What’s the difference between being Transgender and being Intersex?

People sometimes confuse being transgender and being intersex. Intersex people have reproductive anatomy or genes that don’t fit typical definitions of male or female, which is often discovered at birth. Being transgender, meanwhile, has to do with your internal knowledge of your gender identity. A transgender person is usually born with a body and genes that match a typical male or female, but they know their gender identity to be different.

Some people think that determining who is male or female at birth is a simple matter of checking the baby’s external anatomy, but there’s actually a lot more to it. Every year, an estimated one in 2,000 babies are born with a set of characteristics that can’t easily be classified as “male” or “female.” People whose bodies fall in the vast continuum between “male” and “female” are often known as intersex people. There are many different types of intersex conditions. For example, some people are born with XY chromosomes but have female genitals and secondary sex characteristics. Others might have XX chromosomes but no uterus, or might have external anatomy that doesn’t appear clearly male or female.

While it’s possible to be both transgender and intersex, most transgender people aren’t intersex, and most intersex people aren’t transgender. For example, many intersex people with XY (typically male) chromosomes but typically female anatomy are declared female at birth, are raised as girls, and identify as girls; in fact, many of these girls and their families never even become aware that their chromosomes are different than expected until much later in life. However, some intersex people come to realize that the gender that they were raised as doesn’t fit their internal sense of who they are, and may make changes to their appearance or social role similar to what many transgender people undergo to start living as the gender that better matches who they are.