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All About Intersex

All About Intersex

Intersex is a generally descriptive term that identifies people whose reproductive anatomy, chromosomes, or hormones don't fit a binary characteristic. Approximately 1.7% of the population is Intersex, and the normalisation of Intersex bodies has been an issue of great debate within the medical field.

Being Intersex is not an indication of sexual orientation or gender identity. You can be Intersex and gay, Intersex and straight, Intersex and bisexual, Intersex and asexual/aromantic/demisexual. Sexual and gender identity are separate from being Intersex, and have no correlation in contrast with the general population.  

Morgan Carpenter's Intersex Flag, designed 2013. 

Historically, Intersex babies and children were operated on as soon as traits became obvious, or there was evidence of genital differentiation. Sometimes parents were not advised of this, and thus Intersex people were also unaware of these medical interventions. The rationale behind this was that if an infant was raised in the gender that most closely aligned with their physical characteristics, then they would develop consistent gender traits and live as a woman or a man. 

For people born with sex characteristics that do not fit into a social binary, nonconsensual medical intervention can be incredibly invasive, damaging, and cause a great deal of emotional and physical pain. The risks of medical intervention without the consent of Intersex people to apparently remedy their bodies and presentation as children are numerous, and can have irreversible effects on the Intersex person. Forcing infants, children, and postpubescent teenagers to confirm to strict gender norms through invasive surgeries without consent, or due to pressure from medical professionals is deeply harmful, in breach of human rights, and Eurocentric. Some Intersex people choose to have surgeries or hormone therapy as consenting adults, which is a personal decision. 

Whilst Intersexuality identifies difference from binary sexual characteristics, Intersex does not equal transgender. Gender is a social construct, and gender identity is separate from biological sex characteristics. Biological essentialism (the belief that gender is dictated by the presence of biological sex characteristics) is a violent and minimising viewpoint that negates the individual and cultural experiences of gender and biological variance. Nonconsensual surgery on Intersex youth is an act of biological essentialism and erases Intersex and non binary lives, and further perpetuates harmful gender norms. 

Some critique the inclusion of Intersex in the LGBTQAI+ acronym and community. Agnes & Edie, like many others, believe its inclusion highlights our support for those who do not fit within a cisheteronormative framework. Exclusion and gatekeeping are the enemy of meaningful progress, however we respect the views of Intersex people who choose not to identify within the LGBTQAI+ community. 

We support legislation that removes gender normalisation surgery as a routine procedure for Intersex infants, and believe that any surgeries should be consensual, non pressured, fully educated, and decided by Intersex individuals themselves. 

Intersex people are valid, they're worthy, and they're beautiful in their bodies just as they are. 

Media & Further Info

There's a rad video of Intersex peeps describing their experience here.

Rainbow Youth's "All About Intersex" video can be found here

You can find copies of the All of Us booklet here on our website.

The United Nations "Free and Equal" video on Intersex awareness is here. 

Emily Quinn's TED Talk can be found here.

Intersex Human Rights Australia have great statistical information here. 

New Zealand Legal Information Institute have an article by Elisabeth McDonald (Associate Professor of Law, VUW) critiquing gender normalising surgery here. This is an exceptional read for those looking for a local overview of the lack of Intersex-friendly legislation in Aotearoa. 

The 2016 Roundtable Report from the Human Rights Commission is a wealth of information from advocates and front-line personnel working within Intersex spaces. You can find this here. 

Pidgeon Pagonis - possibly one of the raddest people ever. 

Mani's Story - Mani Bruce Mitchell is the Executive Director and founder of IANZ, is an incredible advocate, and outspoken ally for the ceasing of gender normalising surgery on infants in Aotearoa. 

Intersexion - An excerpt from a 2012 documentary about Intersex surgeries. 



Rainbow Youth

Human Rights Commission

Intersex Youth Aotearoa

Interface Project


Morgan Carpenter

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