A DCU sign lit by purple lights. 70 buildings and landmarks across Ireland turned purple for Intersex Solidarity Day on 8 November 2020.
70 buildings and landmarks across Ireland turned purple for Intersex Solidarity Day on 8 November 2020.

DCU research group concludes project mapping the lived experiences of intersex people in Ireland

DCU’s intersex mapping project has published its final report, detailing the lived experience of people whose bodies are born different - specifically with variations of sex characteristics (VSC), otherwise known as intersex. 

The study, the first of its kind in Ireland, was funded by the Irish Research Council. The United Nations estimates that between .5% and 1.7% of the global population have an intersex variation.

To date, public awareness of the topic of intersex has been limited as it is a largely unknown issue within Irish society.

The research team have highlighted that being intersex does not ordinarily impair a person’s life or physical health. This project aims to uncover the Irish intersex story.

Having interviewed intersex people, healthcare professionals caring for those with variations of sex characteristics in Ireland and an intersex person’s partner in addition to a small survey sample, researchers learned that: 

  1. At its core, being intersex is about being human.  Being intersex/having a variation of one’s sex characteristics is a highly diverse experience.  
  2. Researchers were unable to access a child/adolescent population in the study, but healthcare professionals who care for this population described a multi-disciplinary approach to their care that is patient-centred and participatory.  Parents are involved and invited to meet with all healthcare professionals on this team.  Researchers also learned that Irish healthcare professionals refused to conduct unnecessary intervention on a child at the parents’ request. 
  3. Some older interviewees had negative experiences of Irish healthcare as it relates to their intersex variations. They told researchers about interventions that they were subjected to as babies and children, and how these have been the source of significant trauma in their lives and impacted on their engagement with healthcare professionals and services today. 
  4. The study revealed that various different aspects of Irish society such as education, healthcare, law and policy do not fully recognise those with variations of sex characteristics whether it be on school text books or laws protecting human rights.  People need to be known to be recognised, and only when a person is recognised can they be protected and treated equally in society.  

Though this project has now wrapped up, research at DCU is ongoing and this study lays a solid foundation for much-needed future work in this area. You can click here to view the final project report in its entirety.