Image: iStockPhoto Anna Minkina

What do my doctors mean?

Intersex is a social concept because it is about how society reacts to people having a body that does not conform to the image people have of ‘men’ and ‘women’. Because intersex is still often seen as different from what is ‘normal’ or ‘the standard’, intersex people are regularly in contact with medical professionals when this is not always necessary. Intersex people also often discover they are intersex in a medical context, such as in a hospital. The health care offered by medical professionals is sometimes necessary, but many times it is unnecessary.

It is not always clear to intersex people and the carers of intersex children what health care is necessary and when medical interventions can safely and easily be postponed or not be carried out at all. Intersex people regularly get offered specific medical interventions, including psychological, hormonal and surgical treatment to adjust or remove parts of their external and internal sex characteristics. Sometimes intersex people undergo these medical interventions without giving consent themselves, for instance by being pressured or by not being fully informed about the intervention.

Knowing what your medical professionals mean and what kind of interventions are possible and necessary is extremely important for intersex people and parents of intersex children. This way, they can better protect themselves or their children by knowing more information before stepping into a medical situation or a doctor’s office. On this page, we try to provide information on all things health care when it comes to intersex. What specific healthcare is possible? What is necessary for your health, and what medical care has no medical need but is an option you or your child can consider (once old enough to understand and make such decisions)?

When is healthcare necessary?

Intersex people are regularly subjected to medical interventions without a medical need, but rather because of societal ideas of what internal and external Sex Characteristics a child should have. However, sometimes healthcare is needed, as it is for everyone, or even because of the non-consensual unnecessary medical treatments that were performed at a young age.

Needed healthcare can include:

  • Medical support for checkups, addressing health issues such as fatigue, discussing medication, elective surgery, fertility treatment, and checking bone density.
  • Psychological support to address for instance trauma, mental health issues, and addiction which regularly result from rejection, stigma and discrimination.

Looking for healthcare for yourself? Check out the page: ‘Where can I find support‘.

More information

You can read more on intersex on the following pages: