DSD stands for Disorders or Differences of Sex Development and is a term that is often used by medical professionals. It is a collection of medical diagnoses that describe how the natural development of sex characteristics occurred for specific forms of sex diversity. It is sometimes also used by intersex people. Some prefer this terminology, others use it in specific situations, for instance when speaking to health care workers. Both patient organizations and intersex activists disliked the word ‘disorders’, because of its strong negative connotations. It is often seen as stigmatizing and medicalizing. Nowadays, ‘differences’ is often used instead of ‘disorders’. However, ‘differences’ is not ideal either because it suggests that another group sees itself as the norm. In sociology, this is called ‘othering’. Still, it is a word that is helpful to know when referring to health care when it comes to intersex people.
It mostly does not matter what kind of DSD variation you have, because sex is a spectrum with infinite variations of unique combinations of sex characteristics, and everyone, including men and women who are not intersex, is somewhere on that spectrum. On the other hand, it can be important to know what kind of DSD diagnosis you have because it allows intersex people to recognize themselves and their bodies. Some forms of sex diversity described as DSD require health care. It is essential to be informed about your body, health, and options, so that you can make informed decisions on the kind of health care you want and need.
Differences or Disorders of Sex Development (DSD) are defined as medical conditions involving the following elements:
Congenital development of ambiguous genitalia
(e.g., 46,XX virilizing congenital adrenal hyperplasia; clitoromegaly; micropenis)
Congenital disjunction of internal and external sex anatomy
(e.g., Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome; 5-alpha reductase deficiency)
Incomplete development of sex anatomy
(e.g., vaginal agenesis; gonadal agenesis)
Sex chromosome anomalies
(e.g., Turner Syndrome; Klinefelter Syndrome; sex chromosome mosaicism)
Disorders of gonadal development