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In Humans, What Is a Hermaphrodite?

Children born with male and female organs often undergo surgery in infancy to make them either anatomically female or male.
Female reproductive system.
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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2014
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A hermaphrodite describes a person who is born with both female and male physical characteristics. Increasingly, however, intersex is becoming a more popular description when referring to individuals of this congenital state. A hermaphrodite may be born with both sex organs or may be born with one main sex organ, but possess part of a second opposite organ. Beyond visible features, other physical characteristics may also cause a person to be defined as intersex, such as the chromosomal differences apparent in Klinefelter syndrome where a male is born with two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome.

The hermaphrodite label is not only applied to humans, but is often used to describe certain plant species, as well as other animals that possess both sex organs. Historically, humans born with this condition often undergo surgery during infancy. For all intents and purposes, surgery is intended to eliminate one of the sex organs and, thus, make the child anatomically either female or male.

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Some, such as the Intersex Society of North America, consider hermaphrodite to be an outdated and inaccurate description of intersex individuals. Typically, it is used to describe people who are believed to be, physically, both female and male. People who are born with characteristics of both sexes, however, cannot be as easily depicted as completely female while also being completely male. Specifically, a person who some may refer to as a hermaphrodite may actually be born with an outwardly male appearance, yet possess female internal organs or vice versa.

There are a number of other congenital variations that cause some to shun the hermaphrodite label. For instance, a newborn girl may be born without a vaginal opening or may be born with an enlarged clitoris, which may appear to be a small penis. A newborn boy may be born with a scrotum that is shaped like a labia.

Another description, once defined as a true hermaphrodite, is applied to individuals born with sex glands that are made up of testicular as well as ovarian tissue. Today, doctors more commonly refer to this intersex condition as ovotestes. Some people may have two ovotestes or may have just one that is paired with another ovary. Infants born with ovotestes often appear to have normal looking female or male genitalia, while some appear to have genitals that appear to be a combination of both.

Medical science has discovered that individuals who may have at one time been described as a hermaphrodite can actually be born with multiple female and male sex organ variations. This has led to the more common usage of the term intersex by which such individuals are labeled today. Some people born with this condition, however, have chosen to embrace the former label, while others find it to be offensive.

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anon329264
Post 4

The recurrence of hermaphrodites among us should be seen as a scientific direction to effect the return to state of Biblical First Adam (been made in the true image of the Creator) before the deep sleep.

The clue is in the fact that during the fetal development, conditions that directs hermaphrodite's organs, the puberty developing hormones usually appear earlier in the female than in the male. The Human True Hermaphrodite xx/yy chromosome does exist. My family member married a huge, workaholic handsome lady unknown to him. He (xx/yy) came from Ekiugbo Town of Ughelli Township Metropolis, in Delta State, Nigeria, and was latter diagnosed as a Hermaphrodite in the Labour room. He had a penis and labia and concealed testes. He had also given birth to two children who were hermaphrodites who have even more conspicuous and prominent penises akin to a long huge clitoris with urethra perforation and hanging over the slit, and no other urethra opening is observable in the vulva.

She had asked the doctors who suggested surgical reduction of her penis to clitoris size and testes if that would alter her blood too. The husband opted that his mate be left the way he had been -- productive and healthy. His children inherited the genes of the father who is heavily well endowed, making the children genetically well endowed hermaphrodites.

KoiwiGal
Post 3

There's quite a few species that are just naturally hermaphrodites, but unlike humans they can use both sets of organs for fertility.

I think snails are one example. So, they can both get the other snail pregnant, essentially (although I think it's more of an egg laying situation).

I actually wonder if humankind would be better off if we all had true hermaphroditism. Sexism would disappear overnight, that's for sure.

clintflint
Post 2

@umbra21 - Hermaphroditism in humans is actually pretty common. Something like one in every hundred births, although in some cases it's not at all visible (like a "boy" who has ovaries) so people don't always know about it. But, one in every hundred means millions of people in the States alone.

And, to me, it's just not a big deal. People seem to get really nervous, or upset about sexuality and gender, and I guess that's because biologically it's quite an important thing.

But, we've grown above biology by now. We get to choose how we want to live. And to me, it's important to just live and let live.

umbra21
Post 1

Intersexual is a much better way of referring to people born like this, as it describes them much better and it's more respectful. Hermaphrodite has many negative connotations now.

There are some very sad stories associated with people who are intersex. It used to be standard policy that if the baby was not a typical boy to look at, doctors would just remove whatever external organs happened to be present and basically "pretend" that the baby was a girl.

Where, the person might not be a girl, but they have essentially been trapped in an externally female body.

Thankfully, that happens less often now, and usually intersex people are left intact so they can make their own decisions about their bodies, which is how it should be.

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