Intersex Conditions

It is very common for Transactivists and allies to claim that most or many Transsexual people are intersex. This simply isn’t true.

Summary – Intersex is the term used to describe a range of physically biological conditions where internal or external genitalia are indeterminate or do not match other biological sex factors. Or alternatively, where there is an over production or under production of sex hormones or the bodies ability to respond to them. Lastly intersex also encompasses abnormalities of the sex chromosomes or abnormal development of the testes or ovaries.

Disorders of sex development is another term now being used to describe intersex.

The vast majority of Transsexuals do not have an intersex condition. Claiming you have a male or female brain is not an intersex condition. Similarly the vast majority of intersex people are not Transsexuals.

There is no link between intersex people and Transsexuals.

end of summary

What is intersex?

“A variety of conditions that lead to atypical development of physical sex characteristics are collectively referred to as intersex condition. These conditions can involve abnormalities of the external genitals, internal reproductive organs, sex chromosomes, or sex-related hormones. Some examples include: 

• External genitals that cannot be easily classified as male or female 

• Incomplete or unusual development of the internal reproductive organs

• Inconsistency between the external genitals and the internal reproductive organs

• Abnormalities of the sex chromosomes

• Abnormal development of the testes or ovaries

• Over- or underproduction of sex-related hormones

• Inability of the body to respond normally to sex related hormones

Intersex was originally a medical term that was later embraced by some intersex persons. Many experts and persons with intersex conditions have recently recommended adopting the term “disorders of sex development” (DSD). They feel that this term is more accurate and less stigmatizing than the term intersex.”

Interestingly, I have noticed on the internet a few Transactivists describing their Transsexualism as a disorder of sex development. Unless they also have an intersex condition, then they are wrong. A disorder of sex development is another name for intersex and is not the same as Transsexualism or Transgenderism.

There is disagreement amongst the medical community about the boundaries of intersex. For example, how small does a boy’s penis have to be before he is considered intersex?  However, the definition of intersex is one of biology and biological differences. So an individual is not considered intersex because they have for example a male body, but “feel like a woman”.

Moreover, the majority of people who are intersex, are not Transsexuals. So for example a male baby with deformed genitalia is extremely unlikely to become Transsexual in later life. There is no medical evidence at all that there is any link between intersex conditions and Transsexualism.

Sometimes people post claims on the internet about the percentage of people in the general population who suffer from an intersex condition. This will be spurious or at the very least, posted wrongly in good faith. Nobody knows what percentage of the population suffer from an intersex condition. This is because there is no clear definition of what exactly counts as intersex and because there is no requirement for this condition to be recorded centrally.

Research was carried out by Anne Fausto-Sterling in order to estimate the frequency in which intersex conditions occur. She did this by reviewing the medical literature from 1955 to 1988. But she is clear that this is only an estimate.

Not XX and not XY one in 1,666 births
Klinefelter (XXY) one in 1,000 births
Androgen insensitivity syndrome one in 13,000 births
Partial androgen insensitivity syndrome one in 130,000 births
Classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia one in 13,000 births
Late onset adrenal hyperplasia one in 66 individuals
Vaginal agenesis one in 6,000 births
Ovotestes one in 83,000 births
Idiopathic (no discernable medical cause) one in 110,000 births
Iatrogenic (caused by medical treatment, for instance progestin administered to pregnant mother) no estimate
5 alpha reductase deficiency no estimate
Mixed gonadal dysgenesis no estimate
Complete gonadal dysgenesis one in 150,000 births
Hypospadias (urethral opening in perineum or along penile shaft) one in 2,000 births
Hypospadias (urethral opening between corona and tip of glans penis) one in 770 births
Total number of people whose bodies differ from standard male or female one in 100 births
Total number of people receiving surgery to “normalize” genital appearance one or two in 1,000 births

Occasionally Transactivists post claims that most Transsexuals are suffering from a diagnosed intersex condition such as 5alpha-reductase-2 deficiency (5alpha-RD-2) or 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-3 deficiency (17beta-HSD-3).

In both of these conditions, children appear to be largely one sex and then during puberty, characteristics of the other sex appear. So with 5alpha-reductase-2-deficiency, individuals can have normal male external genitalia, ambiguous genitalia, or normal female genitalia. However usually they are born with very ambigous genitalia with a phallus like clitoris, male gonads, including testicles often hidden until puberty, and Wolffian structures. They usually, but not always, have female primary sex characteristics. As a consequence, they are often raised as girls.

At puberty they develop some typically male characteristics which can include the descending of the testes, facial/body hair typically seen in males, the deepening of the voice, etc. This condition is caused by a faulty gene.

These are both very rare conditions, except in a few geographical areas such as the Dominican Republic where 5alpha-reductase-2 deficiency is more common. However, they are clearly biological conditions and are intersex conditions that are usually diagnosed close to birth or more rarely, at puberty when typically male physical characteristics start to appear.

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