Western culture is committed to the idea that there are only two sexes. Legally, too, every adult is either man or woman, and the difference is not trivial. It means being available for, or exempt from, draft registration, as well as being subject to laws governing marriage, the family and human intimacy. But if the state and the legal system have an interest in maintaining a two-party sexual system, they are defying nature. For biologically speaking, there are many gradations running from female to male; along that spectrum lie at least five sexes -- perhaps even more. Medical investigators recognize the concept of the intersexual body. But medicine uses the term "intersex" as a catch-all for three major subgroups with some mixture of male and female characteristics: the so-called true hermaphrodites, whom I call herms, who possess one testis and one ovary the sperm- and egg- producing vessels, or gonads ; male pseudo-hermaphrodites "merms" , who have testes and some aspects of female genitalia but no ovaries; and female pseudo-hermaphrodites "ferms" , who have ovaries and some aspects of the male genitalia but lack testes.
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True hermaphroditism is a rare form of intersex anomaly where both male and female gonads are present. True hermaphrodites diagnosed in the past have been preferentially reared as males. However, based on the appearance of their external genitalia and the ability to reconstruct a functional genitourinary system, most of these children should be raised as girls. Between and , we managed eight children with true hermaphroditism.
It was the first time Zeegers remembers feeling different. Zeegers was born intersex in , in the picturesque village of Swallen on the German-Dutch border, to Catholic parents who worked as an architect and a housekeeper at the local church. It was no problem because I was a very strong boy, everyone accepted me, and nobody had to look between my legs.
Intersex people are individuals born with any of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes , gonads , sex hormones or genitals that, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights , "do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies". It was the first attempt at creating a taxonomic classification system of intersex conditions. Intersex people were categorized as either having true hermaphroditism , female pseudohermaphroditism , or male pseudohermaphroditism. Intersex people face stigmatization and discrimination from birth, or from discovery of an intersex trait, such as from puberty. This may include infanticide, abandonment and the stigmatization of families. However, this is considered controversial, with no firm evidence of favorable outcomes. Adults, including elite female athletes, have also been subjects of such treatment.