Call us (02) 6162 1924
menu

Intersex for Medical Professionals

The single best thing doctors can do for intersex people is to support the push for legislative protection against medical intervention on infants and children. It is important that the medical establishment uses a human rights framework when seeing intersex people as opposed to a framework of diagnosis and treatment. This is not about preventing intersex people from accessing treatment, but ensuring that the only people making decisions about intersex bodies are the intersex people to whom the body belongs.

It is equally important to change the language and understanding around intersex in a way that embraces diversity, as opposed to seeing variation and difference as a problem that needs fixing. Intersex patients need ongoing, open conversations with their physicians in order to make the best informed choice for themselves. Even when an intersex person gives consent, there is often a lack of discernment and a feeling of being pressured into making a certain decision. It is worth noting that even when an intersex person is able to consent, many may feel pressured into making choices they are not fully informed or resourced about. Under such circumstances, it may be helpful to refer intersex patients onto peer support services, where they can be informed, share experiences with others and feel supported by the experiences of others.

For intersex people who have already faced medical intervention there is often trauma associated with the experience and it can prove difficult to access medical services later in life. Many intersex people have accumulated a lifetime of bad experiences with doctors, specialists and with the healthcare system in general. It can be especially difficult for intersex people when doctors are focused on their intersex variation rather than the presenting issue. Care should be taken to treat the patient as they are presenting, and only consider their variation if it is directly relevant. The undue focus and unnecessary repeated tests on intersex people can prevent some from accessing essential health services.

It is important when seeing a patient who has an intersex variation to not conflate variation in sexual characteristics with that of gender identity. Information about intersex variation should be collected independently of questions about gender identity. As with any other patient, due care should be taken to respect the presented identity over what may be their legal identity. However in terms of patient intake, practices that are inclusive of trans and gender diverse patients are important for intersex people who are also trans and gender diverse.

Key Points

  • The single best thing doctors can do for intersex people is to support  for legislative protection against medical intervention on infants and children.
  • It is  important  to change the language and understanding around intersex in a way that embraces diversity, as opposed to seeing variation and difference as a problem that needs fixing.
  • Some intersex people have often been left with trauma associated with the experience of having to navigate medical institutions and intervention. This can then prove difficult for intersex people to access medical services later in life.
  • It is important when seeing a patient who has an intersex variation to not conflate variation in sexual characteristics with that of gender identity.