What is Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) and what it means to be intersex?

What It’s Really Like to Be Intersex.

image of dalea
Musician Dalea talks about how having an atypical body taught her to love herself.

Intersex people are born with a mix of anatomical sex traits (chromosomes, reproductive organs, or genitals). Sometimes they are apparent at birth, sometimes they’re discovered later in life. I have Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS).

AIS manifests in different ways, yet the key factor is that during gestation, the unborn child develops a resistance to androgens (male hormones), which help build both males and females in the womb. AIS women are born with XY chromosomes, a female appearance, and internal gonads (they can be called testes). AIS variations go from being completely undetectable on the outside at birth, to visible variations on the genitals when the androgen insensitivity is partial. This means that on the outside, a body can look completely like a regular female on one side of the spectrum, to having noticeable traits of both on the other.

My mother was a nurse and when I was born, there were indications of my variation. So my family knew almost right away that something was up. At first it was attributed to a fertility medication that my mom took, called diethylstilbestrol (DES), which caused a lot of issues in babies and mothers until it was taken off the market in the late ’70s. ”

Dalea spoke with Cosmopolitan reporter Kira Peikoff about growing up different, struggling with her body image, and eventually learning how to embrace herself exactly as she is.

Read What It’s Really Like to Be Intersex, Cosmopolitan, APR 16, 2015.

Read DES studies on gender identity.

4 thoughts on “What is Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) and what it means to be intersex?”

Have your say! Share your views