The broad and diverse spectrum that is biological sex includes many natural variations of sex characteristics. For the medical aspects, the umbrella term DSD is often used, while for the social aspects the word intersex is used. But often the names of diagnoses are also used, for example, adrenogenital syndrome, Turner’s syndrome, Klinefelter’s syndrome, and so on 1
If your child has just been born
Here you will find information for parents who have just heard that their newborn child is intersex and want to learn more about it.
If you have just heard that your child is intersex or has a specific diagnosis that relates to intersex, you may be concerned or shocked and have a myriad of questions. Maybe it is new to you too, that sex is much more diverse than what most people mean by male and female. You wouldn’t be the only one – we’ll talk about that later.
If you are just finding out and have never heard of sex diversity, intersex or DSD before this, many of your questions will be answered in the publication Support your intersex child, a guide for parents which was developed by OII Europe, IGLYO, EPA, and NNID based on the experiences of adult intersex people.
If your child is older
Some children are not told they have a form of sex diversity until puberty, but the information below may also be of interest to parents who have known since birth that their child is intersex.
If you remain silent about intersex you will not be discriminated against. But being silent won’t make you happy either – rather the opposite. Many scientists have already published about this. What to do then is described in the Declaration of Malta. In it, thirty international intersex organizations tell what problems they see for the acceptance of the diverse spectrum that is biological sex in society. An important message in the Malta Declaration is that, as a parent, you cannot decide for your child what to do. This is especially true when it comes to decisions that cannot be reversed. Ethicists, but also the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the European Parliament believe that such decisions should be postponed until your child can decide for himself. You are best equipped to support your child by knowing exactly what intersex is, and that biological sex is a diverse spectrum, rather than the binary male or female.
For yourself, it may help to know that sex is not determined by chromosomes. You will then understand that biology textbooks need to be changed: XY chromosomes is usually a boy, XX chromosomes is usually a girl, but it is definitely not a given.
Learning to cope with sex diversity fortunately does not have to be done alone. There are intersex organizations worldwide and patient groups where you can meet parents in a similar situation. And if you are looking for medical or psychosocial support you can go to the national DSD centers or to other care providers.
Becoming active yourself in an organization that advocates for your child’s rights may be the best way to help your child.