What is a DSD?

First of all, intersex and DSD are not the same thing, but they do involve exactly the same group of people. The acronym DSD, which stands for disorders of sex development, was coined in 2006 by health professionals who found the word intersex stigmatizing and inaccurate. So in 2006, intersex and DSD meant exactly the same thing. But shortly after the publication introducing DSD, it became apparent that the perceived value of DSD was not identical to that of the word intersex. Both patient groups and intersex activists stumbled over the word disorders which has a strong negative connotation. It was seen as extra stigmatizing and medicalizing. Nowadays, the alternative differences of sex development is often used. This name is not ideal either, because it suggests that there is another group that sees itself as the norm. In sociology this is called ‘othering‘.

The imposed name Disorders of Sex Development is seen by many intersex individuals as an example of medicalization. Physicians define DSD as

…congenital disorders affecting the reproductive system, in which development of chromosomal, gonadal, or anatomical sex is atypical.

In practice, a large number of diagnoses fall under the heading of DSD, including Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, Klinefelter Syndrome, micropenis, Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster Syndrome, and Turner Syndrome (see also the Wikipedia page on DSD).