Updated November 20, 20152:52 PM ET
By Barbara J. King
In the area of 1 in 2,000 people are born intersex. These individuals may have mixed genitalia, meaning some combination of ovaries and testes. This comes about either because ovarian and testicular tissue grow together in the same organ or because a “male side” and a “female side” develop in the body.
Other intersex individuals may have genetically inherited chromosomal abnormalities such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, which may result in masculinization of the genitals in people born with XX chromosomes, or androgen insensitivity syndrome, when the body doesn’t respond to testosterone and a person has XY chromosomes and feminized genitalia.
If you’ve never heard of intersex, you’re not alone, says Georgiann Davis, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas sociology professor and intersex person, in her October column “5 Things I Wish You Knew About Intersex People.” (You may have heard the old term “hermaphrodite,” but that term is no longer used; it suggests bodies that encompass all male and all female organs at once, which is not the case.)
These days, transgender people and some of the challenges they face are pretty much everywhere in the media — a very good thing, especially when discussion of the right to use the bathroom that matches one’s gender identity is supplemented with attention to risks of suicide and violence faced by transgender people. (Note: Nov. 20 isTransgender Day of Remembrance.)
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