Jim Costich, The Man with the Hidden Playground

The Use of the Happy “inter” Prefix; For the Intersex


“Your mind is a garden; your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers, or just grow weeds.” Unk.


  1. a prefix occurring in loanwords from Latin, where it meant “between,” “among,” “in the midst of,” “mutually,” “reciprocally,” “together,” “during” (intercept; interest); on this model, used in the formation of compound words (intercom; interdepartmental).

Origin of inter-

Middle English < Latin (in some words replacing Middle English entre- < Middle French < Latin inter-), combining form of inter (preposition and adv.); see interior


It used to be that the world described us according to what we weren’t. We weren’t male or female we had parts of both and often they didn’t work very well or at all, especially for reproduction. Reproduction is highly over-rated and evolutionary biologists are now arguing that sex, sexual, and gender minorities, far from being an aberrant distortion are instead an evolutionary adaptation to get human children through their preposterously long childhoods by supplying community members who don’t produce their own children, of which the intersex are one such minority, (See Steven Pinker, “The Blank Slate”). Clearly, sex in humans has a whole lot more to do with socialization than reproduction but that’s a topic for another time.  The topic this time is a good way to talk about ourselves as a group of people who share something. The Greeks gave us a name: Hermaphrodite, and it stuck for a very long time but it wasn’t accurate. There really are animals that are both male and female and reproduce by “you fertilize mine and I’ll fertilize yours”.  It’s part of the beginning of sexual reproduction starting with DNA exchange between bacteria long before we started making eggs and sperm. Making eggs OR sperm is a later development in plant and animal individuals. Mammals are so unlikely to make viable sperm and eggs in the same individual it’s still accurate to call it a miracle.  Hermaphroditus supposedly could do this but was a Greek God and we’re actual human beings. Some people worldwide still want to own the name, “Hermaphrodite” but it’s tangled with godhood and scientific inaccuracy so most of us don’t want to use it as it spreads confusion and we’ve enough of that already. The name that is here to stay, embraced by the U.N. is Intersex. There are medically descriptive and diagnostic terms used to identify the various causes and often related medical problems that can go with Intersex but when you’re talking about an entire people with a developing group identity and similar life experiences you need a name and Intersex is that name because it’s a good one.  In the late 70’s when I came to know that it was the name we were going with into the future I was very, happy. In childhood, I was talked about as if I were a boy with a birth defect, a defective boy, a boy minus something, a boy who was not quite good enough. I might not even be a “real” boy, maybe I was like a wooden puppet who could dream of being a “real” boy but could never grow up to be a “real” man.  After all, I had heard in hushed voices the word pseudo-hermaphrodite which hung around for a while before it was dropped for Intersex. Then I gained the gender but not the sex. I was close, but not close enough until I was given hormones that at least kept me from being sick and made my body mature so I wouldn’t be a boy forever. I really could and did get what I needed to grow into an adult and a man at that.  However, I was not “just like all the other boys” and both they and I was well aware of it.  I didn’t want to account for myself without a word to apply to myself. They had a word, after all they were male. Girls were female. I was missing things from either of those not only in my body but in my nomenclature.  Without a good word some really ugly ones came up, some of them from my own mother. I was often given a choice between malformed and freak. Getting the name “Intersex” was to finally be something instead of a bad excuse for a male.  Now I had a sex to go with my gender!  Inter – sex was so self-explanatory and neutral too. It simply said that in some way my body was in between male or female and maybe kinda male AND female. I had a way to talk about myself, other people were satisfied with it and I found many others like me because we had a name now.  Being intersex is an actual thing that does describe much more about me than my physical attributes which actually…. It does not. If I were to use one of the several possible diagnostic terms that have been used by my physicians I would then have to go on for 5 minutes explaining what they mean. The last thing I need or want is yet another term that makes me seem like “less than human” like a “disorder” or it’s snotty euphemism, “difference”.   I am not a defective male or female who can be restored to what I would have been if I hadn’t developed into what I am.  Being intersex is to actually be something. A whole thing. An integrated thing. My experiences living in my body have influenced and instructed everything about me from the moment of my conception until the day I die. That is not a bad thing.  It is a very good thing. Being male, female, or otherwise are all good things.  I’ve been talking about my experience, but I’ve no doubt that what I’m saying is shared by a good many other people.

We who are in between can interact, interplay, and interface with those people whose bodies don’t interpose the sexes in the way ours do.  We can intermediate their experiences, acting as bridges because we intermingle male and female in one body. Those of us whose bodies are very interwoven, intertwined examples of male and female together can help intercede in that ubiquitous “war between the sexes” thing that has mangled the interchanges between men and women for centuries.  We have the potential to intermediate, intercede and yes even interfere to help men and women learn to interlink, intermarry, and finally intertwine to achieve the love and feeling of wholeness they struggle so to achieve. Who hasn’t seen the greeting cards addressed to “my better half” for heterosexual couples and felt a twinge of sadness for what surely must feel like an incomplete life until they find their “better half” that makes them feel whole? Or maybe not.  Their “war of the sexes” is interminable and while we can get some sense of accomplishment through our interventions, for pity’s sake we could use a little interrelation between them and us too.  Are you counting yet? How many times have I used, “inter”?

Inter is such a great prefix!  What would we do without it?  It lets us bring all kinds of things together in very positive ways.  We can intertwist or intertwine all sorts of things we find interesting on the internet.  On craft and artisan sites you can learn to interweave, interlock, intersplice, intermesh and don’t forget music where before the intermission you can hear the Intermezzo.  Intermittent, international, interim, interval, interrogative, interview, interstellar, interstate, intersperse, interdependent, interracial, intercourse…… WHEW!  The only one I can think of that isn’t a feel-good word is interrogate, interrogator… but then it’s not always a negative is it? It depends on your position.  Are you the one interrogated or do you get to do the interrogating?  Well, I wasn’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition.

Now I’ve done it you have no choice but to go here:

  Go ahead, you all know what happens when we mention the Spanish Inquisition!

This Blog is by Jim Costich



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