A person who is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.
The term intersex is used to describe people who are born with unusual sexual anatomy, rather than people who have changed their sexual anatomy through surgery, hormones or other treatment. These people are typically referred to as transgender, such as reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner, actress Laverne Cox of “Orange Is the New Black” fame and writer Janet Mock.
There is a wide variation in the extent to which people are affected by being intersex as well as the degree to which intersex characteristics are problematic for them. Obviously, social acceptance plays a major role in how negatively having intersex characteristics affects people. Because medical professionals are not consistently well trained in understanding intersex issues, they do not always provide the best advice for the parents of a newborn with intersex characteristics.
Some of the ways people can be affected by being intersex include appearing to have a small penis (micropenis) – either on a “boy” or a “girl” with a larger than usual clitoris. In addition, the person may appear to have a scrotum that is divided so that it looks like a labia or a labia that does not have a vaginal opening.
The urethral opening may not be in the usual place or may not have developed naturally at all, and the testes may be undescended so they are inside of the body rather than in the scrotum. This may affect people who appear either male or female. Also, breasts may or may not develop as expected from the person’s presumed gender.
Some people are born intersex because they have unusual combinations of the X and Y chromosomes that typically determine gender. Moreover, some people’s bodies don’t respond to the messages of the sex hormones in a typical way, so they don’t develop sexual characteristics in the usual way as a result.
The Intersex flag was created by Organisation Intersex International Australia in July 2013 to create a flag “that is not derivative, but is yet firmly grounded in meaning”. The organisation aimed to create a symbol without gendered pink and blue colors. It describes yellow and purple as “hermaphrodite” colors. The organisation describes it as freely available “for use by any intersex person or organisation who wishes to use it, in a human rights affirming community context”.The flag has been utilised by a range of media and human rights organisations.