What is intersex?
The term intersex was adopted by science in the early 20th century and applied to human beings whose biological sex cannot be classified as clearly male or female. An intersex person may have the biological attributes of both sexes or lack some of the biological attributes considered necessary to be defined as one or the other sex.
Intersex is always congenital and can originate from genetic, chromosomal or hormonal variations. It may be a combination of all three elements. Environmental influences such as endocrine disruptors can also play a role in some intersex differences. The term is not applicable to situations where individuals deliberately alter their own anatomical characteristics.
Intersex people represent a significant percentage of the global population, from 1.7% (Anne Fausto-Sterling, sexologist, 2000) to 4% (various authors).
What is OII?
The Organisation Internationale des Intersexués – OII – is a decentralized global network of intersex organizations, with members representing almost all known intersex variations.
There are independent OII affiliates in twenty countries, on six continents, speaking ten languages including Mandarin Chinese and Arabic. OII-UK is one of these affiliates.
OII-UK works for the right of all people born intersex to personal autonomy and bodily integrity.
OII-UK does not adhere to the medical model of intersex embodiment. It supports the belief that intersex is a perfectly naturally occurring variation of human development, and clinical interventions remain motivated by a need to “minimise family concern and distress” and “mitigate the risks of “stigmatisation and gender-identity confusion”. Surgical interventions intrinsically focus on appearance, and not sensation or sexual function.
Most people born intersex identify as men or women. There is no reason for their bodies to be altered to fit that matrix.
Intersex is not about sexual orientation. People with intersex variations have as diverse a range of sexual orientations as non-intersex people.
Nor is Intersex about transition or gender identity; we have as varied a range of gender identities as non-intersex people. Intersex is primarily about the body, although intersex people may have an identity that is contingent on our embodiment and natural sex characteristics.
Intersex variations are always congenital and can originate from genetic, chromosomal or hormonal variations. Environmental influences such as endocrine disruptors can also play a role in some intersex differences. Intersex is not applicable to situations where individuals deliberately alter their own anatomical characteristics.
OII-UK recognises that parents need to be given much greater support and help in understanding that intersex differences are not, in and of themselves, requiring of intervention. Unfortunately decades of surgical interventions have lent credence to the belief that interventions are the appropriate response to intersex embodiments. They are not. Education & knowledge are.
Intersex people have medical needs like any other, but being intersex is not an imperative for pre-emptive medical intervention. Recognising that intersex people have health issues arising from their difference is a different criteria to assuming that intersex embodiment itself is the issue requiring intervention. Many intersex people have medical needs that arise directly from the interventions they have been subjected to, including mental health issues.
Social unease, and disquiet about bodily difference are the primary motivations that continue to drive the protocols overseeing intersex clinical interventions. OII-UK works toward intersex being de-pathologised and accepted as a valid embodiment of being a man or a woman.
OII-UK seeks to work with allies who respect & acknowledge the right of all people born intersex to bodily integrity, and personal autonomy in their own healthcare decisions.
OII-UK is populated with people of widely differing skills, abilities and personal situations. Some are comfortable as supporters of OII-UK, others will be more interested in taking up a more involved and visible role as an activist/representative.
There is a place for everyone that recognises and acknowledges the validity of intersex issues, in OII-UK.
Everyone interested in the work of OII-UK is welcome.
OII Information Resources
Intersex for Allies
Intersex for Parents
Intersex for Employers