From Susan's Place Transgender Resources
Revision as of 22:19, 16 February 2017 by Monsterbot (Talk | contribs)

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

In biology, a hermaphrodite is an animal or plant that has reproductive organs normally associated with both male and female sexes.[1] . Many taxonomic groups of animals (mostly invertebrates), do not have separate sexes. In these groups, hermaphroditism is a normal condition, enabling a form of sexual reproduction in which both partners can act as the "female" or "male". For example, the great majority of pulmonate and opisthobranch snails and slugs are hermaphrodites. Hermaphroditism is also found in some fish, and to a lesser degree in other vertebrates.

Historically, the term hermaphrodite has also been used to describe ambiguous genitalia and gonadal mosaicism in individuals of gonochoristic species, especially human beings. The word hermaphrodite is a scientific term that originated from the Greek god Hermaphroditos, and entered the English lexicon in the 15th century.[2] Recently, the word "intersexed" has come into preferred usage, since the word "hermaphrodite" is considered to be misleading and stigmatizing.[3]

Recently the term "Disorders of Sexual Development," or DSD, has been promoted by some within the intersex advocacy community as a way of defining the medical focus of the condition. This new term has raised controversy within the intersex community at large because of its alleged pathologization of the phenomenon.

Other uses of the term

Main article: Intersex

Hermaphrodite was used to describe any person incompatible with the biological gender binary, but has recently been replaced by intersex in medicine. Humans with typical reproductive organs but atypical clitoris/penis are called pseudohermaphrodites in medical literature.

People with intersex conditions sometimes choose to live exclusively as one sex or the other, using clothing, social cues, genital surgery, and hormone replacement therapy to blend into the sex they identify with more closely. Some people who are intersex, such as some of those with Klinefelter's syndrome and androgen insensitivity syndrome, outwardly appear completely female or male already, without realizing they are intersex. Other kinds of intersex conditions are identified immediately at birth because those with the condition have a sexual organ larger than a clitoris and smaller than a penis. Intersex is thought by some to be caused by unusual sex hormones; the unusual hormones may be caused by an atypical set of sex chromosomes.

Sigmund Freud (based on work by his associate Wilhelm Fliess) held fetal hermaphroditism to be a fact of the physiological development of humans. He was so certain of this, in fact, that he based much of his theory of innate sexuality on that assumption. Similarly, in contemporary times, fetuses before sexual differentiation are sometimes described as female by doctors explaining the process.[4] Neither concept is technically true. Before this stage, humans are simply undifferentiated and possess a Mallerian duct, a Wolffian duct, and a genital tubercle.


The term "hermaphrodite" derives from Hermaphroditus, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite in Greek mythology, who was fused with a nymph, Salmacis, resulting in one individual possessing physical traits of both sexes [5]. The mythological figure of Tiresias, who figures in the Oedipus cycle as well as the Odyssey, where he is changed from a man to a woman and back by the gods.



  1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  2. Word origin and history: Hermaphrodite Word-Origins.com
  3. Intersex Society of North America | A world free of shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgery
  4. (2005) Why Do Men Have Nipples?: Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini. New York: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 1400082315. OCLC 57722472. 
  5. Book IV, The story of Salamacis and Hermaphroditus


Further reading

  • (1998) "Affronting Reason", Looking Queer: Body Image and Identity in Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender Communities. New York: Haworth Press, 205–219. ISBN 978-1-56023-931-4. OCLC 38519315. 
  • Fausto-Sterling, Anne. "How Many Sexes Are There?", 12 March 1993, p. Op-Ed. , reprinted in: (1996) Business As Ethical and Business As Usual: Text, Readings, and Cases. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub, 168–170. ISBN 0534542514. OCLC 141382073. 
  • (1998) "Disorders of sex differentiation", Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1303–1425. ISBN 0-7216-6152-1. OCLC 35364729. 

External links


*Some information provided in whole or in part by http://en.wikipedia.org/