Thursday, August 21, 2014

D is for Disorders of Sexual Development

Our D word for today is Disorder of Sexual Development (DSD).  DSD is the new medical term/diagnosis for intersex conditions.  The term was created because many intersex people see themselves as fitting into the gender binary with only a medical condition.  The expression ‘intersex’ was seen as overly political.  DSD also covers medical conditions that are arguably not intersex, such as Turners Syndrome or Triple X Syndrome.  This redefinition has been very controversial.  The reaction highlights the main division within the intersex community. 

Many intersex people see themselves as men or women with a birth defect.  For them the strictly medical term DSD makes is easier to explain their experiences and identity to the outside world.  It also makes parents and doctors more comfortable talking about these things.  They also feel that DSD better shows the division between intersex, transgender and homosexuality.  They are looking for support, not gender politics and a medical fight.     

For other intersexuals, like me, who have a non-binary gender identity, intersex makes more sense for their identity.  They object to the word disordered when their medical condition does not disable them in any way.  They feel that using DSD is allowing the medical establishment to define the discussion.  That way the current treatment of intersex people will continue to be the norm.

I think both sides make good points and a pragmatic approach is best.  DSD is good in many circumstances.  While talking to people about your experiences without non-binary identities and gender politics it makes perfect sense.  DSD will also scare fewer people, off or make them go into an anti-gay tirade.  That being said, we absolutely need the fire of intersex.  We need to say what was done to us was horrific.  Explaining things in a medical way that will not be off putting has its place, but without confronting the system, nothing will change.

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