What is intersex?

From Alice Dreger’s Garden Talk “Is our anatomy our destiny?
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Intersex people are born with sex characteristics that do not fit neatly into the typical binary definitions of female or male. Their sex chromosomes or sex characteristics are non-typical and / or do not align. Intersex people may have chromosomes, genitals, gonads, or other physical traits that are considered both male and female. Intersex is a well-documented phenomenon; real people are born with these variations every day.

At birth, doctors and parents usually assign a sex to a child based on their externally visible sex characteristics (i.e. whether they have a penis or a vagina). This may be different from their chromosomal sex.

What this tells us is that sex development is tremendously complex, involving a lot more than the X and Y chromosomes. Factors that may influence sex development include genes on many different chromosomes, hormones produced by the individual, and the hormones and other chemicals a fetus is exposed to in the womb.

Learn more about this with our series “Anatomy & Identity”

How we think about who we are and how that intersect with our bodies, brains and biology is the subject of discussion today. But has this always been the case? Are there blurred lines between anatomy & identity we should be exploring?

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