Like so many words that are descriptive of gender and sexuality, intersex is an umbrella term. It is used to describe any person whose reproductive or sexual anatomy does not fit into the binary buckets of male and female.
So as you can imagine, there is no one way to “look” intersex.
The binary construct of society continues to alienate intersex identities and attempts to label them as male or female.
In fact, even when it is clear that a newborn baby has intersex traits, gender assignment still happens at birth. Typically, an intersex child’s binary label is determined by how closely their sex traits resemble “male” or “female” genitalia.
Most commonly, you will see the acronym LGBTQ+ used to reference the queer community. And similar to the term intersex, queer is an umbrella term that represents countless identities. While LGBTQ+ explicitly speaks for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people, it doesn’t quite capture the incredible diversity of the queer community.
Today, one of the many ways the push for enriched inclusivity has manifested is in the acronym LGBTQIA+.
You will notice the addition of the “I” and the “A”. These represent intersex and asexual folk, both of which are victim to inadequate representation…
…especially when you consider just how common these identities are.
Based on estimates from Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling’s work, approximately 1.7% of people are born intersex. That means 1 to 2 of every 100 births are those of intersex babies (whether or not intersex traits are noticeable at birth).
When compared to the 0.3% chance of having identical twins, you realize just how common intersex is.
And while these statistics are insightful, there is still much unknown around how common intersex is. In most cases, this information is not required to be documented and is poorly tracked, even in the countries where the majority of births occur in hospitals.
Intersex Surgery & Gender Identity
It is common medical practice to assign a sex to a baby who is noticeably intersex at birth, despite their sex traits not being strictly “male” or “female”.
Oftentimes, this binary labeling results in surgery early on, with the vast majority of intersex surgeries happening under the age of 2. These surgeries are not life-saving, rather, they are an attempt by parents and doctors alike to alter a child’s sexual anatomy to best fit the sex they are assigned at birth.
These surgeries pose increasing complications to intersex people in regards to gender identity. At such a young age, it is impossible to know how an intersex child will identify. By completing irreversible surgeries that simply change the physical appearance of genitals, intersex people are denied the opportunity to make critical choices about their own body. These surgeries can influence everything from sexual function and fertility to lifelong emotional and psychological wellbeing.
Talking About Intersex
When speaking about intersex, there are a few things you should note. Here are some points you should emphasize when talking about intersex and some terms that you should avoid.
What to Include in Conversation:
1. Intersex is Diverse
Intersex is a general term to describe a human experience that is incredibly diverse. There is not one single narrative for intersex. In fact, there are more than 30 different medical terms for the different ways reproductive and sexual anatomy may develop.
2. Intersex People Face Fundamental Human Rights Issues
Due to the medical system’s binary perspective of sex, decisions are made on behalf of intersex people that rob them of their ability to present, function and simply exist in the way they see best fit. This is a fundamental human rights issue that requires systemic change.
IGM, or Intersex Genital Mutilation, is a big part of the human rights issues that intersex folk experience. According to StopIGM, an intersex advocacy organization, IGM practices include “non-consensual, medically unnecessary, irreversible, cosmetic genital surgeries, and/or other harmful medical procedures based on prejudice that would not be considered for “normal” children, without evidence of benefit for the children concerned.”
3. The Law is Lagging
Yes, there are laws that are intended to protect people from discrimination on the basis of sex, gender and orientation. However, the lack of awareness around intersex has excluded intersex people from legal protective measures and their enforcement. This includes workplace discrimination and genital mutilation.
4. LGBTQ+ vs LGBTQIA+
While most advocacy organizations and groups promote the use of LGBTQIA+, it is important to know that not every intersex person prefers the ‘I” to be included in the acronym.
What to Exclude from Conversation:
1. “Intersexual” or “Intersexed”
Intersex is not a verb, nor is it a sexuality. Which is why the terms “intersexual” and “intersexed” are not accurate. They are outdated and misleading, so you should eliminate them from your vocabulary.
You should never use the word hermaphrodite when speaking of or to an intersex person. This word is obsolete and offensive.
Similar to other historical slurs, this word has been reclaimed by some intersex people. This, however, does not give a non-intersex person permission to use it.
DSD, “difference of sex development” or “disorder of sex development”, is another outdated, medicalized term that should be excluded from your conversations around intersex.
4. “Ambiguous Genitalia”
Using the word “ambiguous” to describe a person’s genitalia makes the assumption that non-ambiguous, strictly “male” and “female” genitals are the only normal. This promotes a skewed and alienating perspective of intersex people, and contributes to a binary outlook on sex.
Intersex & Reproduction
An intersex person’s ability to reproduce is unique to their body.
In short, not every intersex person with a penis and testes is able to produce sperm… and not every intersex person who can produce sperm can cause a pregnancy.
The same goes for intersex people with a uterus. Even when a uterus, ovaries and a vagina are present in an intersex person, there is no guarantee that their reproductive and sexual anatomy will enable pregnancy.
Intersex & Pleasure
Sex anatomy can develop in so many different ways, both internally and externally. And just like all humans who pursue pleasure, there are toys that are best suited for your body and your preferences.
Here are some toys that can assist in solo and partner sessions for a variety of the more common intersex anatomical traits.
Toys for Enlarged Clits
If you have an enlarged clitoris and experience increased sensitivity in that region, you need a stimulator that features a wide variety of vibration patterns and intensity levels. This will give you the opportunity to control and fine tune your solo sessions to what is most pleasurable for you.
Filare by Lora DiCarlo
The Filare knows its way around. Its dual stimulation points mimic the feel of a skillful tongue circling and stroking your clitoris. This toy’s customizable controls let you determine just the right amount of touch and let you take the intensity from slow and sensual to a breathless full vibe.
Premium by Womanizer
The Premium clitoral simulator by Womanizer features Pleasure Air Technology and 12 different intensity levels. It’s motor is super silent, making it perfect for discreet use, and is 100% waterproof so you can play wherever. Additionally, this toy includes 2 stimulation heads in different sizes, so you can customize the head of the device to best suit the size and sensitivity of your clitoris.
Toys for Shallow Vaginas
If you have a shallow vagina and enjoy internal stimulation, you may appreciate the company of a bullet vibrator. These toys are small and compact.
Lil’ Lily Bullet Vibrator by Better Love
The Lil’ Lily by Better Love is a compact, rechargeable bullet vibrator that features 10 vibration modes. This toy is made from velvety-smooth silicone and comes with a removable bunny ear sleeve.
Etoile Bullet by KIKI de Montparnasse
The Etoile Bullet by KIKI de Montparnasse is a reimagining of the classic bullet with high-quality stainless steel. This sleek vibrator is small and quiet, yet deceivingly powerful with KIKI’s signature deep, rumbly vibrations. Weighted for an extra luxurious feel, this bullet is made with polished stainless steel and can be submerged up to 1 meter in water for 30 minutes, so is safe for shower or bath play.
Toys for Smaller Penises
TR Masturbator by MyHixel
The TR Masturbator by MyHixel is an app-enabled, pleasure device that is suitable for all penis sizes. It features a therapeutic vibration system, an anatomically realistic interior and has an elastic and adaptable opening. Additionally, you can activate the self-heating mode to replicate body temperature. Made of high-quality, antiallergenic and non-toxic materials, you can enrich your sexual confidence and pleasure with this toy in hand.
Carezza by Lora DiCarlo
The Carezza by Lora DiCarlo features Percussion Touch Technology and is the perfect tiny toy for anyone seeking pleasure. Developed for any and all kinds of external stimulation, regardless of genitals, this toy has 10 vibration settings and is 100% waterproof. Its rounded tip is covered in soft silicone, allowing you to savor the most sensual experience possible.
Intersex is not talked about enough. Spreading awareness is the first step toward ensuring intersex people are represented, protected and empowered.
So start a conversation.
Do your research.
Invest time and other resources into intersex organizations and advocates.
And understand that the medical and legal systems that are currently intact are restrictive and harmful to intersex people. Change cannot wait.
So get a move on it, people… and share this blog with someone who is in need of a nonbinary lesson or two.
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