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Essay on What It Means to Be Intersex

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Written by
Dr. Helen Johnson
  • Icon Calendar 18 May 2024
  • Icon Page 842 words
  • Icon Clock 5 min read
English (United States)
Academic level
Type of paper
Women's & Gender Studies
Paper format
Individual Essay Example

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In this Ted Talk essay on “What It Means to Be Intersex” by Susannah Temko, the author states that it is a pleasant time for most parents to see their children enjoying their childhood and having fun. However, not all parents see that their kids enjoy living their lives peacefully without judgment and subjecting themselves to social norms. Children born with traits of both men and women exist and are known as intersex. This unique aspect has caused them to be victims of stigma and ridicule because they do not adhere to the commonly recognized genders, whether they are male or female. In particular, the community misunderstands intersex people since they do not conform to binary definitions of sex, and others suggest that they go through surgery since their condition is perceived as unhealthy mainly because there is little information provided to the public about their condition even though they make up 1.7% of the world’s population.

Misunderstanding Intersex People

People have misunderstood the intersex community for a long time. For example, many people do not know that such individuals exist (Temko 00:01:07-00:01:11). Intersex persons go through shame as they are forced to conform to a binary understanding of sex that ultimately hinders their health and well-being. Moreover, society’s understanding of the notions of biological sex portrays such people as abnormal and individuals with defective bodies and does not accept the complexity of humanity.

Ted Talk Essay on "What It Means to Be Intersex" by Susannah Temko

Announcing Two Genders and Its Issues

When asked at a prenatal screening, doctors, midwives, and sonographers announce the gender as a boy or a girl, which is a joyous occasion for many parents. Historically, many societies and cultures have recognized two sexes (Dickens 256). Many people may have friends who may confide that he or she is an intersex individual. However, their parents may be instructed not to tell anyone because they would not understand and judge this person. In this case, people are noted that an intersex individual has a problem changing into a PE kit and using the bathroom, mostly when there are many people. It is mentally tiring to hide and be uncomfortable around people since they might be judgmental and say demeaning things because they do not understand what intersex is.

‘Fixing’ People and Its Consequences

Owing to their unique condition, individuals are considered peculiar, and other individuals ask them to undergo surgery to correct the ‘abnormal’ features. Most doctors recommend that intersex children undergo ‘normalizing’ surgeries to give them a more typical female and male appearance (“Why Intersex Rights Are Human Rights” par. 8). Doctors operate on intersex children to give them ‘normal’ bodies that conform to the two known genders, male and female, which pushes the idea that their bodies are defective. These children are not of the appropriate ages to give consent. In turn, these medically invasive surgeries should be abolished since they live plenty of physical and psychological harm.

Human Rights

Fighting for the rights of the intersex community means speaking about the medically invasive surgeries they are subjected to. For example, medical surgeries to assign sex should be delayed until children are old enough to give consent and make decisions if they want those interventions or not (Davis 146). People can oppose the irreversible genital “normalizing” surgery vehemently at infancy. In turn, they should allow the intersex community to define and tell others what being intersex means to them.


The population of the intersex community is significant. Estimates show that the intersex community makes up 1.7 percent of the world’s population (Temko 00:03:07-00:03:13). However, very little information on what it is like to be intersex is offered to the public. In this case, people will eventually embrace the intersex community and fight for their rights so that the cruel meanings that view them as abnormal will be discarded by society.

Summing Up

In conclusion, intersex people are subjects of shame and abuse since they do not conform to the binary definitions, which makes them perceived as defective. Firstly, many people do not know such individuals exist, and, as a result, they are exposed to shame and prejudice. Then, they are encouraged to hide their condition to the world so that individuals can perceive them differently. Lastly, they are subjected to medically invasive surgeries to change to give them ‘normal’ bodies that conform to the two known sexes, male and female. In this case, people need to support the intersex community with their rights and provide information to the public about what it is like to be intersex. Therefore, people should discard the retrogressive ideas of biological sex and accept that humanity is complex by embracing intersex persons and their human rights to be treated equally.

Works Cited

Davis, Georgiann. Contesting Intersex: The Dubious Diagnosis. New York University Press, 2015.

Dickens, Benard M. “Management of Intersex Newborns: Legal and Ethical Developments.” International Journal of Gynaecology & Obstetrics, vol. 143, no. 2, 26 June 2018, pp. 255-259, doi:10.1002/ijgo.12573.

“Why Intersex Rights Are Human Rights.” Open Society Foundations, 2019, www.opensocietyfoundations.org/explainers/what-are-intersex-rights.

Temko, Susannah. “What It Means to Be Intersex.” TED Talks, 2019, www.ted.com/talks/susannah_temko_what_it_means_to_be_intersex.

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