Not all human beings are born as boys and girls into this world. There is little information about intersex people and there are also some half-truths in circulation. What is certain though, is that there is a sizeable number of intersex people.
Intersex people have physical sex characteristics that cannot be categorized as solely male or solely female. This condition is also known as congenital variations of primary physical sex characteristics and affects, for example, sexual organs, hormone production or the chromosome set, figure, distribution of body hair or muscle mass.
Intersex traits can become visible already at birth or show up only later in life.
How common is intersex?
There is no official figure of the percentage intersex people make up of in the overall population in Germany. Although scientific estimates put the figure anywhere between 0.02 and 1.7 percent – depending on how many intersex variations are considered. It basically means that possibly 1 in 60 babies are born with intersex traits.
In any case, there are more intersex people in Germany than assumed. That’s partly because many do not openly disclose the fact that they are intersex in order not to fall prey to discrimination. Also, sometimes people are not even aware that they have intersex traits.
Are intersex people a third gender?
No! Just like others, inter* people also have very different physical sex characteristics. Even their gender identities vary from person to person. They can identify as female, male, non-binary and/or intersex. The asterisk (*) used in the German abbreviation "inter*" stands for this diversity.
Is being intersex a disease?
No! But some intersex variations may be associated with specific health risks. But other than that, inter* people are as healthy or as sick as any other person.
However, there are medical diagnoses for intersex variations, summed up under the term "Disorder of Sex Development" (DSD). Many inter* people don't want their intersex traits to be called a “syndrome” or “disorder”. They feel the term creates the impression that something is wrong with their bodies and thus needs to be fixed.
Why do inter* people find medical treatment controversial?
Inter* organisations deplore that even today, intersex people are being operated on or are subject to some form of medical treatment. In many cases, this happens even during infancy or in childhood with the aim to display a “clear” gender. Such interventions are often performed without any real medical benefits and without informed, prior consent. Moreover, they inflict irreversible harm and require lifelong follow-up treatments, and in addition negatively impact the quality of life of intersex people. International human rights bodies consider this a violation of the right to bodily integrity and sexual self-determination.