What Is Intersex?

The Intersex Series, #1

Intersex is a general term used for a variety of physical conditions affecting a person’s reproductive or sexual anatomy and chromosomal makeup. The result is that intersex individuals are born with internal or external reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit typical male/female categories.

Examples of intersex

Here are just a few examples of how intersex could manifest itself physiologically:

  • Someone could be born with atypical genetics, some cells having XX chromosomes and some having XY.
  • An individual could be born that looks male externally but with internal female anatomy.
  • A person could be born with genitals that are partially male and partially female:
    • A boy could be born with a conspicuously small penis.
    • A girl could be born with a larger than average clitoris.
    • A boy could be born with a scrotum that is split like labia.
    • A girl could be born without a vaginal opening.

To complicate matters, intersex conditions don’t always show up at birth. Sometimes they’re discovered at puberty, sometimes during adulthood when a reproductive issue crops up, and sometimes they’re never known.

Sex, oversimplified

Intersex is kind of a “kitchen sink” term, covering many conditions. It’s not a “discreet or natural category.” Rather, according to the Intersex Society of North America, “Intersex is a socially constructed category that reflects real biological variation.” The ISNA likens the biological sex spectrum to the color spectrum:

Intersex Spectrum, female to male

Where does pink end and blue begin? How many shades lie between?

Trying to pin down biologic variation in human sex is likewise problematic. Nature doesn’t impose rigid rules on what’s male and what’s female—it produces a wide variety.

However, with our need to categorize and control, we slot nature’s infinite diversity into male and female (and perhaps intersex if we’re magnanimous) to simplify social interactions. To fill out a job application. Or to reduce the threat to our perceived worldview that too often has room for only pink and blue, just another version of black and white.

With our tendency to classify and label, we do injustice to real individuals. There are people out there not quite like the rest of us. They need God’s grace as much as anybody. Christ accepts them as they are. Can we?

If you’re one of the many who was born with neat biology at the far ends of the spectrum, be aware there are many who fall somewhere between the poles. They’re just as precious and unique in the eyes of the Creator as you. Christ died for them and longs for them to come to him. Will you help to bring them—or will you drive them away?

More information:
Intersex Torture Must Cease

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