What does intersex mean?

Let’s talk about sex… and by sex, we mean the ways our bodies are often regarded as male, female or somewhere in between. There are a few different factors which make up our sex:


Our genitalia (private parts): Like a penis or vagina.

Our reproductive system inside our bodies: A prostate or a uterus.

Our genes: Every cell in our bodies has tiny messengers called chromosomes which tell us what our sex is.

Our hormones: Oestrogen or testosterone.

Our gonads: Ovaries or testes.

Our secondary sex characteristics: Like beards, breasts and body hair (though these are actually a result of our hormones, and can change if our hormones change).

 Intersex is a word used to talk about when someone’s physical sex doesn’t seem to fit with society’s definitions of what makes someone male or female.

So intersex can mean a lot of different things. It usually means that someone has genitals, a reproductive system, genes, hormones or secondary sex characteristics which are slightly different or very different to what society thinks of as ‘common’. Someone who is intersex can be affected by one, a few, or all of these factors. Some people never even know that they are intersex, because the differences never affect their lives.

But hold up – does someone who is intersex not see themselves as male or female? Maybe, but many intersex peeps still feel male or female. Feeling like a man or a woman (gender) is not always the same as what’s happening in your body (sex). The fact that someone is intersex does not tell us anything about their gender identity (the gender they know themselves to be).

It’s important to know that intersex isn’t a clear category that has always existed. People, usually doctors, decide what makes someone intersex. It all depends on what they decide ‘normal’ is. And a lot of people disagree on this… so it’s pretty complicated!

What’s most important is that there’s nothing stopping someone who is intersex from having happy relationships and a healthy sex life. It just depends on the people around them understanding and accepting them for all they are. People who are intersex may go through medical procedures – but this is not needed unless it would make them happier or improve their health.

Sadly, many intersex people are forced to undergo unnecessary and dangerous surgery against their will… even as babies. Brush up on your knowledge so you can be the best friend and partner you can be, with our article My identity, my sex, my gender, my attraction: What does it all mean?



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Anonymous 4 November 2018 16:56

Hi, I am an adult male, Iâ??ve been having a challenge until present with anal pains suspected to be (piles/anul fissure) according to medical checkup results, I tried most of the medication but the cure remains temporary, within a week sharp and severe pains are back again, I went to see different doctors, they keep on recommending similar medications and the results are the same, Iâ??m experiencing these sharp radiating pains mostly after relieving myself, I donâ??t know what to do anymore, Iâ??ve been leaving with this condition for more than 2 years, please assist!

B-Wise Expert Expert 5 November 2018 11:34

Hi MA-TSH37, thank you for question. Your condition seems to be quite serious considering you symptoms and the period of time you have had this condition. It is best that you visit a specialist at the hospital that will be able to check exactly what is wrong and they will be able to help you.