What it means to be intersex

"Is it a boy or a girl?" That's one of the first questions we ask when a baby is born. But did you know that some babies aren't so easily characterized?

People born with intersex variations have physical characteristics that aren't easily classified as male or female. People are born with these variations or develop them at a young age.

There are more than twenty distinct variations in which a person's physical sex markers (genitals, hormones, gonads, chromosomes, or secondary sex characteristics like breasts or body hair) are neither clearly male nor clearly female. For instance, a baby can be born with an unusually large clitoris, an undersized or "micro" penis, or features of both sexes.

It's important to note that intersex traits have to do with body parts--not gender identity. People born with intersex variations can be anywhere on the spectrum of gender identities, with the vast majority identifying as either a man or a woman.

By the same token, a person with intersex traits can have a sexual orientation that is straight, gay / lesbian, bisexual, or any other orientation, although the majority identify as straight/heterosexual.

Featured Content

Read this article for a good overview of what it means to be intersex.

What does it mean to be intersex?

Have more time? Watch as Dr. Alice Dreger explains the science behind variations in sex development on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Growing Up Intersex


Gender Issues in Agriculture AGEX3003. (n.d.) Growing up intersex part 1 [Video]. YouTube. https:/www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9a1rXOpIuc&feature=youtu.be&t=659

Hartney, E. (2018, February 7). What does it mean to be intersex? Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-intersex-21881

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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