We have been socialised to believe that people can only have 2 biological sexes – namely male (XY) and female (XX). This is generally the norm, except in certain situations – in which someone is born intersex.
“Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of medical conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy (ex. Uterus, vagina, penis, scrotum, etc) that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types—for example, a baby may be born with a noticeably large clitoris, or lacking a vaginal opening. Or a person may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of their cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY.
Though we speak of intersex as a condition which one is born with, intersex anatomy doesn’t always show up at birth. Sometimes a person isn’t found to have intersex anatomy until they reach the age of puberty – and the teen notices that they are not developing in the same manner as their peers, or when they find themselves infertile as adults, or even upon dying of old age an an autopsy is done. Some people live and die with intersex anatomy without anyone (including themselves) ever knowing.
In this manner we have seen that there is much to know about sex, and also gender. Because we cannot assume someone’s gender upon looking at them. It is good to note, that while previously it was common practice for intersex babies (who were identified as being intersex at birth) to have surgery in order to make these babies fit within our prescribed norms. This has been made illegal in Malta in 2014, through the Gender Expression, Gender Identity, and Sex Characteristics Act.
In the next few blogs, I will be discussing gender and sex in further detail, and taking on a range of topics related to this.
Gender Expression, Gender Identity, and Sex Characteristics Act (2014), Civil Code.
Mel McElhatton holds a degree in Social Work from the University of Malta. With Willingness, Mel does life coaching and is one of the facilitators in the IRL – In Real Life team. They are also the producer of the radio show Niddiskutu s-Sess. They can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can visit their profile on: https://zme.tec.mybluehost.me/willingnessmt/team/mel-mcelhatton/