Hi, everyone! I have previously posted that it's difficult to determine how many intersex individuals there are for a variety of reasons. One reason is that long-term studies of intersex individuals are not being done so that more accurate censuses can be taken. A lot of this is logistical, since in order to do this, patients would need to be contacted, and many clinicians are reluctant to give others access to their clinical files (for example, in case (former) patients or outside agencies decide to legal action against them later based on information seen in these files). Additionally, many patients may not be interested in responding if they do not actually identify as intersex. They may identify as a male or female who happens to be intersex, or they may identify as just male or female, and intersex has little to no impact on their sex identities.
A recent post by Dr. Cary Gabriel Costello, of the blog Intersex Roadshow, makes a strong case that the frequency of intersex individuals - colloquially stated as being as common as 1 in 2000 births in the United States - is a vast underestimate. Costello compellingly shows that the number of intersex individuals is not 1 in 2000 (still a pretty sizable number on its own), but actually more than 1 in 150. In order to make these nubmers accessible, activists have stated that 1 in 2000 is a statistic that approximates the frequency of individuals with red hair. Red hair is not overwhelmingly common, but many people know an individual with red hair, and would not find it strange to encounter an individual with red hair. Red hair is not rare. If we don't think that having red hair is shockingly strange, then maybe we should accept that intersex individuals' existence isn't so strange, either. However, Costello's statistic of 1 in 150 approximates the frequency of individuals with green eyes. If red hair is not considered shockingly uncommon, then seeing a person with green eyes is absolutely unremarkable for most people. If there are as many intersex individuals as there are individuals with green eyes out there, that is a LOT of people!
It's important to note that regardless how common intersex individuals are - even if intersex individuals were as common as 1 in 2 billion - it doesn't justify the alteration or manipulation of intersex individuals' bodies without our consent when these practices don't serve to track our health. However, it arguably provides more of an emotional impact to think that intersex is not so uncommon as we think. These non-consensual medical "treatments" aren't happening to like, 1 in every certain unfathomably large number of kids - a number so large it seems that almost no one has to go through this, and thus many individuals might find it less worthwhile to fight so hard to recognize intersex individuals exist and end these practices that pretty much never happen. These practices are happening to LOTS of kids out there. Understanding how common intersex really is, and considering the sheer number of lives are affected through non-consensual treatment to "fix" intersex, is really sobering.
I'm going to be thinking about this for a while. What do YOU think about this?