One of the first questions that new parents are asked is, “Is it a boy or a girl?” This question can be very challenging if you had a baby who was born intersex. Babies who were born with intersex conditions (formerly known as hermaphrodites-although this term is now considered as offensive) may not have a clear biological sex. Unfortunately our society is currently designed to only recognize male or female, boy or girl. However, up to 1 in 1500 babies are born with identifiable intersex conditions, and those are just the ones that are apparent at birth. Many other subtler versions of intersex conditions can appear later in life. The current system, which supports only a gender binary (male or female), leaves out thousands of individuals. It is important to note that these are common, naturally occurring genetic variations, and the system we have in place is what needs fixing, not the babies.
It can be overwhelming to deal with people’s intrusive questions. It may be useful for you to say simply, “My child is intersex, we use the pronouns ___. If you have any further questions, please refer to www.isna.org.” It is not your responsibility to answer questions about your child’s genitals or to educate others on intersex conditions if you do not want to. Your own questions about developing their gender identity may be overwhelming. Seek out support; remember, one in 1500 parents are having a similar experience.
Many people may pressure you to have surgery done on your child, but it is now widely recognized that this is NOT the ideal solution. If a medical professional is offering this option, ask them if it is a medical necessity. If it is not, do not feel pressured to have surgery just to be able to choose a gender for the birth certificate. There are chromosomal tests that can be done to determine the chromosomal sex of the baby, if that is something you want to do. You can “choose” a gender for the baby now, but allow for some flexibility when they are old enough to discover their own gender identity. It may be different than the gender you chose for them, and that is definitely OK.
In the end you will probably have more questions than answers. A good place to start would be the Intersex Society of North America. You may also want to find support groups in your area or online. It is important to remember, you are not alone. Find someone to talk to, someone who can help you see all the beauty and wonder of having this child, your child. Your child may be different than you had imagined before they were born, but the truth of it is, all children are different than we imagine before they are born.