Intersex is an umbrella term that comprises over 35 genetic and hormonal conditions that affect the biological expression of sex, both external and internal. Today, it is estimated that 1-2% of the general population have biological variations associated with intersex conditions, which is roughly as common as red hair or green eyes. Due to their diverse and complex aetiologies, the physical expressions of intersex conditions vary widely. These include, but are not limited to, individuals who outwardly present as typically male or female and have atypical internal structural or hormonal profiles, as well as individuals with ambiguous external sexual characteristics. The immense number of traits that can vary within any one individual has resulted in innumerable body types, personal identities, and life experiences for intersex people throughout time. It is likely that in the past, only individuals with notably atypical external genitalia would have been socially recognised as outside the male/female sex binary.
This paper presents a possible intersex individual interred at St Nicholas Church, Ypres, in use from about 1150 to 1550 CE. The majority of burials date from the medieval period, when the city was experiencing an economic boom thanks to its cloth industry. At the time, the area surrounding St Nicholas Church was one of the wealthier quadrants of the city. The individual under discussion displays signs of biological adulthood alongside prepubescent skeletal traits. They were buried in typical fashion among the general population, showing no indication of ostracization or othering treatment.
Period18 Sep 2022
Event titleBritish Association of Bioanthropology and Osteoarchaeology Annual Conference: Annual Conference 2022
Event typeConference
Conference number23
Degree of RecognitionInternational