‘We don’t know if your baby’s a boy or a girl’: growing up intersex

Guardian, Saturday 2 July 2016

Jack was born with both male and female anatomy, with ovarian and testicular tissue, and genitals that could belong to either a boy or a girl. He has one of at least 40 congenital variations, known collectively as disorders of sexual development (DSD), or intersex traits. It was months before Juliet and her husband, Will, were told Jack’s specific diagnosis, of mixed gonadal dysgenesis. While they waited, all his parents knew was that Jack’s sex couldn’t be determined at birth, and that their doctors needed time to assign it.

Jack’s specific diagnosis is rare, but being born with a blend of female and male characteristics is surprisingly common: worldwide, up to 1.7% of people have intersex traits, roughly the same proportion of the population who have red hair, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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