Question: A normal intersex body?

Nicholas asks…

My body is unlike anything I’ve read about in any article about the various known forms of intersexuality. How common is it to have mixed secondary sex characteristics?

Please post your response in the comments below.

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Posted by on December 2nd, 2010 at 04:00 pm

Category: questions 13 comments »

13 Responses to “Question: A normal intersex body?”

  1. Jessica

    For common than most people think. Opinions vary, largely because the exact definition of gender specific secondary characteristics is not nailed down firmly in place. As with most everything else regarding gender, thee are so many people seeking to prove something that it is really hard to find really independent, objective evidence or conclusions thereto.

    It also depends on what you mean by “common.” From

    “The term ‘prevalence’ of Intersex conditions usually refers to the estimated population of people who are managing Intersex conditions at any given time. The term ‘incidence’ of Intersex conditions refers to the annual diagnosis rate, or the number of new cases of Intersex conditions diagnosed each year.”

    Hence, official statistics will understate the number of individuals who possess some degree of mixed secondary sexual characteristics because it will not count people who are not doing anything about it.

    There can be many causes for “mixed” gender characteristics. The majority of them represent differently functioning endocrine systems in the body which produce or mimic secondary sex characteristics of the “other” gender. In clinical terms, because this rarely happens, it is called abnormal. Whether you call it abnormal or not probably has a lot to do with whether you want this to occur in you or not.

    Although there are many problems with modern medicine, there have been great strides made in clinical acceptance and tolerance of “normal for me” outcomes, depending on where you live.


  2. Samson

    From what I understand, it’s not “that” uncommon. There’s gynecomastia (breast growth in male-bodied folks) which is apparently not uncommon at puberty and sometimes beyond, and a wide diversity of body hair and voice range and face and body shapes among all people. (I’m female-bodied and I shave parts of my face rather than have half-assed stubbly bristles. If they’d grow into something resembling “respectable” facial hair I might actually keep them around!)

    I also kind of hate to suggest this, but you might want to get your hormone levels checked… by someone trans/intersex-savvy. I went to get mine checked some years ago and they put me on birth control “to normalize my hormones and protect my fertility” when I didn’t know enough about my body and my trans-ness to understand that that was going to do things that I did not want. I’m sad for that and I’m trying to work up the nerve to change providers and get an honest appraisal of whether my wacky hormones are actually any sort of threat the way they are naturally. (Anybody got experience with this? :( )

    Anyway, I’m not trying to say that mixed characteristics or “unusual” hormone mixes are a problem themselves–but sometimes there are actually underlying problems–they thought I might have adrenal cancer. (Thankfully no.)


  3. Felix

    @Samson – if what you have is PCOS then it’s very common among trans men and no, you don’t need drugs unless it’s doing anything to you that you don’t want. Mine gave me constant spotting so I have a Mirena IUS to control the bleeding, but that’s the only treatment I have or want for it. Doctors have a tendency to see the FUTURE BAYBEEES and not the person, so you may have to be quite assertive to get what you want.


    Samson replied:

    Nearly verbatim from my endocrinologist: “Well, yes, you may have PCOS, you have some symptoms. But it’s not worth verifying that unless you are trying to get pregnant and you’re having trouble. We’ll just put you on birth control–that should take care of everything.” Cool, so, what’s going on with my body is not important unless it’s impeding my babymaking capacity.

    Thanks very much–that’s good to know. I later inquired about the Mirena and was told the pill is better for preventing cysts, since, yes, both doctors involved seem to be mostly interested in said FUTURE BEHBEHS.

    It’s also tough because I may actually want to have kids at some point. So I -do- want to preserve my fertility in some regard, but I’m tired of sacrificing my mental health for some tenuous physical potential.



    Jessica replied:

    That is an excellent point. So many things around transness are balancing acts between one set of circumstances and another. I like the way my mind works now and I don’t want to fix something else at the expense of who I am.


    Anonymous replied:

    That’s what my doctors did. Little did they bother to verify, I had another condition where giving me birth control was a BAD idea, just to remove some hair growth THEY didn’t want me to have. It was a very bad time in my life that I’m glad is now over. However, I will never go to a doctor again unless I can’t mend my own broken bones or internal bleeding. I learned that much from doctors, I’m just a walking disease to them.


  4. Anonymous

    A lot more common than it’s let on to be. I know my “form” of intersex isn’t that common among all the other different bodies. I’m a 46/XX,46/XY chimera, and I look about 99% female; however, I know that isn’t the case on the inside. I only have one ovotestis, the rest is male all the way. I just was “blessed” with the genetics for large breasts. Even with a low voice and a full beard, all people see is the chest, so I am read purely as female for some odd reason. Oh well.


  5. ZenGato

    Not very uncommon at all. I have a lot of facial hair and more hair on my stomach than my brother or father have. I had hormone testing done which found very high levels of multiple male hormones. I have been put on Aldactone (a testosterone antagonist) because the excess male hormones were making my heart rate very high. The drug has not, and most likely will not, change these characteristics. Keep this in mind if a doctor suggests lowering the male hormones. Most likely this will not reverse any of the characteristics you have.


  6. Nicholas

    Wow, so happy this was posted for input!

    I mostly asked because I wanted to know if there was a name for it, something definable that I could research and learn more about. That said, I’m sure the variation and degree of deviation from what is “normal” would be so broad, that I might never find someone with a similar body, with a similar self-concept. I realize gender identity and the physical body are completely separate entities, but “normal”-bodied cisgender people have many people who can relate to themselves in that way. Furthermore, even masculine/male-identified transmen have comparatively many who share their experience. I just wanted to feel a little bit of that, I guess.


    Jessica replied:

    Glad you have found this helpful and encouraging.

    It is often discouraging to read in the literature because so much scholarly material has been written about things transgender is just plain insulting. It reminds me of reading things medical researchers wrote about black children in the 20’d and 20’s… wrote about them like they were piglets or bear cubs. Even 20 years ago, most scholarly references to transgender related topics referred to patients as suffering, broken or confused, and sometimes even displaying aberrant or perverted behaviors: a danger to themselves and to others.

    The history of transgender people and the medical/educational establishment has many similarities with the history of Deaf people. We have a long way to go yet.


    Samson replied:

    This may not be helpful, but if you’re looking for a name/label through which you could connect with others, the Intersex Society of North America has the most comprehensive list of intersex-related “disorders” that I know of (not all involve genitalia): (I don’t agree with everything ISNA says but they do have some good info.)

    Wikipedia may also be helpful:

    (I suspect I am preaching to the choir here since you say you’ve read up on this! But maybe someone else will find it helpful…)


    Anonymous replied:

    You can also look at this website. It is the web home of the largest world-wide organisation for intersex folks. I like it, because they accept ALL views, regardless of whether a person sees intersex as a disorder, a blessing of variance, or any other views.


    Trish replied:

    I’m involved with the Organization Intersex International (OII). Yes, we’re very flexible about how intersex people view themselves.

    A lot of us are fine with our bodies, even those of us who had reassignment surgery as children. I mean, we’ll even crack jokes about things sometimes. Other people want to be “cured” of it somehow and have a lot of difficulty.

    Also it is an OII consensus that we are not disordered. Intersex is normal human variation affecting about 1-in-2,000 people and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s how nature made us.


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