Intersex Day of Remembrance: Erasing misconceptions

Intersex Day of Remembrance, also known as Intersex Day of Solidarity, takes place on November 8. The Day marks the birthday of Herculine Adélaïde Barbin, a French intersex person. Herculine Adélaïde Barbin was a French intersex person who was assigned female at birth and raised in a convent, but was later reclassified as male by a court of law, after an affair and physical examination. 

As a queer community, we know very little about intersex people and hold the same misconceptions as the larger Ethiopian society. Given that 1.7% of the world population is estimated to be intersex, there is no doubt that intersex people exist in Ethiopia.  The first step we as a community can take to make space for intersex people  is to challenge our own misconceptions. 

Below are some of the commonly held misconceptions:

  1. Not all intersex people identify as a part of the LGBTQIA community. However, those of us who are LGBTQIA need our community to better understand our needs and accept us. But don’t assume every intersex person identifies as LGBTQ.
  2. Intersex people and transgender people are not the same thing. Some intersex people can also be transgender, but not all intersex people are trans. Intersex and trans people may have some similar experiences but there are important differences.
  3. There is more to being an intersex person than just genitalia. Intersex traits can involve genitalia, chromosomes, hormones, and other secondary sex characteristics. 
  4. Intersex people are as common as natural born redheads in the world. Intersex people make up approximately 1.7% of the world’s population.
  5. There is no way for you to tell if someone is intersex by just looking at them. Don’t try to figure someone out!
  6. Contrary to mainstream depictions of intersex individuals, not all intersex people are in the Western world. Intersex people exist all around the world, from all different races and walks of life.
  7. There is no such thing as THE single intersex experience. There are 35+ intersex variations which means there is no monolithic intersex identity and even though we experience many of the same challenges as a community, not every intersex person has the exact same experience.
  8. Intersex people do not all have the same bodies. NOTE: When we celebrate body positivity, we often times forget to talk about the diversity of bodies, especially intersex bodies, so let’s do that next time!
  9. Do not refer to intersex people as “hermaphrodites.” This label is an out-of-date term used to pathologize our bodies and only adds to the confusion about the reality of being an intersex person.
  10. You don’t personally need to know an intersex person to be a good ally in our fight against erasure and intersex genital mutilation (IGM). You can be an ally by reading articles like this and making sure spaces that you are present in have resources for intersex people.


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