Disorders of Sex Development

September 27, 2008

The Organisation Intersex International (OII), one of the largest international intersex organisations (based in Canada), has a new site called Disorders of Sex Development.

The site has been launched to protest the replacement of the term “intersex” by “disorder of sex development” (DSD); a proposal made by the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA)/Alice Dreger.

We in OII firmly reject the idea that our sex is a disorder and we therefore reject the pathological definition of our sex as a “disorder of sex development” or DSD. The real danger and disorders are the racism and sexism which are developing eugenic ideologies and technologies to deal with what are social problems. Instead of empowering and valuing sex variations, the solution is to eliminate us.

Open discussions about the abuse of power by those who control the definitions is one important way to confront the real problem – eugenics, Euro-centric racism and male patriarchal models of power which are at risk of collapse if the current binary male/female dichotomies are not firmly held as sacrosanct.

We in OII do not accept the current male/female binary categories imposed on all people in most countries as sacrosanct and hope that others will help us confront the political agenda of those who would eliminate us.


‘Disordered’ is such a horrible, offensive and oppressive word.


ETA, 4 Oct 08: Stephen Whittle has written about Alice Dreger here.

He also documents an apparent disagreement between him and OII (links here and here) which is frankly depressing reading. Whilst I believe that transparency is essential in any activist work, the fact is that such public disagreements ultimately only divert attention from the key issue.

I really can’t say it any better than Lisa does in the comments to this post (link):

It’d be cool if OII and trans people were working in coalition against this stuff, presenting a unified voice against all of the work they’re doing regarding intersex and transsexual people. What they’re doing is reprehensible and extreme, and they need to be stopped.

Consider yourselves told, Stephen, Curtis, okay? This is not a good time for passive-aggressive “ze said, ze said” schoolyard spats.

So can we please stop fighting amongst ourselves and start working together to tackle the real problems? The real lives of real people are, and will be, affected by these issues – and it is these people’s interests that must take priority.

P.S. Also, please read Cedar’s post Oppressive Tactics and Coalition Building. It’s about forming coalitions around combating oppressive tactics as opposed to focusing on specific identities.


10 Responses to “Disorders of Sex Development”

  1. Thanks so much for posting this.

    Kindest regards,
    Curtis E. Hinkle

  2. Lisa Harney Says:

    Did you read the stuff about how they’re also dealing with Dreger, Bailey, Lawrence, etc in this?

    More information here.

    And Curtis Hinkle! We were on a few mailing lists at the same time back in the late 90s or early 2000s…Although I don’t think I ever posted to those lists.

  3. Helen G Says:


    W-e-l-l… I already knew about Anne Lawrence and Michael Bailey from the autogynephiliaeugenics and Man Who Would Be Queen controversies.

    And I remembered reading about Lawrence working closely with Blanchard – and that connection draws me back into the subject of the proposed DSM reforms. I also recall reading somewhere (link misplaced, sorry) that Blanchard is a member of the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group.

    Alice Dreger was a bit of a new name to me, however. Curtis Hinkle has quite a lot about her on the OII site (link here) – and a quick look on TSR throws up an account of what appears to be quite a vigorous defence by Dreger of Bailey and I’m left with the sense that ze has some quite strong views on things.

    And Andrea James herself looks to have had a bit of a run-in with Dreger too (link).


    Actually, at first reading of the new DSD site, I found myself thinking about Zoe’s post Transsexual Causation, the American Psychiatric Association, and Interpol from May this year – ze quotes part 3 of Curtis Hinkle’s article Deconstructing the Feminine Essence Narrative; specifically:

    Here is the progression I see in how DSD is important in reframing intersex as a sexual fetish (or paraphilia).

    A) M to F TRANSSEXUALS will be the first to be classified as paraphilic. Then-

    B) “DSD persons” who would not have been called intersex under the LESS inclusive category of intersex, if they reject their gender assignment, will be labeled as paraphilic. Then-

    C) the conditions which PATIENT initiated gender re-assignment is requested (most common in 5 alpha, CAH, and 17 Beta) will be classified as paraphilic. Then-

    D) Autoandrophilia will be created for female to male transsexuals.

    E) people who were always considered intersexed, who reject their assignment, will be labeled as paraphilic.

    The problem is not autogynephilia per se. It is the conflation of intersex issues (or people with DSD’s) with something unrelated to why many people with intersex variations reject their gender assignment which is problematic.

    We in the intersexed and trans community risk ending up in a situation where:

    Surgeons who perform intersex normalization surgeries without the consent of the child will always be right.
    Surgeons who offer sex reassignment surgeries to adults with informed consent will always be wrong.

    Many stakeholders involved in intersex treatment benefit from this, especially the surgeons and pediatric endocrinologists. Unfortunately, the main victims are the intersexed children themselves.

    Zoe concludes:

    And that is why both Intersex and Transsexual groups are up in arms about this. The more scientifically literate, and that is a very high percentage, because of the “junk science” that will likely lead to greater persecution. The rest because of the insult such views offer us, to be mischaracterised and misrepresented in such a blatant way, our honest narratives dismissed as lies by lunatics.

    Should this state of affairs be allowed to continue, should the fringe views of a few paleolithic neo-Freudians be adopted as Gospel, then an avalanche of discriminatory regulation will likely ensue. The long-standing rights to correct birth certificates, to marry in the correct gender, even to work near children, will likely be withdrawn. After all, we’ll be officially “self-mutilating male perverts or gays” according to the APA, no matter what the specialists in the area might say.


    Although obviously I’m approaching the DSM revisions from my own perspective – as indeed Curtis Hinkle/OII are from theirs – it does appear that we have very similar concerns in a few key areas. I guess we’ll have to see how it plays out over time.

  4. Lisa Harney Says:

    Yes, I figured you already knew about Dreger, Bailey, and Lawrence because of the Man Who Would be King. That’s why I pointed to that page at OII.

  5. Helen G Says:

    Sorry Lisa, I think I’m having a stupid day today.

  6. Lisa Harney Says:

    Well, those are nice additional links.

    It’d be cool if OII and trans people were working in coalition against this stuff, presenting a unified voice against all of the work they’re doing regarding intersex and transsexual people. What they’re doing is reprehensible and extreme, and they need to be stopped.

  7. Lisa Harney Says:

    BTW, does Andrea James use gender neutral pronouns by choice?

  8. Helen G Says:

    Thanks for the heads-up about pronouns for Andrea James, I apologise to her for my error…

    And I totally agree with you about coalition-building to work against the iniquites and inadequacies of the DSM as it exists, and as it’s likely to be amended. I simply don’t understand why people like Zucker and Blanchard have been appointed to the panel.


  9. Lisa Harney Says:

    I don’t get why Blanchard and Zucker are still allowed to practice medicine.

  10. Helen G Says:

    “Practice makes perfect”, maybe?

    Although it would seem that they’ve done a lot of practising and one might wonder why they still don’t seem to be getting it right…

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