Intersex People and Internalised Corrective Bodily Bias

Sex essentialism suggests people have an underlying gender ‘essence’ tied to their sex traits. Doctors can use this essentialist view to medicalise intersex bodies, justify the application of disordering terminologies to these bodies and justify modifying them to fit binary male/ female ideals (Davis, 2015). Doctors may consider an intersex person’s genotype, genital appearance, hormones, potential for heteronormative (penis-in-vagina) penetrative sex or fertility to determine their sex marker and plan future interventions. This ignores how any intersex individual’s – or anybody’s – psychological and social development may contribute to their gender identity (Jones et al., 2016). This chapter aims to explore the quantitative and qualitative findings on gender, sexuality and sexual satisfaction for intersex people to challenge essentialist ideas on bodies. To begin, this chapter will first explore literature on sex, gender and sexuality as it relates to intersex people – defined as people whose sex characteristics (anatomy, hormones or chromosomes) vary from binary male-female sex models. It will then explore sex assignment and gender rearing from birth for participants in an international study of people with intersex variations, followed by whether participants found their reared gender appropriate. It will then inspect the nuances of sexuality and satisfaction, including dating and sexual fantasies.

Of the participants who were assigned a female sex/ F sex marker, 58% felt the gender they were raised as was appropriate. Conversely, only 23% of those who were assigned male/ M sex marker at birth felt that the gender they were raised as was appropriate; 77% found their gender to be inappropriate. It was statistically significant (p <0.05) that those who were assigned as males at birth and raised as boys were more likely to feel that their gender was inappropriate. This reflected the results of an Australian-only study (Jones et al, 2016). Participants were asked ‘how do you feel about the gender you were raised?’. The most common theme to emerge from this question were participants feeling they did not fit traditional gender roles. Some participants spoke of struggling to fit in with other members of their sex and gender or feeling like another gender altogether.