In the community of sex and gender minorities, some (but not all) people have differences of sex development. These traits can include medically detectable physiological differences in chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals.
These differences are not always visible, and some people with differences of sex development do not know they have these traits until they are tested.
Some people identify as both transgender and having a difference of sex development. Others are transgender but do not have a known difference of sex development. Many people with a difference of sex development, especially those who accept their sex assigned at birth, do not consider themselves transgender.
Some people who have not been scientifically tested for these differences of sex development claim to have these traits without evidence. This is sometimes done by transgender people and others in our community who believe it is more socially desirable to claim an “intersex” identity. Claiming to have a trait without evidence is disrespectful and harmful to people who actually have been tested and confirmed. As researcher Peggy Cadet writes:
False claims of having an intersex condition, taking the form of factitious disorder, have occurred historically but are even more frequently observed in the era of the Internet. Three cases are presented that had previously been reported as genuine in print media, television programs, and online postings. Probable motivations include emotional nurturance, self-aggrandizement, denial of being transgendered, and fascination with being intersex. Persons with factitious intersex conditions may interfere with peer-group support and spread misinformation. While acknowledging the reality of intersex conditions in some people, we advise a high index of suspicion and, as needed, verification of claims.
Those who wonder if they may have one of these traits should discuss it with a healthcare professional, who can then do necessary testing to determine.
The terms and ideas about people with these traits have changed significantly in recent years.
The term “intersex” itself is falling out of use as did the older term “hermaphrodite,” so it’s best to ask people in that community about respectful terminology.
Some researchers and theorists, beginning with Magnus Hirschfeld in the 1920s, have hypothesized that transgender people may have a “neurological intersex” trait.
A last comment is appropriate with regard to transsexuality. I believe there is sufficient evidence to consider it a subtype of intersexuality. While the genitals of transsexuals are not unusual and there is nothing noteworthy about their hormone balance or chromosomes, it has been found—at least for the brains of those transsexuals studied—that areas of their brains are significantly different from that of non-transsexuals.
Further, it has recently been reported that there are significant differences in genes (the aromatase gene, the androgen receptor gene, and the oestrogen beta-receptor gene) crucial for the hormonal actions needed for typical sexual differentiation of the brain.Diamond, in May (2005).
There is no standardized protocol currently available for use on living people to test this hypothesis. Some people with differences of sex development feel this idea and this term are confusing and unhelpful.
Hirschfeld M (1923) Die intersexuelle Konstitution. Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen 23: 3-27
May L, ed. (2005). Transgenders and Intersexuals: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Couldn’t Think of the Question: a Resource Book for the General Community. East Street Publications, ISBN 9781921037078
Aoi H (2018). I ≠ T (intersex is not equal trans). Brújula Intersexual https://brujulaintersexual.org/2018/03/27/intersex-is-not-equal-trans-hana/
Cadet P, Feldman MD (2012). Pretense of a Paradox: Factitious Intersex Conditions on the Internet. International Journal of Sexual Health Volume 24, 2012 – Issue 2,pp. 91-96. https://doi.org/10.1080/19317611.2011.629287
Beautiful You MRKH Foundation (beautifulyoumrkh.org)
CARES Foundation (caresfoundation.org)
DSD Families (dsdfamilies.org)
Gender Spectrum (genderspectrum.org)
Hypospadias and Epispadias Association (heainfo.org)
Intersex & Genderqueer Recognition Project (intersexrecognition.org)
Intersex Campaign for Equality – IC4E (intersexequality.com)
The Interface Project (interfaceproject.org)
OII – Organization Intersex International (oiiinternational.com)
- Organisation Intersex International Australia
- Organisation Intersex International Chinese
- Organisation Intersex International Germany
- Associazione Italiana Sindrome Insensibilità Androgeni (Italy) (aisia.org)
- ARSI (arsintersex.org)
- Brújula Intersexual (brujulaintersexual.org)
- Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (ccgsd-ccdgs.org)
- Global Action for Trans* Equality (Argentina) (transactivists.org)
- GrApSIA (Spain) (grapsia.org)
- Hypospadias UK (hypospadiasuk.co.uk)
- ILGA Europe (ilga-europe.org)
- ILGA World (ilga.org)
- Intersex Germany (intersexuelle-menschen.net)
- Intersex Trust Aotearoa New Zealand (ianz.org.nz)
- Intersex UK (intersexuk.org)
- Intersexioni (Italy) (intersexioni.it)
- Intersex Russia (intersexrussia.org)
- Klinefelter’s Syndrome Association (UK) (ksa-uk.net)
- Support Initiative for People with Atypical Sex Development (Uganda) (sipd.webs.com)
- TrIQ (Germany) (transinterqueer.org)
- Zwischengeschlecht (Switzerland) (blog.zwischengeschlecht.info)
- Accord Alliance (accordalliance.org)
- Bodies Like Ours (bodieslikeours.org)
- Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia Education and Support Network (congenitaladrenalhyperplasia.org)
- Intersex Society of North America (isna.org)
- Houston Intersex Society (thehoustonintersexsociety.wordpress.com)
- Intersex Initiative (intersexinitiative.org)
- MRKH.org (mrkh.org)