Some Statistics

Jed Bland



Issue 6
May 1999

POLLY TOYNBEE (RADIO TIMES 13-19, February 1999) writes: "One in 15,000 people is a transsexual. In other words words so few that it deserves about the same degree of serious attention as the danger of being struck by lightning. So how come programme after programme seems to be obsessed with people of confused, indeterminate or wrong sex?"

If it is so rare, why all the fuss? In fact, Ms. Toynbee was reviewing a programme about an intersexed child and, as the programme pointed out, the condition may affect around 1 in 1000, not one in fifteen thousand people. Transsexuals are not always clinically intersexed, and intersexed people do not always see themselves as transgendered.

We have quoted some statistics from Bancroft in previous sections, and we have gleaned some more from the Intersex Society of North America, estimates provided by Dr. Fausto-Sterling.(1)

True Hermaphrodites,
XX/XY1 in 70,000F
(Characterised as having either fused ovo-testes or ovary plus testis)
XX/XX, XY/XYnot known
Genetic Errors
Other mosaicisms and translocations,
including XX males, XY females etc.
1 in 500F
46X0 Turner's Syndrome1 in 5000B, F
47XXX1 in 1000F
47XXY Klinefelter's Syndrome1 in 700B
1 in 2000F
47XYY1 in 700B
Genetic Errors of Metabolism
Androgen Insensitivity Syndromenot known
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia1 in 20,000F
5 alpha Reductase Deficiencynot known, but very rare
Other Conditions
Hypospadias1 in 300F
Microphallus1 in 5000F
Agenesis in femalesnot known
Hypertrophied clitorisnot known
SOURCES: B - Bancroft, F - Fausto Sterling
Transexualism1 in 5000 potential
SOURCE: Landen, M., Lundstom, B., (1995) Incidence and sexratio of transsexualism Proceedings of Harry Benjamin Gender Dysphoria Association Conference, Amsterdam.

There are some quite remarkable figures here. Although they are shown as distinct conditions, there is considerable blurring and variation between one individual and another. There is also, of course, considerable variation in different parts of the population.

Putting it another way two intersexed babies are born each week in the United Kingdom. This compares with other developmental problems such as cleft palate, or genetic problems such as Downs Syndrome. Yet health professionals and parents find it very difficult to find information about it, and those who specialise in this area are seen as a rather bizarre group of fringe psychiatrists.

 Most of the genetic and metabolic errors will give rise to genital malformation, but it would seem that many cases of ambiguous genitalia occur in the absence of evidence of more fundamental problems. Where the operation is simply cosmetic and the child is happy to grow up in its birth role, will be able to marry and have a family, can it truly be regarded as an intersex condition? It is all a matter of definition.

Moreover with the increase of the use of ultrasound scanning, amniocentesis and other procedures, in this age of what has been referred to as the "new eugenics" will many of these children be aborted?

Or will we see a society where all sexual and gender statuses are respected?


Intersex Society of North America,

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