Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Intersex

People might be unfamiliar with the term, intersex. That's part of why I am dedicating my "I" post to it but also, I have waiting in the shadows an intersex main character waiting for me to write the book. It's actually contemporary YA, so should be interesting for me when I get the chance. There are going to be some anatomy words for explanation, this is the warning if stuff like that makes you uncomfortable, run away! *winks* So, on to the topic.


What does the term mean?
Intersex is a word used for a group of "conditions" that are usually characterized, with one or two exceptions, where a discrepancy exists between the individual's external genitals and the internal genitals. At times the internal can be mixed, as well.

The site all this information comes from, minus the one statistic is MedlinePlus and the National Institutes of Medicine (NIH) at

NIH lists 4 categories of causes:
46, XX - Female chromosomes and ovary but external genitals are male.
46, XY - Male chromosomes but external genitals are either female, ambiguous or formed incomplete.
True Gonadal Intersex - Has both ovarian and testicular tissue, and chromosomes are XX, XY or both.
Complex or Undetermined - Other chromosome configurations that include XXY and XXX.

According to Father Mag, "one in every two thousand births is an intersex child..."

This may seem a smaller number than one would expect but not all intersex can be diagnosed at birth. Some aren't even discovered until after the person has died.

Interesting Fact:
An older term for the condition, hermaphroditism, was a combination of the Greek god Hermes and goddess Aphrodite. Hermes as the god for male sexuality (among other things) and Aphrodite known as the goddess for female sexuality, love and beauty.

When someone is born with this condition:
What used happened in the still rather near past is that the infant, if it is one of the conditions that was discovered at birth was usually put to surgery as soon as they could. A gender would be assigned usually depending on what seemed an easier surgery based on the outer genitals. Times have changed a little in that surgery is put off as long as deemed healthy, even having the child take part in the assignment of a gender/sex. This change is in part to the fact that people know more about the complexities that go into gender identity.

My character isn't completely figured out yet. I was thinking of going with XXY but is one of the rare conditions that doesn't have the discrepancy between external and internal. In fact, it probably wouldn't be noticed right away unless for some reason a genetics test was taken. So, I'm going to have to do more research to figure out Taylor. That and I'm still deciding (cause I know what to do but not overly excited yet) for how to address the main character because I usually write in third person. Someone recommended "shim" but I am not comfortable using it and not sure enough readers would even know what it means since even I didn't know until recently. May have to go first person for this one. Still, I look forward to writing the YA novel.


Angeline said...

I'm crrently writing a short story with humanoid creatures that can change sex, so this is going to be of great use to me. Thanks for posting!

Jules said...

Wow, there sure is a lot of research here. We use to have an intersex here, he donated his body to science, such a sweet guy and he worked in the hospital. Great post. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Dawn Embers said...

Thank you both for commenting.

Angeline - That is going to be interesting. Wish I could read that one.

Jules - I had to research a lot for college. I'm sure he was interesting.