My child is intersex

The question "boy or girl?" is sometimes not easy to answer and often confronts parents with a tough situation.

Most parents are caught unprepared by the news that their child does not physically fit in the category of male or female. This can be extremely stressful for parents, especially if the medical staff also don’t know how to react and instead, confront them with alarming sounding diagnoses or additional checks. Moreover, parents can experience feelings of shame or fear of not being able to love their own child. And above all, it is often difficult for parents to find credible answers to their questions.

A child like any other

Let’s start with the most important part: Your child is fine just the way he/she is and can grow up to be happy just like other kids. In principle, your child’s biological sex requires just as little treatment as the biologically male or female kids. Life-threatening complications which require immediate attention are rather seldom.

Take your time

Don't allow yourself to be put under pressure. Let your child get to know his/her body. The gender identity of a child, and later adult, and his/her relationship to their body and sexuality cannot be pre-decided. However, with age, your child will be able to express him/herself. Treatments which some inter*people opt for – in order to make their bodies more female or male – can still be an option later in life.

Medical interventions performed on children, such as surgery and also some hormone treatments are irreversible. Many intersex adults are forced to live today with the impact of treatments that had been performed without their consent.

Studies suggest that parents who received non-medical counselling consented less often to surgical and hormonal “normalising” treatments. Attitudes are also starting to change in the medical field, and guidelines now demand maximum restraint in performing surgery on inter* children where there is no immediate threat to life.

Empowering your child and yourself

The early years of your child’s life are significant; as your child’s ally, it’s on you to step up and preserve your child’s right to physical integrity and self-determination.

Intersex children can have an uncomplicated and self-confident relationship with their own body and gender if they are not deprived of knowledge and also, if their primary caregivers are informed and relaxed about these topics. It can also help to be in touch with other adult role models who are intersex.

At parent support groups and inter*counselling centres, you will find people who are familiar with the questions you have and can empathise with your situation. You can learn from intersex adults through their biographies. In addition, inter* organisations provide useful information material.