Intersex Stereotypes

As I said a few months ago, I will be doing a series addressing stereotypes for LGBTQ+ people—talking about people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, as well as people who are intersex and asexual. I look forward to continuing through this series.

As I am going in order of the acronyms for LGBTQ (or LGBTQIA), it is time for me to discuss stereotypes associated with being intersex. But before going into details about those stereotypes, I should start by talking about what it means to be intersex.

Intersex people are people who have variations in sex characteristics (examples: sex hormones, genitals, chromosomes) that do not fit the typical definition of a male or a female body. One example of an intersex person is someone with external genitals that don’t appear to be clearly male or female.[1]

Now that we’ve talked about what it means to be intersex, here are a few stereotypes associated with being intersex:

  1. Only men and women were made; therefore, there are no intersex people. This is a belief most commonly held by conservative Christian churches. My counter to this is science—sometimes there are people who are born with both male and female body characteristics, or body characteristics where it’s not clear if the body is clearly male or female.
  2. Intersex athletes are cheats. For this stereotype, look no further than the treatment of Olympian Caster Semenya. She is ostracized, marginalized, and is just about treated as the equivalent of a cheat for the simple reason that she was born with intersex traits,[2] which in her case means that she was born with an abnormally high level of testosterone. Some have come to her defense and argued that she’s successful because of her skills and not her testosterone, but additionally, athletes should not be punished for the way they were born.
  3. Intersex people must be “made” into a man or a woman. If intersex people want to undergo transition so that they are a man or a woman, that is up to them. However, non-consensual surgery to make an intersex person into something they don’t want to be is harmful mentally, not to mention the fact that such surgeries can be physically harmful if not done properly.
  4. Even if they don’t get surgery to be made into a man or a woman, intersex people must be raised as a man or a woman and behave as a man or a woman. This seems like a product of ideas about gender as a binary—the idea that someone must be clearly a man or a woman. However, intersex people should have the freedom to choose their own path as to whether their gender identity is as a man, as a woman, or as somewhere outside of the gender binary.

These, of course, are just a few of the harmful stereotypes associated with being intersex. If there are other stereotypes about intersex people that should be discussed and/or if anyone wants to expand upon the intersex stereotypes mentioned here, please feel free to post a comment below!

Other posts in my LGBTQ Stereotypes Series:
Introducing a Series on LGBTQ+ Stereotypes
Lesbian Stereotypes
Gay Stereotypes
Bisexual Stereotypes
Transgender Stereotypes
Queer Stereotypes


[1] There are other examples too, aside from the one I mentioned here.

[2] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-48120228

The Intersex Pride Flag.

14 Replies to “Intersex Stereotypes”

  1. Hello Brendan. If you have not hear of or read the tragic history of David Peter Reimer that basically proves the idea of inherent gender regardless of sex organs please do. To do a brief over view. He was a twin, one of two twin boys. Because of a botched circumcision his penis was badly damaged. The doctor they consulted had his own agenda and wanted to prove gender was simply how one was raised, so he told them to gender reassign their son to a female and raise him that way. So this baby had his sexual organs removed and reformed. The rest is a sick story of the “girl” refusing to be a girl and the doctor conducting child porn experiments where he made the two sibling get nude and the boy lay on the girl. The doctor claimed this would make the “girl” gendered on accept her gender. They made a movie on this. Instead of proving the doctor correct on gender being simply how you were raised, it proved how gender is in the mind of the person and can not be changed. Please look it up. Sadly the damage done to David Peter Reimer resulted in his suicide even after he tried to return to being a male. Grand post , a subject that must be talked about more often to prevent kids for suicide and harm. Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Scottie. Honestly, I had not heard of his story. Wow, talk about tragic. He was born a boy (not even intersex) and it sounds like assumptions were made about his happiness before he could express for himself what he preferred. Goodness me. This is really a subject that needs to be talked about more often, because the last thing we need is to have more end results like this. While doing research for today’s post, I came across stories of surgeries to people to change their sexual organs (or attempt to do that), without their consent, doing a great deal of harm, and this is another such example.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh Scottie, how I feel for David and his brother for being put through such horrors. David can no longer suffer and my hope is that his beloved brother is enjoying a life free from the past, totally in the now, with a long and happy future. Thank you for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. i have to say that “intersex” is one area I know just about nothing about. You do bring up a good point about athletic competition, however. Since athletes can be highly paid for their skill, it is one area that needs to be evaluated. IF testosterone is an important ingredient in differentiating males and females and IF it can be related to increased prowess in sports…is it fair to females to have to compete with an intersex individual who has an abnormal amount of testosterone? Is this any different than individuals who take drugs artificially to enhance performance? Should females be tested and not be allowed to compete if they have abnormally high levels? I don’t know the answers, but when lots of money is involved you can be sure there will be controversy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, I think one reason that there is so much controversy is precisely because there is so much money involved. If not for the money and other things involved, it would not be a big deal that Semenya was born with abnormally high amounts of testosterone. But because of that, it seems like she is basically in trouble because of how she was born, which I think makes it much different from taking drugs artificially to enhance performance (because one situation involves someone with naturally high levels of testosterone, while the other situation involves someone taking drugs artificially). Semenya’s case is not easy, but in my view, at least, she should not be viewed as a cheat.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. For this stereotype, look no further than the
    treatment of Olympian Caster Semenya.

    Get real Brendan, this a person with a man’s muscalture and physique masquerading as a woman.

    As sorry as I am for Caster’s mutilation by his parents in infancy, that doesn’t justify providing him the massive advantage of a male body to compete in womans’ sports with.

    Like

    1. Okay, so there are a couple of things to clarify here…

      First of all, I have no idea where you get the idea that Semenya was mutilated from her parents from. I haven’t seen a single source saying this.

      Second, Semenya is a “she” and not a “he.” It is important to get pronouns right–people in the LGBTQ+ community have literally gone through so much anguish and harm because people deliberately refuse to call them by their correct pronouns. Calling someone by an incorrect pronoun is like denying a crucial part of who the person is. So, I definitely encourage you not to call people (especially in the context of sex and gender identity issues) by the pronouns you want for them, but by the pronouns they want for themselves.

      Like

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