The I in LGBTQIA+ stands for intersex, what I believe is one of the most misunderstood letters of the rainbow.
Have you ever met someone with red hair? There are just as many people with red hair as there are intersex individuals. Up to 1.7% of all individuals are born with intersex traits. The traits are not the same for everyone and many people don’t even know without a genetic test. Intersex individuals have always existed but not always been recognized. And some have been mutilated at birth to surgically alter their bodies to conform to one gender or another.
Intersex is a term that refers to people who have one or more sex characteristics that fall outside of traditional conceptions of the male or female body. While many people often believe this means a difference in genitals, this is not always the case. The variations may occur within their chromosomes, internal organs or hormones. Some characteristics are identified at birth while others may not be discovered until puberty or later in life. It may be that one individual has ovarian and testicular tissue while another individual has a naturally occurring chromosome make up of XXY.
When a baby is born with intersex genitalia, it is common that doctors and parents will make a decision to surgically alter the child to physically resemble one gender or another. As you can imagine, this can be a source of many challenges for the child as they grow without having had autonomy over their body or expression of their correct gender. Many human rights organizations are now working to decrease the non-essential surgeries to allow individuals to have choices over their own bodies.
While it is human to gravitate towards binary thinking, this or that, black or white, male or female, this way of thinking will never allow us to expand our knowledge of one another and the beautiful continuums we exist within, both physically and mentally. Being intersex is not a curiosity but a naturally occurring part of the continuum of human existence. If you would like more resources to expand your knowledge, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.