A hermaphrodite is a person born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia, or an internal reproductive system that is not considered "standard" for either male or female. The word originated in the Victorian era when the idea of a "true sex" became popular. Anything deviating from that "true sex" was labeled a "psuedo sex."
Those born with the characteristics that label them as a hermaphrodite, often prefer to be considered intersexed. This is due to the stigma attached to the word "hermaphrodite." Society at large doesn't really accept them, and the medical profession has a long history of convincing/forcing parents to pick a gender and operate on the children when young. These sex changes performed on prepubescent children often lead to gender confusion when the child reaches puberty. Many, though not all, intersexed people discover that they relate to the gender that they were denied as children. Support groups for the intersexed who have gone through such ordeals have sprung up everywhere, and it is becoming more and more evident that hermaphrodites aren't as rare as we once thought. The trauma that is inflicted on these people through the sex changes performed during their childhood is often so severe they have problems functioning in adulthood and can lead to health problems such as a higher risk for Osteoporosis since the hormone producing organs they need are removed.
The idea of the hermaphrodite originated from Greek Mythology. The gods Aphrodite and Hermes fell in love and had a son. The child resembled both parents so closely that a name that mingled their own was chosen: Hermaphroditus. The child was raised by the Naiads in the caves of Mount Ida until he reached the age of fifteen. Now that he had reached adulthood he wanted to explore the lands beyond his home, so he ventured out and explored the cities of Lycians and Carians. While exploring some woods in the area he came to a small clearing with a pool of clear water in the center. There was also a young woman present.
The woman was actually the Naiad, Salmacis. Unlike other Naiads she prefered to gather flowers instead of go hunting, so she was not well known to Artemis. When she caught site of Hermaphroditus her heart stopped and she fell instantly in love. She primped herself and then called to him, bringing his attention from the water to her. She declared her love for him, to which he responded by spurning her. Startled and not a little irate at being spurned she again told him how much she loved him and that they would be together. This time, irritated himself, he told her to begone, to go away, he did not love her he did not want her. So Salmacis turned and disappeared as Naiads do. She hid beneath some leaves and watched him silently as he disrobed and entered the water. Upon seeing his naked form she became overwhelmed with passion and leaped into the water after him. Wrapping her arms around his startled form she declared that they would be together despite his attempts to throw her off, and she offered up a prayer to the gods that they be together forever. Some god heard her prayer, often it is said it was Aphrodite herself not knowing it was her own son in the water with the Naiad, and the two melded together into one form. Hermaphroditus was so distraught over what had happened he called upon his mother and begged her to undo the curse. Unable to do so, Aphrodite instead cursed the pool of water and made it so any man who entered it would exit half woman.