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Religious Tolerance logo

Human sexuality topics


Intersexuality (a.k.a. Disorder of Sexual
Development, or DSD)
& intersex genital
mutilation (IGM)

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The term "LGBT" is an acronym for "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
Transgender/Transsexual. Sometimes, additional letters are
added, like "Q" for Queer or questioning, "I" for Intersexual.

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The information in this section is introductory in nature and is only intended for general information. It should not be used to make personal decisions. It does not replace the advice of a doctor. This web site disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.

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About intersexuality/DSD:

For the vast majority of humans:

  • Their genetic gender, as defined by the XX and XY sex chromosomes found in every cell of their body, matches

  • Their gender identity, as determined by the section or sections of their brain that generate their gender awareness, and also matches

  • Their assigned gender at birth as determined by the appearance of their external and internal sexual organs.

That is, most people fall into one of two categories:

bullet Genetically males because their cells contain a Y sex chromosomes; they are mentally and emotionally certain that they have a male gender identity; and posesses typical male genitalia -- a penis, testicles, etc., -- but no typical female genitalia.
bullet Genetically females because their cells contain two X sex chromosomes; they are firmly aware that they have a female gender identity, and possess ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina, etc., -- but no male genitalia.

However, for about 1 in every 100 newborns, their external genitalia deviate significantly from the standard female or male shape. In about 1 in every 2,000 newborns, their deviation is so great that it is not obvious to the medical staff whether the newborn is a boy or girl. Generally, the latter have elements of both the female and male "standard" genitalia. Alternately, they may have atypical sex chromosomes in their DNA. These persons have been described as hermaphrodites long ago, and intersex in the more recent past. The term "Intersexual" remains in common use among the public, but "Disorder of Sexual Development" (a.k.a. "Differences of Sexual Development"or DSD) is a recently developed term extensively often used by the medical community.

Some years ago, this web site included a voluntary survey that was intended to find out the gender, age, occupation and other details of the site's visitors. We gave three options for gender: male, female, or intersexual. An intersexual adult, who filled out the form, contacted us by Email. She thanked us for including an option that she could accurately choose. It was a novel experience for her. In her entire life, she had filled out countless forms that asked for her name, gender, address, etc. However, she had never seen a form that that gave her the option of stating her actual gender. This is one demonstration of how rigidly North American society considers everyone's gender to fall within a purely binary system -- either male or female.

In rare instances, emergency surgery on intersex newborns is necessary to prevent a life-threatening problem. A generation or two ago, surgical operations were also commonly performed on intersexual newborns and infants who had ambiguous external genitalia for what some believed to be valid medical reasons. The result of the surgery would normally alter the newborn's genitalia to match that of a girl's as closely as possible. At that time, the gender of very young children was commonly believed to be flexible and moldable. Parents were told to take their post-operative baby home, to keep the operation a secret, to raise her as a girl, and all would turn out just fine. Unfortunately, long term studies eventually showed that the end result was often disastrous. Their "girl" often asserted his maleness as a child and experienced increasing internal conflict as he matured. In one well publicized case, he committed suicide.

Elective surgical alterations on intersex infants, is sometimes called intersex genital mutilation (IGM). It has become less common in recent years. Many intersex persons have organized support groups to promote allowing intersex newborns to be accepted as they are without surgical modification.

In some African, Middle Eastern and Far Eastern countries, similar surgical operations, called female genital mutilation (FGM), are traditionally performed on non-intersex girls later in life. In these countries, the motivation appears to be a desire to follow a many millennial-old tradition, and also to reduce the girls' sex drive during adulthood so that they will be less likely to engage in pre-marital sex or post-marital adultery. Although these procedures are illegal in North America and some other countries, Aboriginal, Christian and Muslim families who have emigrated to the US or Canada from these countries sometimes still practice it by briefly returning to their country of origin with their girl children to have them mutilated.

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Copyright © 2011 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2018-OCT-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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