Biologically speaking, a hermaphrodite is a living entity which generates both male and female reproduction cells. In order to do so, the organism needs to have both male and female reproduction organs, which is not a common occurrence in living organisms we know of today. However, there are a lot of plant hermaphrodite species and these are known to feature specific mechanisms that have a task of separating their reproduction systems in order to avoid inbreeding. Inbreeding has a negative effect on the offspring, as it has a higher chance of producing anomalies and therefore lowering the survival rate of the species.
Human cases of hermaphrodites
So far there have been no reports of true human hermaphrodites and we can safely say that all of the hermaphrodite human pictures are fake and spoofed in a lot of ways. Keep in mind that we’re talking about true hermaphroditism here, which means that the living entity possesses both gender’s sexual glands and organs, capable of producing respective reproduction cells (sperms and eggs). Hermaphroditism in humans is also known as intersexuality, with the person being labeled as an intersexual. Most of the previously described intersexual individuals carry more of female character, both morphologically and psychologically. Within this pseudo-hermaphroditism there is only one type of sexual gland to be found – either male or female – while the organs of the opposite sex to the gland is developed partially and obviously being dysfunctional. Pseudo-hermaphroditism can be divided into male and female type. If it is a male type, testicles are developed, and if it is a female type of pseudo-hermaphroditism, ovaries are developed. If the anomaly is noticed early enough, condition can be significantly improved and normalized with means of hormonal treatment and surgeries, so the person can truly become a male or female without any significant abnormalities to be noticed.
Science behind hermaphroditism
Nevertheless, there is quite a bit of science behind this partial human hermaphroditism which is crucial for one to understand what’s going on at a genetic level. A normal human being generally has 46 chromosomes: 44 autosomes and 2 heterochromosomes. Genetically speaking, a female is an individual which has a pair of complete heterochromosomes which look like “X”, so this pair is labeled as XX. If one of these chromosomes lacks one of its ends, looking like the letter “Y”, the pair is labeled as XY and the carrier of such chromosome is described as a man. On a nature level, human pseudo-hermaphrodites have combinations such as 47XXY, 46XX/46XY or 46XX/47XXY. These individuals are very few in between.
Hermaphroditism in Greek mythology
In Greek mythology there is a character by the name of Hermaphroditus. He was a son of Aphrodite and Hermes, a beautiful man who became a victim of river nymph Salmacida as she caught him bathing in her river. She begged the gods for their bodies to merge forever, which made Hermaphroditus into a – hermaphrodite. This is a common subject of Greek art and writing and generally expresses the wish to swap genders.