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Understanding Intersex: The Call For Leaving Bodies Be

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The symbol most often used for intersex people.

Tiger Devore can talk extensively on a subject many people struggle to open up about - sex.

As a licensed sex therapist in Las Vegas, it's hard to ask a question that Dr. Tiger, hasn't heard before. 

But Devore is also an advocate for another cause - the rights of intersex people. It's a subject Devore knows firsthand, as well as the harmful effects of genital variation surgery, which is still performed on many infants today. 

After countless doctor visits and 24 surgeries later, which carried into Devore's adult life, Devore is part of a growing movement to stop the medical practice of genital variation surgeries - something they say has no medical benefit at all. 

"The sociology behind the nature of how these surgeries began is rooted in homophobia," Devore said. "The fears around intersex kids is that somehow they will become homosexual if they are born intersex." 

Intersex, however, is an umbrella term used to define a variety of conditions in which a person who is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical binary definitions of male or female. 

In other words, intersex people are born with either external or internal biological differences that do not determine someone's sexual orientation.

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Such a broad definition makes it hard to determine just how common it is, but many pinpoint intersex to effect approximately one in 250 people. 

Although being intersex does not define someone's sexual orientation, Devore said many still consider themselves a part of the LGBTQ community. 

"Looking at the history of homosexuality and how it's been treated in mainstream society is very similar to the way in which being intersex has been treated," Devore said. "The isolation and the shaming, denial of our existance, gross underestimates of our numbers in the population, making our condition medical so it can be treated and surgical attempts to eliminate." 

Devore said that while presenting as a white male to the outside world, friends recognize that Devore is intersex, and does not identify as a male or a female. 

Many people, Devore continued, still do not understand what the term intersex means, and often confuse it with the mythological term "hermaphrodite."

Hermaphrodites do not exist within the human race, because the word implies that someone is both fully male and fully female, a physiologic impossibility. 

But doctors who assign an intersex infant a sex by performing surgeries is medically unnecessary. 

"I had 24 surgeries," Devore said. "I didn't have successful surgeries, they were experimenting on me. I was born in 1958, and they had no idea what they were doing." 

Dr. Tiger Devore

Guests

Tiger Devore, licensed psychologist and sex therapist 

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