Titel-illustratie bestaande uit een lijntekening en tekst. De lijntekening stelt een kind voor dat naar een teddybeer kijkt. De tekst luidt steun je intersekse kind, een gids voor ouders. Onderaan de illustratie zijn de logos van de vier betrokken organisaties weergegeven: IGLYO, OII Europe, EPA, en NNID.

Image: iStockPhoto SurfUpVector

A guide for parents of intersex children. Compiled by IGLYO, OII Europe and EPA.

Contents
Introduction
Advice for parents
Frequently asked questions
Medical interventions
Talking to your child about being intersex
Talking to others about your child being intersex
Talking to professionals about your child being intersex
About this publication

Talking to your child about being intersex

Although it’s important to not make your child feel different in a negative way or for them to worry about being intersex, not talking about it at all can be equally problematic.

How and when to talk with your child

Although it might seem ‘safer’ to not mention it until they are older, hiding things from your child as they grow up may lead to a bigger shock when they eventually do find out.

  • Try to answer all questions that arise in an age-appropriate manner, so that your child will be prepared for everything new that they’ll learn.
  • You don’t have to explain biological terms to your child from a very young age, but you can start gradually introducing ideas of difference by telling them things like ‘not all girls are the same’.
  • Prepare your child for challenges and difficulties along the way, but assure them that you will be there for them and that you’re in this together.
  • Also remind them during difficult times that everyone faces challenges and hard times when growing up.
  • Keep in mind that your child will grow up to be completely autonomous one day, and they need to know all the facts from early on, to be able to make their own decisions later in life.

Also, keep in mind that honesty will help you to have a healthy relationship even throughout and after the most challenging teenage years. Your child realizing that you were dishonest with them may damage your relationship and cause serious difficulties within your family. For many young intersex people, finding out that those closest to them lied is a traumatic experience and can lead to long term issues with trust. Children have a right to and deserve to know the truth about themselves.

Twee kinderen zitten in kleermakerszit met de ruggen tegen elkaar. Het linkerkind heeft een laptop op schoot en is aan het typen. Het rechterkind leest een boek. Lijntekening gemaakt met een enkele pennenstreek.

Minimizing and dealing with shame

Although you might want to plan how you and your child tell other people about them being intersex, be careful not to turn it into a secret. If your child thinks it’s something that needs to be hidden from others, it can lead to them feeling that there is something wrong or shameful about them.

  • Let your child know all the facts about their bodies in a positive way, explaining that everybody is different, and that people can be healthy and happy without having to fit into strict categories.
  • Try not to emphasize that being intersex is rare or uncommon, as this can lead to feelings of isolation.
  • Think about experiences or situations which may be different for your child and think about how to discuss them in a supportive way.
  • If your child decides to be open about being intersex, support them. If they do not feel like it, let them know that you support this decision too.
  • Don’t assume your child’s identity or tell them what it will be. Like all children, their gender identity and or sexual orientation may be different to what you expect.

Many people are not aware of the diversity that exists within our societies, let alone the existence of intersex people. You might want to prepare your child for that situation and there are many tools available to help. The most important thing is to build self-confidence and make your child feel comfortable with- and even be somewhat proud of- their body. It is also important that your child knows they have parents who love them exactly the way there are and who will always support them.

Vader en kind zitten aan een tafel, Beiden hebben een pen in hun hand en het kind schrijft of tekent op een stuk papier. Lijntekening gemaakt met een enkele pennenstreek

Decision-making

Although it might feel like making decisions and taking action early on will be better for your child in the long run, the experience of many intersex people shows that the opposite is true. Waiting until your child is at an age that they can make their own decisions or be involved in the process is more likely to have a positive outcome. According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, children also have a right to this (CRC 1989, article 12). Children start to express their own opinions around two years of age, so you should involve your child in decision making as soon as they are able.

Trust your child – it is more capable of responsible decision-making than you might think.

Make sure that doctors do not overwhelm you or your child. This might simply happen due to all the medical terminology they use, the sense that they are the experts in this situation, or the feeling that you don’t know enough information. Where possible, bring a friend or family member with you that you and your child trust to help you discuss the possibilities and reach decisions.1Make sure that this person is thoroughly briefed beforehand so that the time allotted for the appointment is not spent briefing the friend or family member. Also, discuss what you expect from this person: a listening ear or active participation in the conversation.

  • Discuss all the possibilities with your child, leaving surgery as the last option (unless there are immediate health implications).
  • Share all the information about risks and possible outcomes in an age appropriate manner.
  • Give them access to their own medical records/history. They have a right to know.
  • Answer all their questions. Research the subject and empower them to do their own research too. Teach yourself and them how to do good research – how to identify valid information and avoid being misinformed.
  • Reassure your child that they’re the one who knows best how they feel about their lives and their bodies, but that there is help and support available if they need it.
  • Involve your child in conversations with the doctors. Encourage them to ask questions and to critically review advice and information.
  • Empower your child to be in control of any medical examinations or interventions, and tell them that their consent is needed at every stage. Research and teach them their patient rights.
  • When it comes to medical examinations, make sure the medical professionals involved know that your child is intersex.
  • Unless your child is older and requests otherwise, you should always be present during all medical examinations your child may need.
  • Give your child time and space to prepare for and deal with things like medical examinations that can be daunting.
Vader zit op zijn hurken en houdt jong kind dat blijkbaar nog niet goed kan lopen met beide handen vast ter hoogte van de taille, Lijntekening gemaakt in een enkele pennenstreek.

Support

Remember that you are not alone and that you and your child may need some additional support from others at various stages.

  • Let your child know that there are various support options available to them, including intersex groups, counseling and therapy, and that getting help when you need it is not a sign of weakness, but a positive step in looking after yourself.
  • Encourage your child to find and join support groups, if they want to. Let them know that sharing experiences and life stories with other intersex people is one of the best ways to help them realize the possible outcomes of their decisions, and find a safe place to explore what being intersex means. Young people who use social media can be directed to online support groups. Before your child joins a support group, however, do your research to ensure that they are approved by an intersex organization.
  • As a parent or guardian, there will be times when you need additional support too. Although there might not be a specific group for parents of intersex children in your area, look for other relevant parents’ groups or join an online group.
MEDICAL INTERVENTIONS
TALKING TO OTHERS
MEDICAL INTERVENTIONS
TALKING TO OTHERS

References

Ouder met een kind op schoot. Samen lezen ze een tijdschrift of een boek. Lijntekening gemaakt met een enkele pennenstreek.