An Overview of Intersex Topics (2016)

An Overview of Intersex Topics

It’s Intersex Awareness Day! Here’s a comic I made last year about it. I’d like to put Micah into other talking-head comics, potentially about less serious topics; his design is still one of my favorites.

↓ Transcript
An Overview of Intersex Topics
(with Micah, a helpful humanoid octopus friend)
(cw: slurs, medical, suicide)

MICAH: Hello, everyone! It's Intersex Awareness Day!
I'm here in this comic to help you get familiar with a few issues commonly dealt with by intersex people!

Starting off, for the benefit of those unaware: "Intersex" is an umbrella term.
It describes a variety of genetic and hormonal conditions, which manifest as different physiological sex characteristics from what society considers a "typical" female or male person.

Exactly which conditions it refers to varies, depending on which organization you talk to.
For simplicity's sake, I'll be referring to data from OII USA and Australia.

Proportionally speaking, intersex people make up an estimated 1.7 to 1.9% of all live births.
This statistic includes conditions like congenital adrenal hyperplasia, Klinefelter syndrome, and androgen insensitivity syndrome, among others.

There are a lot of important and interesting facts about intersex conditions, a few of which I'll be listing here.
I'll be kind of scattershot with these, but I think it's appropriate, given the number of topics at hand.

First: There are intersex people of all genders and sexual orientations!
Many are cis, many are non-binary or trans; of those, some transition and some don't.
It's a rainbow of demographics!

Intersex conditions are frequently sexualized. In this case, I'm referring to the reduction of human beings to sex objects.

In particular, the term "intersex" is grotesquely misapplied in porn.
Though, really, given the rampant fetishization of real-world intersex people, it shouldn't be used in that context at all.

Additionally! While we're talking about language:
"Hermaphrodite" is a long-outmoded medical term which is, at best, inaccurate when applied to humans.

Many intersex communities consider "hermaphrodite" a slur.
Please don't use THAT one ever.

People often immediately associate intersex conditions with the invasive surgical intervention many receive at birth.
I won't be going into detail on what said intervention involves.
Suffice it to say, it is, by nature, done without the patient's consent.

I bring it up because even though said intervention is one of the biggest human rights issues the community faces... fact, it's characterized by the negative impact it invariably has on those subjected to it...

...the attention given to it over other intersex issues also places an unwanted focus on bodies and anatomy, which is ultimately both reductive and dehumanizing.
So, please, handle this issue with care.

It's become common practice in online arguments about sex and gender to use the existence of intersex people as a bargaining chip, to validate gender identities outside the male/female binary.
Doing this -- using people as evidence, when you'd defer to them in no other context -- is, obviously, disrespectful.

Intersex conditions are comorbid with mental health issues.
In response to an OII survey, 60% of all participants reported having had suicidal thoughts.
19% had attempted suicide at least once.

Needless to say, these data points dramatically outsize the ratio of similar suicidal tendencies in the general population.

These statistics might lead you to believe that problems with chronic depression are inherent to intersex physiologies.
They are not. Many survey participants cite institutionalized shaming related to gender as a key cause.

This is a problem society is capable of fixing. All we have to do is give the intersex among us the bodily autonomy and respect they deserve.

Society simply chooses not to.

Finally: If this comic has inspired you to do some writing about intersex conditions, or to create intersex characters for your own stories:
I'd like to advise you to wait until you've learned, firsthand from actual intersex people, what their lives are like.

Because when it comes to the issues of marginalized people, all the good intentions in the world are meaningless compared to any one actual example of the experiences you'd like to depict.

...And that's it for now! Hopefully the next time you learn that a person is intersex, this comic will have given you some perspective on the challenges they face.

Thanks for reading!
Stay safe!

Organization Intersex International (OII) USA & Canada

Written and drawn by m. tarah henry
Consultant: gray (