Intersex is a general term used to describe a variety of conditions in which an individual is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit typical, binary definitions of male or female. Intersex individuals have a wide range of physical characteristics, which can include variations in chromosomes, hormones, or genitals. These individuals may have mixed genitalia, meaning some combination of ovaries and testes. The ovarian and testicular tissues may grow together in the same organ or they may have a ‘male side’ or ‘female side’ develop on the inside. So many myths about being intersex abound, here are the most common ones that have been debunked.
Myth 1: Intersex individuals are extremely rare
This is not true. One estimate has it that 1 in every 2,000 individuals is born with intersex traits. While that statistic is contested, there are more intersex people than most people assume. One challenge regarding getting more accurate stats is the stigma around being intersex. The rarity of intersex traits has been exaggerated in part because of a lack of public awareness and understanding of the condition.
Myth 2: Intersex individuals are hermaphrodites
A hermaphrodite is a mythical creature that is half-male and half-female with both genitalia fully developed. Intersex individuals, however, do not possess both sets of fully-functioning reproductive organs. They may have physical characteristics that are not typical of males or females, but they are still either male or female, not fully both.
Myth 3: Intersex individuals are mentally or emotionally disabled
There is no evidence to support the idea that intersex individuals are more likely to have mental or emotional health issues than the general population. This belief is likely based on a lack of understanding about intersex conditions and the assumption that intersex individuals are “abnormal.” In fact, the mental and emotional stress faced by intersex individuals often comes from societal stigma and discrimination, not from their physical characteristics.
Myth 4: Intersex individuals can’t have children
This is not true. While some intersex individuals may have difficulty conceiving due to physical characteristics, others are fully capable of having children. It’s also important to know that intersex individuals, like any other individuals, have the right to make decisions about their own reproductive health and should be able to access appropriate healthcare.
Myth 5: Intersex individuals should be subjected to surgeries
It was a common practice in the past, particularly in the medical field, to perform surgeries on intersex infants and children to make their physical characteristics conform to typical definitions of male or female. These surgeries, which can include the removal of gonads, and correction of internal or external genitals, are often motivated by a desire to “normalize” the child’s appearance rather than by any medical necessity.
It’s important to note that many intersex individuals have spoken out against these surgeries, and have advocated for the right to make their own decisions about their bodies. Intersex rights activists have called for a shift away from a focus on “normalizing” intersex individuals through surgery, and instead, on providing them with the support and resources they need to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.
Intersex individuals are not a rare phenomenon, they are not hermaphrodites, they are not mentally or emotionally disabled, they are not incapable of having children and they are not supposed to be subjected to surgeries without their own consent to conform to one sex. Raising awareness and educating ourselves on the topic of intersex can help to dispel these myths and create a more inclusive and understanding society for all people, including those who are intersex.
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