How common are intersex traits?

It’s not easy to determine how many people are born with an intersex variation.

Image: Intersex estimates vary widely

How common are intersex traits? According to the American Psychological Association,

"There is no simple answer to this question. Intersex conditions are not always accurately diagnosed, experts sometimes disagree on exactly what qualifies as an intersex condition and government agencies do not collect statistics about intersex individuals” (American Psychological Association, 2006).

Some experts believe it’s important to include subtle variations in our bodies, such as mild hypospadias, a condition in which a male’s urethral opening is located on the underside of his penis, rather than at the tip. Others limit the definition if intersex to congenital variations in which chromosomal, gonadal, or anatomical sex is more noticeably atypical (Ainsworth, 2006). While estimates vary from 1 in 100 to 1 in 4500, a commonly cited range is 1 in 1500-2000.

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Check out this article in the journal Nature for an interesting discussion of ongoing debates about what qualifies as intersex.

Sex redefined: The idea of two sexes is simplistic. Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that.


Ainsworth, C. (2015). Sex redefined: The idea of two sexes is simplistic. Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that. Nature, 518,288-291.!/menu/main/topColumns/topLeftColumn/pdf/518288a.pdf

APA Task Force on Gender Identity, Gender Variance, and Intersex Conditions (2006). Answers to your questions about individuals with intersex conditions [Pamphlet]. American Psychological Association.

Gender Identity Gender identity icon Our core sense of who we are as a man, a woman, a mixture of both, or neither.

Gender Expression Gender expression icon How we show up in the world through choices like clothing, hair style, mannerisms or tone of voice.

Attraction attraction icon How we feel toward others sexually, romantically and/or emotionally.

Biological Sex Biological sex icon Physical attributes such as reproductive organs and genitalia, chromosomes, genes and hormone levels.

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