Hermaphrodite or Herm is a reclaimed slur for person who are perceived as not fitting into the sex binary. Although it is used in a dehumanizing and fetishizing manner as an intersexist slur, some have chosen to reclaim it. It is used mostly for intersex people, though it is also sometimes used by altersex or transsex people, or sometimes even non-binary and multigender people who have had the slur applied to them. All of the listed above have the right to reclaim it. In the past, the term was used interchangeably with androgynous.
Besides its reclaimed use, it should not be used on any individual, especially those who have not reclaimed this term. No individual should use the slur unless they themself have the right to reclaim it. The term should only be reclaimed by those who have had the term applied to them.
History and Other Uses
In Greek mythology, Hermaphroditus or Hermaphroditos was a child of Aphrodite and Hermes. According to Ovid, he was born a remarkably handsome boy with whom the naiad Salmacis fell in love and prayed to be united forever. A god, in answer to her prayer, merged their two forms into one and transformed him into mixed sex. Some Hellenic and/or Pagan individuals worship Hermaphroditus, and some varsex individuals may feel closer to Hermaphroditus than other gods.
Scientifically, hermaphroditism is a term that is mainly used to describe plants, and some species of animals, that can produced both sperm and eggs. There are two types of hermaphroditism: sequential and simultaneous. Sequential hermaphroditism occurs in species in which an individual is born as one sex but can later change into the opposite sex. Simultaneous hermaphroditism occurs when organisms have both male and female reproductive systems at the same time.
Historically, the term hermaphrodite was used in law to refer to people whose sex was in doubt, as well as to describe ambiguous genitalia and gonadal mosaicism. During the Victorian era, medical authors attempted to ascertain whether or not humans could be hermaphrodites, adopting a precise biological definition to the term. Until the early 21st century, intersex individuals were described as "true hermaphrodites" if their gonadal tissue contained both testicular and ovarian tissue, or as "pseudohermaphrodites" if their external appearance differed from sex expected from internal gonads.
Hermaphroditism is no longer used to describe humans and is largely considered a slur, as it is often used to dehumanize, sexualize, and fetishize intersex people who do not fit into the binary sexes. The term promotes inaccurate understandings of intersex people, as intersex variations are a diverse spectrum.
The original flag was created by an unknown person on or before August 21, 2015 for intersex people who have reclaimed the slur. The colors have no confirmed meaning.
Other flags were created by Tumblr user Plurgai on February 28, 2021 based on the original, and they are not exclusive to intersex people.
- Reis, Elizabeth (2009). Bodies in Doubt: an American History of Intersex. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 55–81. ISBN 978-0-8018-9155-7