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.