Emily says, "In layman's terms, I was brought up as a girl because that's my phenotype - aka how my body looks on the outside. The testes are internal. Breast development happens because my body converts some of my ridiculous levels of testosterone into estrogen. No other signs of puberty really happen."
Research confirms that most individuals with intersex conditions are happy with the sex to which they have been assigned. We should never assume that gender-atypical behavior by an intersex person reflects an incorrect sex assignment. We can accomplish so much by being aware of our own caring attitudes toward sex and gender.
Please, allow me to share some information from the American Psychological Association about this important topic. I hope that it helps people find that education not only increases comprehension but also stimulates an improved response.
What does intersex mean?
A variety of conditions that lead to atypical development of physical sex characteristics are collectively referred to as intersex conditions. These conditions can involve abnormalities of the external genitals, internal reproductive organs, sex chromosomes, or sex-related hormones. Some examples include:
• External genitals that cannot be easily classified as male or female
• Incomplete or unusual development of the internalreproductive organs
• Inconsistency between the external genitals and the internal reproductive organs
• Abnormalities of the sex chromosomes
• Abnormal development of the testes or ovaries
• Over- or underproduction of sex-related hormones
• Inability of the body to respond normally to sex-related hormones
How common are intersex conditions?
What are some examples of intersex conditions?
• 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, in which low levels of an enzyme, 5-alpha-reductase, cause incomplete masculinization of the genitals in male infants
• Partial androgen insensitivity, in which cells do not respond normally to testosterone and related hormones, causing incomplete masculinization of the genitals in male infants
• Penile agenesis, in which male infants are born without a penis
• Complete androgen insensitivity, in which cells do not respond at all to testosterone and related hormones, causing female-appearing genitals in infants with male chromosomes
• Klinefelter syndrome, in which male infants are born with an extra X (female) chromosome, which typically causes incomplete masculinization and other anomalies
• Turner syndrome, in which female infants are born with one, rather than two, X (female) chromosomes, causing developmental anomalies
• Vaginal agenesis, in which female infants are born without a vagina
Some intersex conditions cause babies to be born with genitals that cannot easily be classified as male or female (called ambiguous genitals). These intersex conditions are usually recognized at birth. The first four conditions listed above—congenital adrenal hyperplasia, 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, partial androgen insensitivity syndrome, and penile agenesis—are in this category.
What happens when a baby’s genitals cannot be easily classified as male or female?
For still other conditions, individuals may be equally satisfied with assignment to either sex, or there may not be enough information to make confident recommendations. Doctors share this information with babies’ parents as part of the process of deciding the most appropriate sex to assign.
(“Answers to Your Questions About Individuals With Intersex Conditions. American Psychological Association. APA Task Force on Gender Identity, Gender Variance, and Intersex Conditions: Margaret Schneider, PhD, University of Toronto; Walter O. Bockting, PhD, University of Minnesota; Randall D. Ehrbar, PsyD, New Leaf Services for Our Community, San Francisco, CA; Anne A. Lawrence, MD, PhD, Private Practice, Seattle, WA; Katherine Louise Rachlin, PhD, Private Practice, New York, NY; Kenneth J. Zucker, PhD, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Produced by the APA Office of Public and member communications. 2016)