Perfect just the way they are
Intersex people are born with sex characteristics that don’t fit typical definitions of male and female.
In many countries, intersex children are subjected to repeated surgery and treatment to try to change their sex characteristics and appearance, causing terrible physical, psychological and emotional pain – and violating their rights.
Intersex children don’t need to be “fixed”; they are perfect just as they are!
The United Nations is calling on governments and parents to protect intersex children from harm.
Help us spread the word!
Did you know…?
Up to 1.7 percent of babies are born with sex characteristics that don’t fit typical definitions of male and female. That makes being intersex almost as common as being a redhead!
Being Intersex is about someone’s biological sex characteristics. This includes genitals, gonads, hormone levels and chromosome patterns. It is different from sexual orientation or gender identity – an intersex person could be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or asexual, and they might be a woman, a man, both or neither.
The repeated surgeries and treatment intersex children are put through in order to “fix” their sex and appearance are often irreversible and can cause permanent infertility and lifelong pain, incontinence, loss of sexual sensation, and mental suffering.
There is typically no medical reason to perform these procedures with so many possible serious negative impacts on children. Carrying these out without consent violates human rights.
Intersex people should be free to decide whether or not they want to undergo such procedures when they are old enough to make an informed decision for themselves.
Facts and figures about being intersex:
Advice for Parents
Intersex babies are beautiful just the way they are.
In most countries, there is no rush to choose a sex to register your new born baby. Once you have more information, you can pick either male or female, based on the sex that appears more predominant in your child. Sometimes intersex traits are not discovered until later in childhood or adolescence.
There is no evidence that cosmetic surgery and treatment help your intersex child. Parents pressured into agreeing to such practices have often reported having regrets because it did not benefit their child, harmed them, and created difficulties in the parent-child relationship.
The risks of these procedures are serious: permanent infertility, pain, incontinence, loss of sexual sensation, and lifelong mental suffering. When your child is old enough, they can decide for themselves whether they want to alter their body.
Support is available! You can reach out to other parents of intersex children and intersex adults and listen to their advice, including on how to answer awkward questions from family members and colleagues!
Advice for Governments
Ban medically unnecessary surgery and procedures on intersex children.
Provide health care personnel with training on how to provide care to intersex children and their parents that is respectful of intersex people’s autonomy, physical integrity and sex characteristics.
Ban discrimination on the basis of sex characteristics, intersex traits or status, including in education, health care, employment, sports and access to public services, and consult intersex people and organizations when developing legislation and policies that impact their rights.
Learn more: View our factsheet here.
“Some intersex people are born with the sexual anatomy of both genders. When they’re teenagers they may begin developing more typical male or female sexual characteristics. I was raised as a girl, but when I reached the age of thirteen I started growing into a boy. My parents were so confused. They didn’t know what was wrong with me. When I went to school, people would make fun of me. They would look at my girl’s name and not understand why I looked like a boy. My friends didn’t want me around them. Even my teachers looked down on me. I felt so alone.”
Katie & Arlene
“When discovering that my young daughters had been born with unexpected sex characteristics, I was told that I should keep it secret from them. Over the years, keeping their secret, not the difference itself, was the problem that led to loneliness and isolation. People need to reimagine being intersex – it’s not a disease, but a way of living in the world.”
“I suffered more than 20 failed surgeries all aimed at trying to “normalize” my body. But I have overcome, and today I am living my life as a proud intersex person.”
“Medical experts destroyed my healthy genitalia and reproductive organs. Why? To make my body cosmetically conform to their idea of what a “normal” woman should look like. These experts are wrong. Nine times out of ten intersex bodies are perfectly healthy. Our bodies are not only normal, but beautiful.”
“Doctors often claim there’s a “silent majority” of intersex people satisfied with the way they were treated as young patients. I used to be part of this “silent majority” – but was certainly not happy. Doctors draw this false conclusion because most of their young patients haven’t returned as adults to complain. But their silence is just as likely to be caused by stigma and shame. Its time to end the silence and invisibility of what is actually a traumatized and violated majority.”
"I am intersex and have had to constantly hide this fact about myself to be accepted and safe. It is exhausting, depressing, and kills you slowly. I have suffered harassment throughout my life, and was taught growing up that my body is not mine. It is a public spectacle to be abused, and examined against my will. This has got to stop."
"I feel blessed that my parents allowed me to be who I am, and I encourage all parents of intersex kids to do the same. Trying to “fix” healthy babies’ bodies to fit social ideals is innately prejudiced, and prejudice is never the solution.”
For more resources from intersex organizations, press the button below: