Today, I want to talk about a disappointing new phrase that is being spread around, and has even been endorsed by the usually enlightened Intersex Society of North America. This new expression is Disorders of Sexual Development or Disorders of Sexual Differentiation, commonly referred to as DSD. DSD is supposed to replace intersex, hermaphroditism, and pseudohermaphroditism in clinical nomenclature.
I find calling intersex a disorder to be highly offensive. Most intersex conditions are not life threatening, or debilitating. The birth of an intersex baby, however, is regarded as a "social emergency." The only real disorder intersex creates is a social disorder. Society has no category to put us in or roles to give us, so we are forced into one of their two boxes (usually female because, to quote one surgeon, "Its easier to poke a hole then to build a pole"). Intersex conditions are not like Down Syndrome or Spina Bifida where they will need special medical treatment and may not have all of the abilities of their 'normal' peers. Instead, intersexuality is a problem with identity.
Many pathologized conditions have unintentionally create a sense of unity and proud identity for those diagnosed, for example deaf culture which does not view deafness as a disability, just that different experience then most. The similar medical treatment and social experiences give them an identity and a strong sense of unity. Intersexuality is no different, already the intersex movement has banned together and has put increased pressure on the medical establishment to change their policies. Granted, some intersexuals do consider themselves to have a disorder or birth defect, however I think this is sad. They are buying into the belief that they are wrong, and cutting themselves off from a potential source of support, all because society has a problem categorizing them.
There is also a very real concern amongst some intersexuals that labeling them as disordered is a form of eugenics that could potentially result in an intersex genocide of sorts. Studies have shown that 96% of parents who are told their fetus has some form of genetic disorder will choose to terminate the pregnancy. I think this concern is a long ways off from actually happening, however it is not inconceivable. Current medical practices towards intersexuals already are not aimed at improving the child's quality of life, but rather at relieving the homophobic and transphobic anxieties of parents.
Intersexuals are already pathologized enough, what we need is less medical intervention, and more open, compassionate minds.