Introduction: A Complex Problem

Botanical symbol referring to a double-sexed plant - a combination of the symbols for female and male.Here, the female element is shown in red, the male in blue, and their common circle in purple. The symbol is now often used for human intersexuality

The division of human beings into two sexes - female and male - is taken for granted by most people most of the time. For example, when a baby is born, a quick look at its sex organs usually settles the question on everyone’s mind: It is either a girl or a boy.
However, as we have seen in Course 1 (
Basic Human Sexual Anatomy and Physiology), the matter is not always that simple. In addition to the typical female and male anatomical developments, there are some atypical “intermediate” cases that can make it difficult to determine the sex of a newborn child. Today, such cases are usually summarized under the term intersexuality. Some of them show, upon closer inspection, a clear preponderance of femaleness or maleness, and this makes it easier to find an appropriate solution. However, occasionally the problem proves to be so complicated that it requires long deliberations and consultations involving far-reaching ethical choices. These choices confront not only the medical and psychological specialists dealing with the case, but also the parents, and eventually the growing child, adolescent or adult as well. Indeed, in recent years, many intersexual adults have begun to organize and to vent their frustration with the choices that had been made for them in their infancy by well-meaning, but short-sighted doctors. This critique of traditional medical practice increasingly also involves a critique of our entire socio-cultural tradition which insists on a clear division between the sexes and has little patience with anything “in between”.

[Course 3] [Description] [How to use it] [Introduction] [Problems in Females] [Problems in Males] [Intersexuality] [Introduction] [Intersexual Spectrum] [Dealing w. Intersex.] [Additional Reading] [Examination]