So here’s a quick post a couple of people asked me to write recently. I’m sorry I’ve forgotten who you are, but I hope this post finds you all the same. There’s a lot of confusion within all of this gender and sex stuff that because of the new terminology and the sheer amount of terminology, needs explaining. Here’s a quick rough guide to what intersex actually means.
As I mentioned in the transgender umbrella post, intersex is considered part of #TeamTrans. However this isn’t entirely accurate and is yet another flaw in the idea of the transgender umbrella. But because of their inclusion in umbrella, its often that they are considered “trans” or called trans and bought into arguments regarding trans people. Usually as a way of saying look, its possibly to be biologically trans! when this just isn’t really the case. Furthermore the idea of intersex gives some people the idea that transsexualism is just another kind of intersex condition, one that affects the brain. There’s possibly a grain of truth in this, but it isn’t researched or proven scientifically at all.
Moreover, there’s a lot of evidence that suggest intersex conditions are entirely nothing to do with trans. Most intersex people will never transition, most intersex people will live relatively normal lives as their assigned sex. Though often there can be complications such as sterility, but like I said, relatively normal.
So now that I’ve pretty well taken apart the link between intersex and trans, lets get on to the juicy good bits. What exactly is an intersex condition?
‘Intersex condition’ as a term is a vague medical term. It describes a group of conditions which are in essence, a corruption of the sexual binary. They are absolutely and categorically not a third, fourth etc sex. If you break a DVD player it doesn’t become a new kind of DVD player, its a broken DVD player. Now that might seem like a harsh thing to apply to a person, but they are fundamentally born with a fault in their sex – that’s what intersex is.
Within this group there are conditions such as Klinefelter’s Syndrome. This condition affects males and is easily spotted by the extra X chromosomes, giving their cells XXY instead of the typical male XY. There are various symptoms some behavioural some physical, such as being really tall with wide hips and some breast development. There are variants within people who have Klinefelter’s and not all people with the condition will show the exact same symptoms.
Likewise with De La Chapelle syndrome which affects men and results in an XX chromosome. For the most part this second X chromosome contains the data that would be typically found on the Y, however in some cases this doesn’t hold true. Instead giving them a full fledged second X chromosome with X chromosomal data.
These conditions aren’t just limited to men either. One of the most common in women is androgen insensitivity syndrome. Which, in the shortest possible explanation – leaves you with typical female development for the most part – sans reproductive organs, but also lots of typically male internal structures. Which is perhaps why Caster Semenya was shouted at for being a man for so long. [Correction: I named an intersex condition which affects XY males as one that effects women – because developmentally they become women, especially if you have complete androgen insensitivity syndrome. Intersex conditions do exist for women, here’s one. Intersex conditions are more common amongst those who are XY – as all fetus start out developmentally female before hormonal triggers cause fetus to begin physically developing as male.]
The important thing to note is that the vast majority of people who experience intersex conditions never ever transition at all. They are content in their gender and skin, and that’s great for them. They don’t need any thing else to contend with, its hard enough on its own. This is all the evidence that is really needed to prove the separation between intersex and transgender as terms, since most intersex people live lives as typically cis. Only ever really struggling with reproduction in some cases – which so do cis people.
However some do decide to transition and that’s fine too. Gender =/= sex and if you’re intersex but don’t like the sex you were assigned with you have every right to transition and be trans too if it will make you happier. What’s super important to note is that intersex is categorically and absolutely not some kind of video game slider bar between male and female. It’s a set of medical conditions which are a corruption of the binary sex system.
Hope this really helps any of you out who were struggling with this, but I get it, there’s a lot of new terms with a lot of specific meanings that aren’t really ever explained. I’ll do my best to give rough crash courses on them if you ask! So don’t hestitate!