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Intersex Tribulations

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"Intersex" is a term that refers to variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals that don't fit the standard binary definition of "male" or "female". It most commonly refers to individuals with ambiguous genitalia. However, in a medical context, it can also refer to conditions such as androgen insensitivity syndrome, XX male syndrome, and certain hormonal disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Intersex characters are frequently depicted as androgynous, either in a Dude Looks Like a Lady, Lady Looks Like a Dude, Pretty Boy, Bishōnen, or Bifauxnen manner. They are frequently uncomfortable about their bodies in a manner similar to gender dysphoria. Their intersex status often leads to a lot of internalized angst or angst that can be brought upon them by others. Intersex characters are also frequently depicted as villains, leading to stereotyping of being intersexed as evil.

Historically, intersex people have been referred to as hermaphrodites. Some intersex people identify as transgender, especially if they're non-binary or if they were raised as one gender growing up but don't identify with it; however, not all intersex people are trans. Despite this, being intersex is often pinned under the LGBTQ umbrella, in part because they often face the same (or very similar) forms of discrimination, bigotry, and ignorance.

Related to Wrong Genetic Sex and Hermaphrodite. Compare Trans Tribulations, Gayngst, Bi-Wildered, Gender Bender Angst, Ambiguous Gender, and Otherworldly and Sexually Ambiguous. See also Why Couldn't You Be Different?, Wanted a Gender-Conforming Child, Have You Tried Not Being a Monster?, Forced Out of the Closet and Out of the Closet, Into the Fire.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Bishōnen Yoite from Nabari no Ou is revealed to be intersex late into the manga. It isn't given much detail but it is used to explain his angsty personality and identity issues more in-depth. His own parents thought that being intersex was a sign that he was cursed.
  • IS: Otoko demo Onna demo Nai Sei is a manga about intersex people. The first two volumes are one-shots about various individuals, such as the female-identified Ryoma, who was raised male and ended up having her first period in her late teens. After volume 3, it becomes a Coming of Age Story and Queer Romance story about an intersex boy named Haru.
  • Megumi from The Day of Revolution is intersex, but was raised as a boy named "Kei". Upon learning about Megumi's chromosomes, it's decided that she should transition into living as a girl. Megumi originally hates the idea but comes to accept it.
  • Apos, the Big Bad of Mnemosyne is intersex (self-identifies as male), which in that universe is very handy as it gives him Immortality (a female-only ability) as well as the powers of an Angel (male-only ability) upon ingesting a Time Spore. Though it does come with Great Insanity and an unnatural pleasure from prolonged torture of his victims.
  • Requiem of the Rose King is a loose adaptation of William Shakespeare's Henry VI and Richard III in which rather than being a hunchback, Richard's "deformity" is being intersex. His mother calls him a "demon" and claims he's cursed. His having a working womb also results in getting impregnated by the Duke of Buckingham, a topic that ultimately starts a war between the two of them.
  • Ghost Talker's Daydream: Haru is revealed to be intersex, as part of her backstory in chapter 12. It led to her being bullied at school and eventually caused problems in her relationship with Inspector Gada. All of which caused her to develop a deep-seated hatred for other women, due to her own sexual inadequacy.
  • Mashiro Ichijo, the protagonist of Setona Mizushiro's manga After School Nightmare, is a teenager whose body is male from the waist up but female from the waist down. He's raised as a boy but is terribly afraid that his various weaknesses and failings mean that he is actually a girl. The manga begins with Mashiro getting his first menstrual period and the school clinician telling him he must attend a special class once a week in which he and other troubled teens enter a Dream Land, where they take on the form of their "true selves" and must fight for the right to "graduate".
  • Astra Lost in Space has Luca Esposito, who faced neglect from his father because his intersex body meant he could not inherit the family business. His body is later revealed to be a deliberate choice, as Luca turns out to be a clone genetically modified to have both masculine and feminine parts.

    Comic Books 
  • Kyisha from Shadoweyes is an intersex woman. Due to her androgyny, at one point she gets mistaken for a crossdresser by a classmate.

    Fan Works 
  • Eyes on Me: In Be Wherever You Are, Quilene is a cis woman who was born with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome. Due to her condition, she'd had anxieties about getting into a relationship until her college roommate Hope introduced her to her twin brother Jonah. She also reveals that Aerolynn outed her in high school because she was jealous of Quilene's crush on a boy she was also interested in. This led to her being subjected to lots of bullying to the point where she had to be homeschooled until senior year.
  • Little Fires is a Warriors fanfic about a transgender tortoiseshell she-cat. It is heavily implied that, like most tortie toms, Emberpaw is intersex. The Clans don't fully understand the condition but they do know that tortoiseshell toms are both very rare and oftentimes sickly. Emberpaw herself was weak as a young kit. She also doesn't enjoy living as a boy, but others don't understand her dysphoria and make fun of her femininity.
  • In The Word of Your Body, Tobias has perineal hypospadias, and went through a painful genital mutilation surgery at a young age to make him look more male. Fortunately, morphing undoes it.
  • in Inky Future, Orion is a shy Inkling boy who, through specific circumstances (specifically being part of a Fusion Dance comprised of both male and female individuals, and later fusing with his sister Artemis) discovers that while he still would prefer male pronouns, he identifies as intersex and prefers having a much more feminine body, as well as both sets of sex organs, realizing that his body doesn't feel right without female genitalia. While he can't become a full-on "Hermaphrodite" yet, as he can't change his sexual organs without surgery (and any alternative means are still in the research phase of development), Inkling biology (specifically being able to transform) and a special piece of medial equipment allows him to change his body to be more female through physical therapy.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The live-action film Spork is about an intersex, female-identifying elementary school child. It follows her figuring out her identity and relationships with other characters. She faces a prejudiced Alpha Bitch and her Girl Posse, who frequently bring up her intersex status in a demeaning way.
  • Jane of Predestination is eventually revealed to be intersex - albeit of a kind so subtle that it isn't even noticed until given a thorough physical examination: along with female sex organs, she possesses an internalized set of male reproductive organs. Though unaware of this, Jane has always felt uncomfortable with herself, uneasy with the notion of sexual contact, and instinctively isolates herself from people. However, the real tribulations don't begin until after she gives birth: her female sexual organs didn't completely mature and were critically damaged during labour, forcing the doctors to remove them... and replace them with the male organs. From then on, Jane has to go through the process of coming to terms with a new identity altogether, eventually becoming John, AKA "The Unmarried Mother."

  • The Wicked Years: It's implied in Wicked that Elphaba is intersex. At birth, her sex is difficult to understand until she's fully cleaned. Later in life, she's noted as being lanky and androgynous looking. Elphaba displays discomfort with her body and won't even let her lover Fiyero touch her below the waist. Fiyero also notes that Elphaba has an unexplained scar near her groin, which may be due to an intersex-related surgery. In her case, though, Elphaba's still able to get pregnant and give birth to a son, Liir.
  • In None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio, champion hurdler and homecoming queen Kirsten Lattimer finds her life turned upside-down when she's diagnosed with androgen insensitivity syndrome.
  • Sadako from The Ring series was born with androgen insensitivity syndrome and was killed because of it. She's later reborn in the first sequel novel Spiral as a "complete hermaphrodite". Eun-suh (Bae Doona), the version of her in the Korean adaptation The Ring Virus, also has this syndrome.
  • Annabel by Kathleen Winter is a 2010 novel about an intersex individual born in 1960s Canada. They were born with a penis and vagina, but their father decided to raise them as a boy named "Wayne". As Wayne grows, they show feminine traits that their father disagrees with. Upon hitting puberty, Wayne gets their period and is put on testosterone, which causes more confusion. The novel ends with Wayne discontinuing their medicine because they wish to be more feminine. Annabel has been met with praise, however intersex rights organizations found it flawed and inaccurate.
  • Abigail Tarttelin's novel Golden Boy is a Coming of Age Story about Max Walker. He's a "golden boy": attractive, athletic, intelligent, and from a well-to-do family. However, his family keeps it a secret that Max is intersex.
  • In A Dance with Dragons, fifth book of the A Song of Ice and Fire saga, George R. R. Martin introduces "Sweets", the purple-haired violet-eyed intersex prized slave of Yunkish slaver Yezzan zo Qaggaz, who owns a grotesquerie of unique and deformed slaves. Though Sweet's place of origin is unknown, the books do reference that people born in the cities close to the devastated Valyrian peninsula are often born with deformities and alterations.
  • Nemesis Series: The transphobic Greywych casts a spell to kill off "men" (by her definition, anyone with a Y chromosome) but almost dies when she casts the spell. Danny theorizes that it's because she's likely has a Y chromosome and androgen insensitivity, though Greywych insists that it's just because of the spell is so powerful she accidentally Cast from Hit Points.
  • In the later Time Scout books, Dr. John Lachley was born with ambiguous genitalia. A little of each. Combined with a terrible childhood in the Crapsack World of Victorian London's East End, and you've got one hell of a Freudian Excuse.
  • Elise Kavanaugh from The Descent Series is the only female on record to be a kopis (demon-slayer and exorcist), which appears to be tied to the fact that (as revealed in book two when she visits a gynecologist in a flashback) she's intersex: she has an XY chromosome pair and an androgen insensitivity disorder. It's a touchy subject for her, as her boyfriend Anthony finds out the hard way.
  • An Unkindness of Ghosts: Thanks to a variety of hormonal disturbances, Tarlanders are very likely to have intersex conditions, hence Aster's hairiness and muscular build despite her lack of external testicles. One theory among people from the higher decks is that the Tarlanders are descended from the World of Chaos, and when the Heavens overruled their world, their demonic bodies could not conform to the Holy Order. This is used as an excuse to dehumanize the Tarlanders even more.
  • Across the Green Grass Fields: Regan's lack of physical development makes her feel left out from her peer group as a preteen even before her parents tell her that she has XY chromosomes and androgen insensitivity syndrome. A prejudiced friend outs her and drives her away in tears, leading her to be Trapped in Another World that proves much more accepting.
  • Calliope/Cal from Jeffery Eugenides' novel Middlesex was born with 5-alpha reductase deficiency (meaning generically XY but with ambiguous genitalia and internal testes) as a result of their grandparents being secretly brother and sister and their parents being second cousins twice over, unbeknownst to themnote . The doctor who delivered her was nearsighted and didn't notice her unusual genitalia so she was raised female. It was only when she hit puberty that her lack of a period and the male secondary sex characteristics becoming apparent tipped them off that something was wrong, and when she heard they were planning to surgically alter her body Calliope ran away, changed his name to Cal and began living as a man.
  • The Micah Grey trilogy by Laura Lam is about an intersex person who runs away from home after overhearing their parents deciding to give them surgery to make them entirely female.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Raven from Faking It is notable for being the first intersex character played by an intersex person, Amanda Saenz. The show deals with queer teenagers facing the challenges of high school and the larger political climate.
  • In Night and Day, Alex Wells and Roxanne Doyle's baby, Alex Jr, is born intersex, leading to a disagreement between the couple over whether to subject the baby to an operation. An adult intersex character, Patrice, is also briefly featured as part of the storyline when Roxanne attends an intersex support group.
  • Stuart "Magilla", the first friend Delia makes in Everwood was born intersex and his parents chose to raise him as a boy. This poses problems when Stuart is caught playing dress-up with Delia and his parents freak out, forbidding Delia to play with their son and hastily switching him to an all-boys school. Stuart's parents are the first and possibly only people in the series Andy is unable to help or reason with.
  • The Farscape episode "Fractures" features Moya's crew making the acquaintance of another gang of fugitives escaped from Peacekeeper custody. One of them, a Nebari named Hubero, turns out to be intersex: effectively exiled from her people, she bitterly refers to herself as "not exactly male, not exactly female, not exactly anything." As it turns out, intersex individuals - known as "androgen" — are a persecuted minority in the highly-conformist Nebari culture, to the point that most are executed at birth; Hubero only managed to avoid this because she grew up on an isolated liberal colony, but when the Peacekeepers raided it and tried to ransom her back to her people, Nebari Prime refused to take her in. Needless to say, she's the most guarded of all the fugitives, and only feels comfortable revealing herself to Chiana — another Nebari exile and cultural rebel.

    Video Games 
  • Kainé of Nier was bullied as a child due to her intersex body, which came about as a result of an error in her Replicant data. She took to dressing in an extremely Stripperiffic manner after her grandmother encouraged her to show off the feminine aspects of her appearance, but she clearly overcompensated to the point other characters comment on the impracticality of her wardrobe.
  • Issue 9 of The Secret World introduces Kaoru, a character heavily implied - almost stated outright - to be intersex. Among other things, she was mercilessly bullied after being seen swimming in public and attempted to drown herself as a result; following the breakdown of her relationship with Ricky Pagan, she believes that it was prompted by him seeing "the real me"; finally, Ricky himself claims that he didn't dump her because of "what was between her legs" and insists that "everyone's bits are beautiful!" It turns out that he actually dumped her because of a tattoo on her thigh indicating that she works for the Phoenician Brotherhood; despite their shady status, Kaoru believes that they're the only faction in the Secret World that will accept her.

    Visual Novels 
  • In The House in Fata Morgana, Michel is believed to be female at birth, but he suffers from gender dysphoria from a young age and eventually realises he's a man when his body becomes more masculine and much more comfortable to him at puberty. Since he was born in The Middle Ages, however, his apparently supernatural transformation causes his family to consider him cursed or demonic, and this combined with his albinism and insistence on being accepted as a man despite lacking a penis lead to his imprisonment and torture in his family home. Even after escaping to the titular house and eventually falling in love, he calls himself cursed and doesn't dare to tell his girlfriend the truth or get intimate with her, as his worst fear is that she'll reject him and say that he isn't really a man due to his anatomy.

  • Both main characters of Drop-Out are intersex to some degree, though the author refused to give specifics, and what they've faced is a contributing factor to their decision to jump off the Grand Canyon. Sugar later reveals that it's hereditary in her case, and one of her moms is a urologist who specializes in intersex GRS.
  • Adrian in Curious Case of the Ring Brothers is an intersex gay man who performs in a circus freak show as "Rose, the Man with Breasts" in 1962. He binds his chest in public and is rejected when another gay man realizes his breasts are real.
  • Sed from Iron Nail Afternoon was born with ambiguous genitalia. His parents tried raise him as female using various interventions. His decision to later transition to male caused a rift with his entire family.
  • Ramona in Sticky Dilly Buns has 17β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase III deficiency and is relatively well adjusted, though she does call herself a hermaphrodite until Angel corrects her with the medically accurate term, and Angel forcefully corrects some of the other characters' misconceptions over the next few strips. Later during a guest spot in Pixie Trix Comix Sharon hits Ramona's Berserk Button when she makes a joke fundraiser page about getting her cisgender (but initially closeted bisexual) brother Aaron gender-reassignment surgery. Ramona explains that she wasn't subjected to nonconsensual surgery because her condition wasn't obvious at birth, but a lot of other intersex people are.
  • In And Shine Heaven Now, Heinkel (who in Hellsing falls more into Ambiguous Gender territory, with Hirano saying Heinkel was "neither male nor female") confirms they have 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, and has breasts, a penis, and a pseudovaginal opening. They've admitted they had issues about not really being able to identify as one gender or another, mainly because society insisted they had to choose, and volunteered to become a prototype regenerator in hopes that the regenerator powers would make them the gender they're 'supposed' to be. This helps them create a bond with Timothy, who, thanks to briefly being possessed by Utena, has his own gender identity issues.