‘Intersex’ is a biological state whereby a person’s reproductive organs, genitalia and or chromosomes transcend the binary male-female divide. Intersex people range from female to male and anywhere in between and sometimes refer to themselves as “third gender”. The Australian Medical Association definition states: “A person with an intersex condition is born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia or an internal reproductive system that is not exclusively either male or female. This word replaces ‘hermaphrodite’.” Nowadays, many intersex peer support groups and health care specialists also term an ‘intersex’ condition as a Disorder of Sex Development or DSD.
Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) - is a congenital intersex condition, which can occur spontaneously at conception, or is passed down the generations via the matriarchal line. People with AIS have 46XY chromosomes (i.e. the typical male pattern) but develop atypical reproductive organs as a result of their bodies being insensitive to androgens (male hormones which include testosterone).
The insensitivity to androgen can vary from ‘complete’ insensitivity (CAIS) to ‘partial’ insensitivity (PAIS). Consequently, physical appearance at birth can vary across the spectrum of female to male, and people with AIS can identify as being male, female or intersex. However, individuals with CAIS most often identify as women. In all cases, the gonads are actually undescended or only partially descended testes.
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) - this term covers a range of states due to an abundance or deficiency of sex steroids, which can lead to problems during the development of sex characteristics. CAH has an incidence of between 1/5,000 and 1/15,000 live births. Occasionally, some 46XX chromosomal females with CAH are virilized (ie. become more masculine) during foetal development so that they are born with ambiguous genitalia, making it difficult to determine sex at birth.
Klinefelter’s Syndrome - is chromosomal aneuploidy in males resulting in the duplication of sex chromosomes eg. 47-XXY, 48-XXXY, 49-XXXXY, 48-XXYY, etc. On average, the condition occurs in about 1 out of every 1,000 males. One in every 500 males have an extra X chromosome but do not have the syndrome.