Difference between Intersex and Transgender

Updated on February 23, 2018

Intersex and transgender are two terms related to sexual identity that are often misunderstood. To clear up some misconceptions regarding the two terms, we will take a look at the differences between them.


A statuette of a female with male genitalia (Ancient Rome)

Intersex refers to an individual who is born with ambiguous sexual anatomy which doesn’t allow a medical specialist to assign either male or female sex to the person. That is, the reproductive organs, genitalia or sex chromosomes of such people are not exclusively male or female. According to medical specialists, around 1 in 100 children are born with bodies that are different from standard male and female. Intersexuality shouldn’t be confused with hermaphrodites, the latter term being applicable only to animal with mixed male and female reproductive organs. Society norms generally put a human being either in the male or female category and do not leave room for people with mixed sexual anatomy. In the United States, intersex individuals are able to correct their birth certificate if they were raised in the wrong sex. They also are able to marry and adopt children.

Among famous intersex people are artists Del LaGrace Volcano, Vaginal Davis, Katherine Connella, Lisset Barcellos, Eden Atwood, Dee Palmer; athletes Dora Ratjen (Germany), Pinki Pramanik (India), Ewa Klobukowska (Poland), Stanislava Walasiewitcz (Poland), Foekje Dillema (Netherlands); intersex activists Georgina Somerset, Gigi Raven Wilbur and Ins Kromminga.

A photo from a 2013 rally for transgender equality

Transgender can be defined as a state in which an individual is not satisfied with the gender he or she is assigned at birth and identified with further in the course of life. Transgenders claim that the norms of a society that identify biological “males” with the gender “men” and biological “females” with the gender “women” do not always work. Usually transgender individuals go through a period of analyzing, identifying and coming to terms with their “true” sexual identity. This period may last from several months to a number of years. Transgender identity is not connected with a sexual orientation of a person and transgender people often think of the traditional division between sexual orientations as inadequate. A special term transgender congruence refers to the degree to which transgenders feel comfortable and welcoming to their “new” sexual identity.

Among famous transgender people are actors Holly Woodlawn (Puerto Rico), Tista Das (India), Krystal Summers (USA), Jackie Curtis (USA); filmmaker Lana Wachowski (USA); musicians  Lucas Silveira (Canada), Wendy Carlos (USA), Alexander James Adams (USA), Bulent Ersoy (Turkey); notable mafia leader Ketty Gabriele (Italy)

Comparison chart

Cannot reproduceAre able to reproduce
Biological conditionPsychological condition
There is no standard of careThere are approved Standards of Care
Do not know what their gender identity isHave a clear gender identity

Intersex vs Transgender

What is the difference between intersex and transgender?

  • Without special medical treatment, intersex individuals are not able to reproduce. Most of them are sterile. Transgender individuals, on the other hand, are able to reproduce. Many transgender people give birth to a child before becoming transgender.
  • Being intersex is a biological condition. Intersex people are simply born with mixed male and female organs. Intersex is determined via simple medical tests. Being transgender, on the other hand, is a psychological condition. Transgender people go through various stages before assuming their “true” identity.
  • For intersex people there is no standard of care to this day. In the United States, the treatment of intersex people is based on research from the 1960s, which has hardly been validated. Moreover, intersex children often go through medical examinations and hormone treatment without their consent. For transgender people, on the other hand, there are internationally approved Standards of Care that require complete disclosure and consent of a transgender individual prior to any medical examination. These standards are well-developed to prevent possible mistakes in treatment.
  • As far as gender identity is concerned, intersex people do not know what their true gender identity is. Transgender people, on the other hand, are sure about their gender identity.
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