What is Intersex?
Intersex people are born with or develop innate physical or biological features that do not fit what doctors expect for female or male bodies.
Intersex traits are identified at many different life stages, including at birth and in early childhood, at puberty, and later in life. Intersex people grow up to express as diverse a range of identities as everyone else: they may be LGBT, or they may grow up to be cisgender women or men, or heterosexual.
While intersex bodies are all different, intersex people share many experiences in common, including risks of stigma, discrimination or harm because their bodies are seen as ‘different’.
People with intersex variations use many different terms to describe themselves, including words learned from parents and doctors, and words used to avoid misconceptions and stigma. Some of these words include medical terms, and ‘differences of sex development’.
Tip: You can learn more about what It means to be intersex on the Intersex Human Rights Australia (IHRA) website (external link).
Intersex People and Healthcare
Many people with intersex variations have similar health experiences.
Due to experiences of stigma due to their differences in physical or biological features, many intersex people face a number of healthcare difficulties. This can include:
- experiences of forced or coercive medical interventions, intended to make the bodies of intersex people conform to sex and gender norms
- psychosocial issues
- physical health issues.
Some intersex people may also face physical health issues and infertility due to the characteristics of their intersex trait.
Unwanted medical interventions and procedures that took place unnecessarily before individuals can consent can cause significant harm. It is extremely important that Intersex people consent to any healthcare they access, and are not forced to undergo treatments by parents, family members or practitioners. Medical interventions with personal consent can sometimes be helpful.
Tip: You can learn more about your medical rights on our page about Healthcare.
Discrimination, Bullying and Forced Interventions
Due to differences in appearance, labels and experiences, many Intersex children and young people face bulling and discrimination from peers and even adults. For this reason, parents and doctors sometimes want children to undergo surgeries and medical treatments before puberty. However, this is not always helpful and can be harmful.
All intersex children and adults have a right to live free from discrimination and bullying without medical intervention.
Tip: Learn more about your right to be free from discrimination on our page about Disability and Discrimination.