Intersex conditions

Intersex conditions icon

What is intersex?

Intersex is an umbrella term for people whose reproductive organs, sexual anatomy or chromosome patterns differ from the biological definition of male or female. There are many ways someone can be intersex as it involves a spectrum of reproductive characteristics. Being intersex is a natural variation in humans, it does not mean there is something wrong. 

Intersex traits can relate to

  • Genitalia
  • Internal anatomy
  • Hormones
  • Chromosome combinations different to XY (male) and XX (female).

Some intersex people have both ovarian and testicular tissue, while others have atypical female or male genitalia, or male/female genitalia with variations in their internal organs and/or hormones. Some intersex conditions may be related to underlying concerns that might require medical care, but people who are intersex are generally as healthy as those who are not.

How common are intersex conditions?

Causes of intersex

Types of intersex conditions


What happens when someone is born intersex?

Long term outlook

Our intersex research

The overall focus of our intersex research is to identify genes linked to intersex conditions, and the science behind underlying reproductive organ (gonad) formation  in the developing embryo.

Our research has the potential to improve the understanding of what it is to be intersex, establish possible genetic links  and causes, and improve diagnosis  and clinical management of related health outcomes such as cancer risk, infertility, and gender dysphoria.

Improving genetic diagnosis of intersex conditions

Professor Vincent Harley from the Sex Development Research Group at Hudson Institute

Atypical male or female development in the womb leads to intersex conditions in about one per cent of babies. The quality of life of people who are intersex and their families can be affected by the condition’s cause, uncertainty about care choices, and chronic stress associated with stigma and lifelong clinical care.

Diagnosis is difficult, so this innovative study aims to uncover genetic causes by DNA sequencing, mapping the entire genome, and validating the genetic variations discovered in gonadal cell models. The long-term goal is to improve clinical care as part of a multidisciplinary collaboration with the Monash Children’s Hospital and Royal Children’s Hospital across individual.

Lead Researcher | Professor Vincent Harley

Modelling the genetic causes of intersex conditions

Genetics of gender incongruence

Intersex condition collaborators

Support for people with intersex conditions

Hudson Institute scientists cannot provide medical advice.
Find out more about intersex conditions.

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