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Image credits: Lisa ter Horst and

This is intersex

Intersex is the lived experience of the socio-cultural consequences of being born with a body that does not fit within the normative social construct of male and female. 1 in 90 people are intersex. Rather than the binary male and female, biological sex is a spectrum with infinite variations, including male and female. This means everyone has a unique set of hormones, chromosomes and sex characteristics.

What do you know about intersex?

Test your knowledge with the following questions. The answer becomes visible when you place the cursor on the card. Cheating is not allowed ;)


What is intersex?

What is intersex?

The term intersex refers to the lived experience of people who are born with a body that does not conform to the normative social construct of male or female.

How many?

How many European intersex people are there?

Number of intersex people

There are 8.24 million people in Europe (1 in 90 people) who have an intersex variation. This figure is based on Danish research (Frisch M et al, 2019).


Where are all these people?

Intersex is invisible

Because of feelings of shame and stigma, but also because of advised secrecy by medical professionals, most intersex people choose to not tell others they are intersex. They hardly tell anyone, which makes it seem intersex people do not exist.

Can you tell?

Can you tell if someone is intersex?

No, you can't tell

You can’t tell if someone is intersex. Intersex people do not look a certain way, nor do they look any different than people who are not intersex. Often, much and expensive research is needed to determine whether someone is intersex.

Sex characteristics?

What are sex characteristics?

Sex characteristics

Sex characteristics are the body features that are considered ‘typically’ male or female. Sex characteristics include hormones, chromosomes, but also the internal and external sex characteristics.

Human rights?

Why is it a human rights problem?

Human Rights

Intersex children worldwide still undergo unnecessary medical treatments without their consent. The aim is then to make the children fit better into the binary ‘male’ or ‘female’. The UN, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament consider such treatments a violation of human rights, and compare such surgeries to female genital mutilation (FGM).

XX or XY?

Do chromosomes determine your sex?

No, they do not for intersex people

According to what we’ve been taught in school, girls have XX chromosomes and boys XY chromosomes. This teaches us that people can be divided into two categories: men and women. This is untrue because there are also girls who have ‘typically male’ chromosomes, or only one X chromosome. Or boys with XXY chromosomes. It shows us sex is a spectrum.

What about sex registration?

Do you have to register a sex when a child is born?

Not always compulsory

It depends per country whether it’s possible to delay or to not register the sex of your child. Sometimes certain laws allow the sex registration to remain open when an intersex child is born. Other times this only applies to intersex children whose sex could not be determined (which is merely a small group of all intersex people).

Third sex?

Is intersex a 'third sex'?

Not a third sex

Intersex is not a ‘third sex’, because even among intersex people there is great diversity. Intersex merely shows that sex is not the binary male/female, but a broad spectrum. Most intersex people do identify as male or female, but, just like any other people, intersex people can also identify as non-binary.


Is intersex a condition or disease?

Not a disease

Intersex is a natural phenomenon, that shows that sex is a spectrum with infinite variations. This means every person has a unique set of bodily (internal and external) characteristics, including non-intersex people. Intersex is not a disease, nor does it hurt being intersex. You can’t ‘cure’ intersex either.


What does DSD mean?

Medical aspects

DSD stands for Disorders/Differences of Sex Development. It is a medical term, often used by doctors for the health problems that can be associated with intersex. Conversely, one could say that intersex is the name for the social aspects associated with DSD.


Can you get an X in your passport?

X in your passport

In most countries, it’s hard to get a X marker in the passport for intersex people (and in general). In areas where it is a possibility, it often only applies to people whose ‘sex could not be determined’ (a small group of all intersex people), transgender or non-binary people. The third gender marker should not only be available to intersex people, but to everyone. Current laws where a medical certificate is needed in order to get an X gender marker, reinforce pathologization.