Wellcome Collection Blog

Intersex, in humans and other animals, is a variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female. In this post, Taryn Cain takes us through a potted history of intersexuality.

Freud once said “when you meet a human being, the first distinction you make is ‘male or female?’ and you are accustomed to making the distinction with unhesitating certainty”. At the time, Freud was aware that his contemporaries, namely Hirschfeld and Ellis, knew the idea of absolute certainty was a lie and that they had documented many such people living long and full lives.

Known around the globe as hija, two spirit, kathoey, travestis and khuntha; for most of European history the terms hermaphrodite, and, later, intersex or Disorders of Sex Development (DSD) were used.

Sigmund Freud in 1909. Sigmund Freud in 1909.

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