Surgical Abuse of Intersex Child

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How do we know the correct gender of a child with an intersex condition?

We won't know the child's gender until she or he is old enough to communicate to us. We recommend that the child be assigned a gender based on our best prediction, and allow her or him to determine for herself or himself once she or he is old enough to do so.

Irreversible surgeries on infants should be avoided in order to give them the widest range of choices when they are older. Performing surgeries will not eliminate the possibility that our prediction turns out to be wrong.

Learn more about the intersex rights movement:

What is intersex?

Technically, intersex is defined as "congenital anomaly of the reproductive and sexual system." Intersex people are born with external genitalia, internal reproductive organs, and/or endocrine system that are different from most other people. There is no single "intersex body"; it encompasses a wide variety of conditions that do not have anything in common except that they are deemed "abnormal" by the society. What makes intersex people similar is their experiences of medicalization, not biology.

Generally speaking, intersex is not an identity category. While some intersex people do reclaim "intersex" as part of their identity, most regard it as a medical condition, or just a unique physical state. Most intersex people identify and live as ordinary men and women, and are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight.

Intersex conditions are also known as "disorders of sex development" (DSD) in the medical community.

What do intersex activists want?

We are working to replace the current model of intersex treatment based on concealment with a patient-centered alternative. We are not suggesting that intersex babies are better off left alone; we want there to be social and psychological support for both the parents and intersex children so that they can deal with social difficulties resulting from being different than others.

In the long-term, we hope to remove those social barriers through education and raising awareness. See Alice Dreger's chart contrasting the two paradigms.

Are intersex conditions harmful?

In general, intersex conditions do not cause the person to feel sick or in pain. However, some intersex conditions are associated with serious health issues, which need to be treated medically. However, surgically "correcting" the appearance of intersex genitals will not change these underlying medical needs.

How common are intersex conditions?

No one knows exactly how many children are born with intersex conditions because of the secrecy and deception surrounding it, and also because there is no concrete boundaries to the definition of "intersex." It is nonetheless estimated that about one in 2,000 children, or five children per day in the United States, are born visibly intersex, prompting early (and often misguided) intervention.

See also