An Intersex vs. Hermaphrodite Naming Tiff

Intersex Logo - intersex vs. hermaphrodite


I logged into Twitter recently for the first time in a while, and learned that I had committed an intersex vs. hermaphrodite naming faux pas. A few weeks ago someone in the intersex community had @replied to me. This person, an intersex advocate, reasonably pointed out that I had added her name to my new “Intersex – Hermaphrodite” list without first seeking her permission. Also she objected to my use of the term “hermaphrodite.” I mean, really, really objected.

She pointed out, rightly, that this word has been abused by the media, medical community, and society at large. The intersex folk have fought hard to replace hermaphrodite with intersex or DSD (Disorders of Sex Development, although some refer to it as Differences of Sex Development).


The fact that I meant no offense is irrelevant. I should have been more sensitive. For my transgression, I apologize. The fact is I deliberately made this Twitter list public. The title I used (“Intersex – Hermaphrodite) was meant to titillate the average Twitter user. You see, I am trying to create early interest in the themes of the novel I am starting to work on.


Given that I would like to feature an intersex / DSD character in my novel, it behooves me to research, and respect, the most current wording used by the community. Yet I’d also like to show that vestigial reference to “hermaphrodites” is part of our society’s ingrained usage. It makes for interesting, reality-based tension. But that doesn’t mitigate my lapse in judgment. I have changed the title of this list “Intersex – DSD.” In this early stage of my learning about intersex, I want to signal my support, not cause offense.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.