Intersex births pose medical, ethical challenges for families

Aug 26, 2014

Disorders of Sexual Development, or DSDs, are more prevalent than Down Syndrome.
Credit Flickr/Colm McMullan

“Is it a boy or a girl?” is usually one of the first questions out of a new parent’s mouth. But what happens when the answer is “We’re not quite sure?" A whole range of medical conditions fall under the term intersex, a diagnosis where a child’s sex is genetically or sometimes physically ambiguous.

In some cases of intersex conditions, also known as Disorders of Sexual Development or DSD, doctors and parents choose to perform operations that intend to assign the child a sex. But how does being diagnosed with this very sensitive type of condition or undergoing surgery affect intersex individuals and their families?

To learn more about this incredibly complex topic, Current State spoke with Lansing-based intersex advocate Alice Dreger, a professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern University, and Dr. Arlene Baratz, a Pittsburgh radiologist who is a parent leader and board member of the AIS-DSD support group for intersex women and their families.