Intersex people have neither male nor female sex characteristics at birth. Some only realize during puberty that their bodies don't develop as expected. There are hardly any official statistics; the numbers vary between 1 to 1.000 and 10.000 births. [1] [2] [3]

Many intersex people reject the term "intersexual" because it's too closely connected to "transsexual". The medical term "disorder of sexual development" (DSD) defines intersexuality as a disorder instead of a normal human variety. Some intersex people use the words hermaphrodites, herms, hybrids or intersex in order to describe themselves. Sometimes you come across the term "third gender" or "third sex" which is not accepted by everyone. [3] [1]

There are many different forms of intersexuality. Mostly, the body has difficulties in recognizing hormones such as in the case of CAIS (Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome) or the rarely-occurring PAIS (Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome). In such cases, the male hormones are present but the body hardly reacts or doesn't react at all to it. This is why there are "XY"-women who appear like normal women but whose physical development stops during puberty. Generally, it is treated with an estrogen hormone therapy although others recommend testosterone. [2] [4] [5]

Certain enzymes are necessary for a working hormone balance. 5α reductase deficiency (5-ARD) is an autosomal recessive intersex condition caused by a mutation of the 5α reductase enzyme which plays an important role in the testosterone metabolism. At birth, boys look like girls but during puberty the clitoris becomes a penis and the testicles stand out. After this physical change, 80-85% of those concerned continue their lives easily as men and can even father children. [6] [7] [8]

A very rare form of intersexuality is "true hermaphrodite" which is defined as someone with both testicular and ovarian tissue. Another form is the Turner-syndrome, a chromosome anomaly. [1] [4] [THE BEGINNING]

One great point of criticism is the treatment of intersex people by doctors. A real informing and integration into treatment is often missing, the right of self-determination is violated and as a result intersex people often receive surgeries and therapies without ever having agreed to them. For example, testicles of "XY"-women are often removed prophylactically because apparently they are a (never proven) cancer risk. [2] [4]

Legal regulations of some countries like Germany, Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan and Australia don't necessarily require an endorsement about one's gender on the birth certificate. This allows every child for a free decision whether to live as male, female or intersex after reaching legal age. [9]

Further Links:
Tintenfischalarm, Elisabeth Scharang, 2006 (Trailer)

OII - Intersex Network (Website)
IVIM - Internationale Vereinigung Intergeschlechtlicher Menschen
ISNA - Intersex Society of North America



The human rights situation in Europe for homo- bi- , trans- and intersex people