Intersex is a term for innate sex characteristics (sexual anatomy, reproductive organs, hormonal patterns, sex chromosomes) that vary from stereotypes of female or male bodies.
These physical traits can be associated with underlying variations, each with their own characteristics and expression that may be apparent during pre-natal screening or at birth, or may become apparent later in life, such as at puberty or when trying to conceive. As a natural part of human biodiversity, intersex variations have occurred in people from every region of earth since the beginning of history.
Many variations can also be described using clinical or diagnostic terminology (e.g. 'DSD', androgen insensitivity syndrome, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, XXY/Kleinfelter, MRKH, hypospadias etc.).
People use the words they know and are most comfortable with to talk about their bodies. The words a person uses may also change in different situations, such as between school or the doctor’s. Some people may not like or use the term intersex at all. At InterLink we use ‘intersex’ as the most empowering umbrella term for all variations in sex characteristics and welcome all conversations about intersex, irrespective of the language a person uses.
As intersex is about physical traits, the intersex community encompasses a broad range of bodies, identities, and personal experiences. Intersex people are not all the same, having different genders and legal sex markers from one another. Although most intersex people will live within the female or male genders assigned at birth, some will invariably be transgender or gender diversity. Similarly, while many intersex people have heterosexual relationships, others will be queer, lesbian, gay, bisexual or asexual.
Because intersex can sometime be related to inherited genetics, the intersex community includes the parents and families of people with intersex variations.