Sex or gender works in many layers. Every individual has a unique understanding of their self, sexual preferences and gender identity. Intersex people too fit in this world in their own unique way.
Intersex is a term that people may use when they have both male and female sex characteristics. These characteristics may include genitalia, hormones, chromosomes and reproductive organs.
Most importantly, being intersex is not a ‘disease’ or ‘abnormality’. It is simply a naturally occurring variation in humans.
Almost 2% of people worldwide have some type of intersex difference.
So, let us bust some top myths about the intersex community and being intersex.
1. Everybody is either born male or female
It is a common misconception that the world is divided neatly into only two groups of people, male and female and that everyone’s genetic and biological characteristics will be included in only one of these two categories.
But this is a myth! There are millions of people in the world who have sexual characteristics that do not fit under the category of male or female bodies. These people are identified as intersex.
Intersex can be called an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural variations that affect the characteristics of human beings like genitals, gonads, hormones, chromosomes, or their reproductive organs. Sometimes these can be visible at the time of birth and other times they appear during puberty
2. Intersex people can’t have sex, get pregnant, or have children.
There are many intersex variations which mostly include typical internal reproductive anatomy. Everyone is different from the other but there are people termed as intersex who can have periods and children. While there are some intersex people who can’t produce sexual sperms or eggs, there are many who can. There are some intersex people who find that they have both ovarian and testicular tissue after having given birth.
It is most important to respect that these are difficult and very confidential conversations.
3. Being intersex is a condition that needs to be ‘corrected’.
Many intersex children undergo surgery to ‘normalize’ them as male or female, even though these interventions are often invading, irreversible, and not for emergency reasons.
The reality behind the surgery is that the procedures performed on intersex children can cause big problems, including infertility, pain, incontinence, and also psychological suffering for their entire life. All this, just to make children make suitable to society’s idea of what a girl or a boy ‘should’ look like.
Presently, these interventions are often performed on children who are very young to meaningfully participate in the decision-making process about their own bodies. Moreover, in a lot of cases the parents are not properly informed about the high risks.
4. Intersex people are transgender.
Being intersex has nothing to do with being transgender. Period.
The word “transgender” is for people whose gender identity is different from the sex they were signified at birth. The word “intersex” relates to the physical sexual characteristics of an individual, and not to an internal sense of identity.
An intersex person may also identify as trans, but these are both separate things because gender and sex are different.
It is possible for an intersex person may be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or asexual, and may identify as female, male, both, or none.
5. Being intersex is very rare
Reports say that around 2% of the world’s population is born with intersex traits. Given the statistics, chances are, all of us have come across one or many intersex people in our lives, even if they don’t reveal it.
Still, the intersex population is widely misunderstood, and intersex people are massively unrecognized.