MYTH #9: Only true hermaphrodites are really intersexed.

The term “true hermaphrodite” is a nasty Victorian term invented in an effort to make intersexuality go away. (Alice Dreger’s first book, Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, is all about this.) The term “true hermaphroditism,” a term that sounds fancy and special, refers simply to the condition in which one person has both ovarian and testicular tissue, whether or not that tissue is functional physiologically. But it is silly to count only these folks as intersexed! Their internal and external anatomy varies all over the place, and many of them look less “ambiguous” than other folks. Some of them have XX chromosomes, some of them XY, and some of them have mixes or variations on those themes. Keep in mind that nobody has two full sets of sex organs, as some people mistakenly imagine. People with ovarian and testicular tissue, like other intersexed people, have one set of genitals, though they may be kind of in-between in appearance.

In practice, the term “intersex” is used to refer to anybody who was born with anatomy other than what the Powers That Be define as “standard male” or “standard female.” What counts as “standard”? Check your phall-o-meter, and stay tuned for a later newsletter, which will explore the deep and oh-so-hot question, “Who really is intersexed?” For now, on the topic of who is intersexed, let’s move on to dispel Myth 8