How common is intersex?

What is intersex? Glad you asked. According to the Intersex Society of North America,

“Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.

The ISNA have some amazing figures on the frequency of these conditions:

Not XX and not XY one in 1,666 births
Klinefelter (XXY) one in 1,000 births
Androgen insensitivity syndrome one in 13,000 births
Partial androgen insensitivity syndrome one in 130,000 births
Classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia one in 13,000 births
Late onset adrenal hyperplasia one in 66 individuals
Vaginal agenesis one in 6,000 births
Ovotestes one in 83,000 births
Idiopathic (no discernable medical cause) one in 110,000 births
Iatrogenic (caused by medical treatment, for instance progestin administered to pregnant mother) no estimate
5 alpha reductase deficiency no estimate
Mixed gonadal dysgenesis no estimate
Complete gonadal dysgenesis one in 150,000 births
Hypospadias (urethral opening in perineum or along penile shaft) one in 2,000 births
Hypospadias (urethral opening between corona and tip of glans penis) one in 770 births
Total number of people whose bodies differ from standard male or female one in 100 births
Total number of people receiving surgery to “normalize” genital appearance one or two in 1,000 births

It seems to me that whatever rule you might come up with for deciding a person’s gender, biology will show you an example to confound you. Indeed some people cannot identify themselves as being of either gender.

All this goes to show how ridiculous is the idea that gender should have any bearing whatsoever on our legal rights.

As the legal definition of gender struggles to reflect our growing knowledge of the realities of human biology, and the law ties itself in knots trying to accommodate trans-sexuality, I’m left wondering why we need a notion of legal gender at all.

Thanks to Audacia Ray and Dr Petra Boynton for signposting the ISNA data.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *