Vertegenwoordigers van OII Europe en ILGA-Europe op bezoek bij de Raad van Europa.

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What 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 contruct of male and female.

  1. Lived experience = that someone has experienced something themselves so that they have ‘lived it’. It is not about the story itself but about the influence of the experience on their life. These include experiences in the hospital, at the sports club or at work, and the consequences of these experiences.
  2. Socio-cultural consequences = the effects of a person’s position and functioning in society due to society’s attitude towards intersex people.
  3. Normative social construct of male and female = the image of man or woman as held in society. This image is based on desires, obligations, expectations, and assumptions, but not on scientific evidence.

In other words: intersex is about the experiences of people born with a body that does not match the image most people have of a man or a woman.

How many people are intersex?
The answer to how many intersex people are out there depends on the definition used for intersex and which research population you use. The most recent research has shown that at least 1.1 percent of people are intersex. This translates to 1 in 90 people, and 8.24 million people in Europe. In this research, intersex was defined as the experience of having a body that does not fit within the normative social construct of male and female.

Sex diversity
People are already pigeonholed at birth: you are a boy or a girl. Often this is done based on the person’s genitals. The problem is that genitals are not the only sex characteristics because genes, hormones, and chromosomes, for instance, also play a significant role. Every person has a unique combination of different sex characteristics. Therefore, the boxes ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are limiting concepts: based on sex characteristics, people cannot be exclusively divided into men and women. Every body is different and unique. Sex is not a dichotomy, but a spectrum with an infinite number of equivalent variations. We call this sex diversity. Everyone is part of the concept of sex diversity, because every human being is somewhere on this spectrum. Sex diversity is the full spectrum of variation in sex, unlimited by the limits seemingly set by the social construction of male and female.