Timeline of intersex history

The following is a timeline of intersex history.



  • Sumerian creation myths, 4000 years ago, included the fashioning of a body with atypical sex characteristics.[1]


  • Hippocrates and Galen viewed sex as a spectrum between men and women, with "many shades in between, including hermaphrodites, a perfect balance of male and female".[2]
  • Aristotle viewed hermaphrodites as having "doubled or superfluous genitals".[2]

1st century BCE

  • Diodorus Siculus described the god Hermaphroditus, "born of Hermes and Aphrodite", as having "a physical body which is a combination of that of a man and that of a woman"; he also reported that such children born with such traits were seen as prodigies, able to foretell future events.[3]

43 BCE – 17/18 CE

23 – 79 CE

  • Pliny the Elder described "those who are born of both sexes, whom we call hermaphrodites, at one time androgyni" (andr-, "man," and gyn-, "woman," from the Greek).[5]

c.80 – 160 CE

Medieval period

c.400 CE

  • Augustine wrote in The Literal Meaning of Genesis that humans were created in two sexes, despite "as happens in some births, in the case of what we call androgynes".[2]

c.940 CE

12th century

  • According to the Canon law Decretum Gratiani, "Whether an hermaphrodite may witness a testament, depends on which sex prevails" (Hermafroditus an ad testamentum adhiberi possit, qualitas sexus incalescentis ostendit.)[10][11]
  • Peter Cantor a French Roman Catholic theologian when writing about sodomy in the De vitio sodomitico wrote “the church allows the hermaphrodite to use the organ by which s/he is most aroused. But should s/he fail with one organ the use of the other can never be permitted and s/he must remain perpetually celibate to avoid any similarity to the role inversion of sodomy, which is detested by God.” [12]


  • In his "Chronicle, or History of the Two Cities", Otto of Friesing described hermaphrodites as "a mistake of nature", "grouped together with other supposed defects of the body, such as short stature, dark 'Ethiopian' skin, and lameness".[2]


  • Gerald of Wales in Topography of Ireland stated “Also, within our time, a woman was seen attending the court in Connaught, who partook of the nature of both sexes, and was a hermaphrodite."[9]

13th century

  • Canon lawyer Henry of Segusio argued that a "perfect hermaphrodite" where no sex prevailed should choose their legal gender under oath.[13][14]
  • Henry de Bracton's De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae ("On the Laws and Customs of England", c.1235)[15] classified mankind as "male, female, or hermaphrodite",[16] and a "hermaphrodite is classed with male or female according to the predominance of the sexual organs."[17]
  • The Hereford Mappa Mundi (c.1300) includes a hermaphrodite, outside the borders of the world known to its makers.[18][19]

17th century

  • English jurist and judge Edward Coke (Lord Coke), wrote in his Institutes of the Lawes of England (1628 – 1644) on laws of succession: "Every heire is either a male, a female, or an hermaphrodite, that is both male and female. And an hermaphrodite (which is also called Androgynus) shall be heire, either as male or female, according to that kind of sexe which doth prevaile."[20][21] The Institutes are widely held to be a foundation of common law.
  • 17th-century historical accounts include Eleno de Céspedes, in Spain.
  • Thomas(ine) Hall (born c. 1603) in the United States, was ruled to have a "dual-nature" gender by colonial Virginia governor John Pott.

18th century

1755 – after 1792

  • Spanish nun Fernanda Fernández was found to have an intersex trait and subsequently reclassified male.

1763/1764 – 1832


  • 17-year-old Rosa Mifsud appeared before a Maltese court after petitioning for a change in sex classification from female.[22][23] Two clinicians performed an examination and found that "the male sex is the dominant one".[23] The petition was appealed and granted.[22]


  • Anglo-Welsh philologist William Jones published an English translation of Al Sirájiyyah: The Mohammedan Law of Inheritance which detailed inheritance rights for hermaphrodites in Islam.[24]


1798 – unknown

19th century


  • Levi Suydam was an intersex person in Connecticut whose capacity to vote in male-only elections was questioned in 1843.[26]

1838 – 1868


  • The Welshman newspaper published an account of a child on November 7.[28]
  • During the Victorian era, medical authors introduced the terms "true hermaphrodite" for an individual who has both ovarian and testicular tissue, verified under a microscope, "male pseudo-hermaphrodite" for a person with testicular tissue, but either female or ambiguous sexual anatomy, and "female pseudo-hermaphrodite" for a person with ovarian tissue, but either male or ambiguous sexual anatomy.

20th century


  • The Cambrian newspaper in Wales published an article on the death in Cardiff of an intersex child who, at post-mortem examination, was determined to be a girl.[29]




  • The term 'intersex' was introduced as the (contested) medical diagnosis "Weib intersexuellen Typus" ("intersex type woman") by Austrian gynecologist and obstetrician Paul Mathes [34] His book was published after his death, in 1924.[35]


  • By 1930, the term 'intersex' had already been widely used in medicine in Germany as a new term for "Scheinzwitter" (pseudohermaphrodite), and doctors reported numerous different procedures of intersex surgery.[36]


  • The German gynecologist and obstetrician Hans Naujoks performed what was described as the first complete and comprehensive intersex surgery and hormone treatment on a patient with both ovarian and testicular tissue, at the University of Marburg. The female patient was described as fully functional after surgery and, starting in 1934, spontaneously menstruated.[37]



  • The ethnic Sinti Auschwitz survivor Hugo Höllenreiner was genitally injured at the age of 9 during medical experiments carried out by war criminal Josef Mengele. Höllenreiner witnessed that he was one of Mengele's many candidates for forced sex change but did not receive full surgery.[39]
  • The first suggestion to replace the term 'hermaphrodite' with 'intersex', in medicine, came from British physician Cawadias in 1943.[40] This was taken up by other physicians in the United Kingdom during the 1960s.[41][42]


  • The first intersex surgery of a child was performed at the Children's Hospital of the University of Zurich (Kinderspital Zürich). The girl suffered from CAH and her clitoris was amputated at the age of 7.  She received hormones in 1951. Between 1944 and 1947, three girls got their clitoris amputated.[43]




  • The botched circumcision of David Reimer was followed by sex reassignment in line with theories on optimal gender and gender identity formation by John Money. The case of David Reimer became known as the "John/Joan case" and it supported early interventions on the bodies of intersex infants.



  • The Family Court of Australia annulled the marriage of an intersex man who had been "born a male and had been reared as a male" and subjected to "normalizing" medical interventions, on the basis that he was an hermaphrodite.[46]


  • Former Polish Olympic track athlete Stanisława Walasiewicz (Stella Walsh) was killed during an armed robbery in a parking lot in Cleveland, Ohio, on 4 December 1980.[47][48] She was found to have intersex traits.[49]




  • The IAAF ceased sex screening for all athletes,[53] but retained the option of assessing the sex of participants.




  • Milton Diamond and Keith Sigmundson published a paper discrediting John Money and his optimal gender model, after tracking down David Reimer.[58][59]


  • In Sentencia SU-337/99 and then Sentencia T-551/99, the Constitutional Court of Colombia restricted medical interventions on intersex children aged over 5 years.[60]

21st century


  • Indian athlete and swimmer Pratima Gaonkar commits suicide after disclosure and public commentary on a failed sex verification test.[61][62][63]


  • Australian Alex MacFarlane believed to be the first person in Australia to obtain a birth certificate recording sex as indeterminate, and the first Australian passport with an 'X' sex marker.[64][65]




  • Publication of the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity included Principle 18 on Protection from Medical Abuses, including "all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure that no child's body is irreversibly altered by medical procedures in an attempt to impose a gender identity without the full, free and informed consent of the child". Intersex and transgender activist Mauro Cabral was the only intersex signatory to the Principles.
  • The medical Consensus statement on management of intersex disorders was published, changing clinical language from intersex to disorders of sex development.[68]
  • Indian middle-distance runner Santhi Soundarajan won the silver medal in 800 m at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, then failed a sex verification test and was stripped of her medal.


  • South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya won the 800 meters at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics in Berlin. After her victory at the 2009 World Championships, it was announced that she had been subjected to sex verification testing, bringing intersex issues to the public eye. On July 6, 2010, the IAAF confirmed that Semenya was cleared to continue competing. The results of the testing were never officially released for privacy reasons and her personal status is unknown.[69]


  • In the Kenyan High Court case of Richard Muasya v. the Hon. Attorney General, Muasya had been convicted of robbery with violence. The case examined whether or not he had suffered discrimination as a result of being born intersex. He was found to have been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment while in prison. The Court also determined that he had not suffered from lack of identification documents, but was responsible for registering his own birth, following a failure to do so at the time of his birth.[70]


  • Christiane Völling became the first intersex person known to have successfully sued for damages in a case brought for non-consensual surgical intervention.[71]
  • Tony Briffa, believed to be the world's first intersex mayor, was elected in the City of Hobsons Bay in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, at the end of November.[72]
  • The first International Intersex Forum was held, in Brussels.


  • The Swiss National Advisory Commission Biomedical Ethics published a report on the management of differences of sex development.[73]
  • On November 14, 2012, the Supreme Court of Chile sentenced Maule Health Service for "lack of service" and to pay compensation of 100 million pesos for moral and psychological damages caused to a child, Benjamín, and another 5 million for each of his parents, following surgery without informed consent.[74][75]


  • On 1 February, Juan E. Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, issued a statement condemning non-consensual surgical intervention on intersex people.[76][77]
  • Patrick Fénichel, Stéphane Bermon and other clinicians disclosed that four elite female athletes from developing countries were subjected to partial clitoridectomies and gonadectomies (sterilization) after testosterone testing revealed that they had the intersex condition 5-alpha-reductase deficiency.[78][79]
  • In June, Australia passed legislation protecting intersex people from discrimination on grounds of "intersex status".[80]
  • In October, the Council of Europe adopted a resolution 1952, Children's right to physical integrity.[81]
  • Also in October, the Australian Senate became the first parliamentary body to publish an inquiry into the involuntary or coerced sterilization of intersex people, entitled Involuntary or coerced sterilisation of intersex people in Australia.[80]
  • Intersex activists testified for the first time before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.[51]
  • Germany passed a law requiring intersex infants who may not be classed as male or female to be assigned as "indeterminate". The move is criticized by civil society organizations and human rights institutions as not based around principles of self-determination.[82]
  • In December, participants at the Third International Intersex Forum published the Malta declaration.[83][84][85][86][87][88][89][90][91]


  • The High Court of Kenya ordered the Kenyan government to issue a birth certificate to a five-year-old child born in 2009 with ambiguous genitalia.[92]
  • The World Health Organization and other UN agencies published a joint statement against coercive sterilization.[93]


  • Malta became the first country to outlaw non-consensual medical interventions to modify sex anatomy, including that of intersex people. In the same law, it also becomes the first jurisdiction to protect intersex and other people from discrimination on grounds of "sex characteristics".[94][95]
  • The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe called for recognition of a right to not undergo sex affirmation interventions.[96]
  • In July, policies on sex verification in sport excluding women with hyperandrogenism were suspended following the case of Dutee Chand v. Athletics Federation of India (AFI) & The International Association of Athletics Federations, in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.[97]
  • Michaela Raab successfully sued doctors in Nuremberg, Germany who failed to properly advise her. Doctors stated that they "were only acting according to the norms of the time."[98] On 17 December 2015, the Nuremberg State Court ruled that the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg Clinic must pay damages and compensation.[99]
  • The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice established the first Intersex Human Rights Fund, in an attempt to address resourcing issues.[100][101]
  • The Ugandan Registration of Persons Act 2015 allowed for the birth registration of a child born a "hermaphrodite", and for children's change of name and change of sex classification.[102][103] Many adult intersex persons were understood to be stateless due to historical difficulties in obtaining identification documents.[103]




  • In February, Asian intersex activists published the Statement of Intersex Asia and the Asian Intersex Forum, setting out local demands.[125]
  • In April, Latin American and Caribbean intersex activists published the San José de Costa Rica statement, defining local demands.[126]
  • On August 15, the German cabinet announced a law to create a new sex designation "diverse" on Vital Records for intersex people who cannot be clearly assigned either male or female at birth[127] This complies with an Order of the Federal Constitutional Court.[128] LGBT activists say that the law would be failing to make this category available to non-intersex people, and failing to address concerns about medical interventions.[129]
  • On August 28, California became the first U.S. state to condemn nonconsensual surgeries on intersex children, in Resolution SCR-110.[130][131]


  • On 1 May, the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected a challenge by Caster Semenya to IAAF rules requiring the medicalization of women with particular “differences of sex development”, high testosterone and androgen sensitivity in sport, paving the way for the new rules to come into effect on 8 May 2019.[132] During the legal challenge by Semenya, the IAAF changed the regulations to exclude from the regulations high testosterone associated with XX sex chromosomes.[133] Semenya appealed the decision to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland.[134]
  • In May 2019, more than 50 intersex-led organizations signed a multilingual joint statement condemning the introduction of "disorders of sex development" language into the International Classification of Diseases, stating that this causes "harm" and facilitates human rights violations, calling on the World Health Organization to publish clear policy to ensure that intersex medical interventions are "fully compatible with human rights norms".[135][136][137][138][139]
  • In June 2019, an as-widely signed statement[140] from the intersex groups and their allies condemned the positions on intersex issues of the text “Male and Female He Created Them”, Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education[141], by the Congregation for Catholic Education.

See also


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