the ability to choose how they would like to define their own body.
Because of the sheer number of different conditions that fall under the intersex umbrella, it’s not practical to discuss the effects of each condition, but intersex people have a lot of issues in common that bring us together as a community; first and foremost the treatment of intersex children in a medicalised world that defines bodies and genders solely within a binary.
Why might I find intersex people at BiCon?
Some intersex people are bisexual. Being intersex has no direct link with someone’s sexual orientation.
What pronouns should I use for an intersex person?
You should always use the pronouns that the individual wants you to use, and when in doubt, ask. In most cases, you can’t tell from looking if someone is intersex or not. Many individuals who have conditions that fall under the intersex umbrella don’t consider themselves intersex, as well.
How do I refer to an intersex person’s condition?
Never use the word hermaphrodite; it is not only a slur, it is incorrect as it is impossible for a human being to be hermaphroditic (have two working and fertile sets of sex organs). It’s also probably best to avoid use of the term “Developmental Sexual Disorders” (DSD), as many intersex people don’t consider themselves to have a disorder, but rather a variation of anatomy. If an intersex person shares the name of their particular variation or condition with you, feel free to use that.
Are intersex people transgender?
Not necessarily. Some intersex people may undergo a transition similar to one some transgender people do, and for similar reasons – having been assigned the wrong sex shortly after birth/in young childhood.
Are intersex people non-binary gender?
Some are, some aren’t. Many intersex people define themselves as men or women, and some intersex people define themselves as outside of binary gender.
I want to find out what this intersex person’s body looks like. Can I ask them about it?
It can’t be stressed enough how much that’s none of your business. In addition, many intersex people have been through medical trauma and have been forced to show their bodies to doctors or other medical staff when they were children or teenagers. Absolutely don’t ask. Please see the Code of Conduct which states that fetishisation of physical features should be avoided.