On a third sex

Important note: this paper should not be regarded as a complete guide to our current policy on sex classifications. Our approaches have been informed by community-building and evidence-building, and are defined (as of March 2017) in the Darlington Statement. For information on data collection, see our page on forms and surveys.

The creation of any new category to be designated intersex poses several problems.

First of all, there is no firm definition of intersex. Definitions are constructed in relation to medical norms that stigmatise particular kinds of bodies. We have no clear definitions for what a normative woman is or a normative man is. We only assume this to be the case. Construction of new categories increases the number of lines drawn between those categories, but it is not clear precisely where they should go.

Secondly, intersex people are already assigned female or male, and most are raised and identify as women or men. To construct a new category called intersex unavoidable calls into question their sex assignments and gender identities, and suggests that they are not valid or correct. This is not acceptable.

The purpose of OII Australia is to work in favour of human rights for intersex people by helping people to understand that there are not just two pre-existing sets of sex characteristics. There are an infinite combination of possibilities.

The creation of a specific category for intersex people risks even more marginalization of a group which is poorly understood. We base our legal arguments on the right of every person to determine their own identity, in the hope that eventually there will be no attempt to impose legal sex categories on anyone.

General information

This page is not intended as an introduction to intersex.