Inclusion Guide to Respecting People with Intersex Variations

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WHO ARE INTERSEX PEOPLE?

Intersex people have innate variations of sex characteristics that differ from medical and social norms for female or male bodies. Intersex is an umbrella term for a diverse range of different traits that can be determined prenatally, at birth, during puberty and at other times. These traits include androgen insensitivity, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, 17-beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 3 deficiency, and many more.

Because their bodies are perceived as different, intersex people are at risk of stigmatisation, violence and harmful practices, including forced or coercive medical interventions intended to make their bodies more typically female or male.

USEFUL TERMS

Sex characteristics: physical features relating
to sex, including genitalia and other sexual and reproductive anatomy, chromosomes, hormones, and secondary physical features emerging from puberty.1

Sex: legal or social status initially based on sex characteristics observed at birth. In some cases, infants with intersex variations may undergo a series of examinations and tests to establish sex. In such cases, attempts will be made to determine the infant’s intersex variation and likely future gender identity. Normative ideas about how children’s bodies should look play a significant role in sex assignment.2 Many – perhaps most – intersex traits only become evident after sex assignment.

Disorders of sex development: a pejorative term for intersex traits introduced following an invite- only clinical workshop in 2005. Some individuals prefer the ameliorative term ‘differences of sex development’.

Endosex: a word meaning “non-intersex”. This can be helpful in acknowledging that intersex persons old enough to freely express an identity may be heterosexual and may identify with sex assigned at birth (commonly termed cisgender).

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