Ambiguous genitalia is a form of intersex affecting 0.05% of the population, causing them to have genitals that may have characteristics of male and female sexes or may be incompletely developed and appear androgynous due to it. The external sex organs may not match the internal sex organs or their chromosomes.
Ambiguous genitalia may appear as a large clitoris or as a small penis and/or a fused labia or empty scrotum. People with ambiguous genitalia can have any internal sex organs or combination of sex organs, they can have any chromosomes, and their bodies may produce either hormones during puberty.
Infants with ambiguous genitalia are often given nonconsensual surgery to "correct" their genitalia and make them appear more male or female.
Those with ambiguous genitals may or may not also have an ambiguous reproductive system (ovotesticular), though this is often not the case for many intersex variations.
Male and female sex organs develop from the same tissue. Whether this tissue becomes male organs or female organs depends on the chromosomes and the presence or absence of male hormones in the womb. This means that atypical hormone levels and/or chromosomal abnormalities can cause ambiguous genitalia.
Those with this variation of genitallia are often called 'hermaphrodites,' a common intersex, transsex, and altersex slur that is rude, dehumanizing, and encouraging of fetishists. It also spreads misinformation, as hermaphrodite implies that a person has both a penis and a vagina, which is not what ambiguous genitallia is, and should not be confused as such.
The term hemaphrodite is reclaimed by some.
Below is a list of intersex conditions that often cause one to develop ambiguous genitals. This is not always the case, however, and some with these variations may not have ambiguous genitals, or some with ambiguous genitals may not have these variations.
- 17-AH Deficiency
- 17-KSR Deficiency
- 45,X/46,XY Mosaicism
- Ablepharon Macrostomia Syndrome
- Aromatase Deficiency
- Campomelic Dysplasia
- Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
- Cytochrome PORD
- De La Chapelle Syndrome
- Denys-Drash Syndrome
- Leydig Cell Hypoplasia
- SCARF Syndrome
- WNT4 Deficiency
- XXXYY Syndrome
Many cases of ambiguous genitalia have been around since Ancient Rome, and is seen prevalent in a mythological person, Hermaphroditus, (previously Aphroditus), who is Aphrodite's son, and due to being forced to merge with a nymph, had ambiguous genitalia and similar intersex traits.