Intersexuality and Disorders of Sex Development

What’s that “I” that is sometimes at the end of LGBTQ?  The “I” stands for intersex, referring to those folks who were born with biology that differs from standard “male” or “female” biology.  The term “hermaphrodite” is considered offensive.  Intersex conditions (called “disorders of sex development” or DSDs) are rarely talked about and have often been kept a secret from the children who were born with them, even though those children often experienced multiple surgeries at a very young age.  However, as intersex people become more active and vocal, they and their allies have worked hard to educate an ignorant public (often including doctors, therapists and others who should be knowledgeable that not everyone was born with the same “parts”) on the issues that intersex people face.

Reseacher Anne Fausto-Sterling reported that about 1 in 100 people have anatomy that differs from standard “male” or “female” and about 1 or 2 in 1000 people have had surgery to “correct” their non-standard genitalia (from The Intersex Society of North America’s page on frequency of intersex conditions)

An organization called The Accord Alliance began just over a year ago “to promote comprehensive and integrated approaches to care that enhance the health and well-being of people and families affected by disorders of sex development (DSD, which includes some conditions referred to as “intersex“)”  They have a great glossary of terms that you can read to understand the sometimes complex terminology used to talk about DSD.

For additional information and to find resources:

Check out The Intersex Society of North America.  Although they have closed, their website still retains a lot of important information including a great library of books, films and articles.

Advocates for Informed Choice “uses innovative legal strategies to advocate for the civil rights of children born with variations of reproductive or sexual anatomy.”

The Intersex Initiative “is a Portland, Oregon based national activist and advocacy organization for people born with intersex conditions.”

The film Hermaphrodites Speak is a classic and can be purchased through The Accord Alliance.

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