Intersex and sexuality education: editorial introduction

Tiffany Jones, Anita Jacombs

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial


Welcome to the Intersex and Sexuality Education special issue of Sex Education. It marks an important occasion since this is the first time that an entire issue of an education journal has been devoted to these important concerns. People born with intersex variations have atypical sex characteristics, be these chromosomal, hormonal and/or anatomical in nature (Jones et al. 2016). These variations reveal in perhaps the most corporeal way that the traditional notions of sex characteristics as discussed in mainstream puberty and sexuality education concerning human bodies may be overly simplistic, and contestable on both scientific and social grounds. People with intersex variations have long been categorised and studied in deeply problematic ways, sometimes in violation of their right to self-determination and a life free from torture. Historically, they have mainly framed as having ‘disorders’ and accordingly, studied via small-scale clinical studies using lenses which privilege the assumption that their bodies should be ‘medically corrected’ in infancy without their consent – regardlessof medical and personal need (Jones 2018). All over the world, rights organisations andadvocates are working to change this situation (Aissga et al. 2017; Carpenter 2016; Free &Equal United Nations for LGBTI Equality 2018; Office of the High Commissioner for HumanRights 2015).There are over 40 recognised different intersex variations – Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) and Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH), for example. However, people with intersex variations are now more often studied or referred to as a group rather than in terms of specific variations. This broad-based grouping together has strengthened rights-based re-framings of intersex variations and related human experience – showing how humans, all of whom have the right to respect and autonomy, have a wide variety of possible bodies and sexual capabilities (Carpenter 2016, 2018; Davis 2015a). Emerging research driven by intersex communities, and informed by sociological or various alternative community-centred perspectives, has denounced enforced interventions as discriminatory (Jones 2018). Anti-discrimination protections for people with intersex variations, and calls for their full inclusion in puberty and sexuality education, are also emerging at the international level through the work of the United Nations (Free & Equal United Nations for LGBTI Equality 2018; Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights 2015; United Nations 2016), activist groups (Aissga et al. 2017), and some government authorities (Malta Ministry for Education and Employment 2015; Victorian Department of Health and Human Services 2018).Recent special issues of high-profile journals have helped build the field of Critical Intersex Studies. They include Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics (Davis 2015b); Culture, Health and Sexuality (Monro et al. 2021); and a forthcoming special issue in Psychology of Sexualities Review. This special issue of Sex Education contributes to this momentum, and recent but disparate efforts of sexuality and education theorists and researchers to engage more seriously with the interests, needs and rights of people with intersex variations (see, for example, Brömdal et al. 2017; Jones 2016; Koyama and Weasel 2001).The papers within this collection seek to question several established constructions of sexuality education concerning intersex variations. They bring alternatives to the fore for discussion, debate and broader dissemination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-503
Number of pages7
JournalSex Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2021


  • intersex
  • dsd
  • variation
  • sex
  • characteristic
  • body
  • bodies
  • gender
  • sexuality
  • education
  • school
  • puberty
  • puberty education
  • discrimination
  • rights
  • inclusion


Dive into the research topics of 'Intersex and sexuality education: editorial introduction'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this