For some parents, one of the most anticipated things is to know the biological sex of the baby. For that, there are several ways to know, celebrate, and spread the news.
So when the baby is born, it is assigned biological sex – female or male – depending on the genitalia. However, there are several cases in which certain reasons – sometimes unknown – cause this process to be altered, giving rise to hermaphroditism or intersexuality.
Intersex is an umbrella term that refers to people who carry variations in their reproductive and sexual anatomy that differs from what is – traditionally – male or female, being able to present genetic and phenotypic characteristics belonging to both sexes; in variable proportions.
Human intersexuality can be divided into several categories according to the causes that have originated it. Let’s see some of them.
Intersex 46, XX: In this type of intersexuality, the person is born with the chromosomal characteristics of a woman and ovaries of the female sex. But the external appearance of the genitalia is male. The most common cause of this type is excessive exposure of the fetus to male hormones.
Intersex 46, XY: In these cases, the person has male chromosomes; however, the genitalia is visibly female or vague in any case. As for the formation of the internal reproductive system, the testicles may have developed normally, but cases have been described in which they suffer some malformation or even fail to form.
True Gonadal Intersex: In these cases, the person possesses both ovarian tissue and testicular tissue in the same way. The person may possess an ovary and a testicle at the same time.
What Does Intersex Look Like?
This is probably one of the most common doubts. Yet, they look like anyone else you meet. However, an intersex person may have male anatomy on the outside but female anatomy on the inside or vice versa.
Sometimes the genitalia of intersex traits is noticeably different. Here are some possibilities:
- A clitoris that’s larger than expected.
- A penis that’s smaller than expected.
- No vaginal opening.
- A penis without a urethra opening at the tip.
Intersex isn’t a disease. So, there’s no treatment. Only in case of any medical complication due to the characteristics of the intersex person, medical intervention should be performed. On the contrary, if there is no evidence of risk – or it is only because of the physical appearance – you can take the time to think about whether you want to have surgery or not.