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A guide for parents of intersex children. Compiled by IGLYO, OII Europe and EPA.
Questions others may ask
Few things are as surprising as the questions other people may ask you. Sometimes you will want to answer, sometimes you can’t (yet), and often you will think ‘What does it matter to you?’. In this chapter, you will find short answers to questions that you may not have thought of yourself but that people might ask you.
How you answer this will depend on how you are raising your child. If you are raising them as a girl or a boy, you can simply say so. If you know the person well or feel comfortable doing so, you can answer that they are intersex and you are raising them as a boy or a girl. If you are raising them without defining their gender at this point, you can say that you are raising them in a gender- neutral way.
No, it is perfectly natural. It happens to at least 1 in 200 children with some sources stating that up to 1.7% of children can have some variation of sex characteristics (Blackless 2000). It is just not widely spoken about in society.
No. Hermaphrodites have full sets of both male and female organs, and that’s impossible in humans. They just have variations in their sex characteristics which do not meet medical norms of male and female bodies.
Intersex is just another diversity found in humans, no different to variations in hair colour or height. It only becomes a disability if you treat intersex people differently and don’t give them the same chances as you would with non-intersex people.
Suggestion for strangers: Don’t you think this is a strange question? It is not common to ask what someone’s genitalia look like. Even the youngest children have the right to privacy. Suggestion for family members: They look absolutely fine.
Many intersex children will grow up without needing any medical interventions or any specialist support as long as they are surrounded by people who love and accept them for who they are. Being different in any way tends to lead to higher incidences of bullying or discrimination, so the main issue is ensuring that there is greater understanding and acceptance of intersex people in all areas of your child’s life.
There’s no link between sex characteristics and sexual orientation, so intersex people can be lesbian, gay, straight, bisexual or any other sexual orientation.
“I don’t know, as long as my child is happy” would be the most logical answer. It is impossible to predict a child’s future gender identity at birth. Today, people often assume that gender identity is primarily fixed already at birth, but only becomes apparent when a child is aware of the difference between men and women.
Many intersex people identify as women or men and often also agree with the gender marker they were assigned at birth. Sometimes intersex people who have been assigned a gender at birth, may realise that this is wrong for them as they grow up. This means they will probably want to change their name and how they present to fit better with their gender identity. Others may decide to not identify as a woman or a man (non-binary gender) and wish to express both or neither aspect of what is considered traditionally masculine and feminine. Two intersex people who share the same sex characteristics may have different gender identities.