- relating to or denoting a person or animal that has both male and female sex organs or other sexual characteristics:
“an intersex child”
“she identifies as intersex”
- the condition of having both male and female sex organs or other sexual characteristics:
“people born with intersex”
An intersex human or other animal is one possessing any of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals that, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies”. Such variations may involve genital ambiguity, and combinations of chromosomal genotype and sexual phenotype other than XY-male and XX-female.
Intersex people were previously referred to as hermaphrodites, “congenital eunuchs”, or even congenitally “frigid”. Such terms have fallen out of favor; in particular, the phrase “hermaphrodite” is considered to be misleading, stigmatizing, and scientifically specious. Medical description of intersex traits as disorders of sex development has been controversial since the label was introduced in 2006.
Some intersex infants and children, such as those with ambiguous outer genitalia, are surgically or hormonally altered to create more socially acceptable sex characteristics. However, this is considered controversial, with no firm evidence of good outcomes. Such treatments may involve sterilization. Adults, including elite female athletes, have also been subjects of such treatment. Increasingly these issues are considered human rights abuses, with statements from international and national human rights and ethics institutions. Intersex organizations have also issued statements, including joint statements as part of an International Intersex Forum.
In 2011, Christiane Völling became the first intersex person known to have successfully sued for damages in a case brought for non-consensual surgical intervention. In April 2015, Malta became the first country to outlaw non-consensual medical interventions to modify sex anatomy, including that of intersex people.
Intersex people may have any gender identity. Some intersex individuals may be raised as a girl or boy but then identify with another gender later in life, while most do not.
International Scientific Vocabulary
First Known Use: circa 1908