What is Intersex?

LGBTQ+: An Educational Series

By Sarah Vick

    Last month, The Salemite covered the first five letters of the LGBTQ+ initialism. This month, we’re going beyond the basics with definitions provided by the LGBTQ Center at Wake Forest University. This is the second installment of an educational series that gathers LGBTQ+ terms from scholarly resources and breaks them down to make them easier for everyone to understand.

    October 2015 is brought to you by the letter “I.”

     I is for intersex. The prefix “inter-” means between, therefore “intersex” is defined exactly as it sounds: between the sexes.  Intersex is an umbrella term used when defining a variety of conditions in which a person is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that differs from traditional standards of female or male. For example, a person might be perceived as female, but have mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. An intersex person may also be born with genitals that seem to fall somewhere in the middle of the usual male and female types, or have a mixture of both. A person may be born with mosaic genetics, meaning some of their cells possess XX chromosomes while some of them possess XY.

    Intersex is a socially constructed category resulting from natural biological variation.  It may seem like intersex people are few and far-between, but they’re a lot more common than you probably think. According to the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA), about one in every 1500-2000 babies (roughly one and seven tenths of a percent), is born intersex. The Organization Intersex International (OII) compares this to the population of babies born with red hair, which is about the same at an estimated one to two percent of the population.

   Gender and sexuality are complex personal characteristics, and everyone feels differently about them. This article is simply an educational overview of terminology. It is important to keep in mind that people are free to identify themselves as they choose, and some prefer not to use any labels at all. Stay tuned for next month’s edition of LGBTQ+ in The Salemite!

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