ISNA's blog

Madison Woman Discusses Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome

Classification: News | What We're Reading

On Friday, September 21, 2007, the Oprah Winfrey Show interviewed Katie, Lynnell, Hida, and Arlene about their experiences of growing up with intersex conditions. Marcia from Madison Wisconsin took advantage of the attention to the issue to tell her story to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Marcia says the Oprah show is an important milestone in talking about a condition that caused so much shame that her family and doctor hid the truth from her. She didn’t learn that she had XY chromosomes until she read her own medical records at age 35.

“I hope there will be other girls like me out there watching this and knowing they aren’t alone,” she said.

Read the rest of the story at Orchid ladies test gender perception.

Congratulations, Marcia!

Going beyond X and Y (Scientific American)

Classification: News | What We're Reading

The June 2007 issue of Scientific American features a profile of Eric Vilain MD (a world renowned genetic researcher, pediatric endocrinologist, and member of ISNA’s Medical Advisory Board). The article, Going beyond X and Y, discusses the recent international medical consensus which agreed to drop the term “hermaphrodite” in favor of the more neutral “disorders of sex development” (DSD).

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) condemns vaginal surgery

Classification: News | What We're Reading

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is the main professional association for the specialty of obststrics and gynecology. They recently published a paper in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology condemning the practice of cosmetic gynecologic surgery. This article gives a
good discussion of ACOG’s opinion:,0,7734462.story?coll=chi-unitednavover-misc

Welcome, Oprah Viewers!

On Friday, September 21, Oprah discussed intersex (disorders of sex development) with Katie, Hida, Lynnell, and Arlene on The Oprah Show.

For more information regarding the issues raised this episode, please see DSD Guidelines for a free downloadable Handbook for Parents and Clinical Guidelines, a suggested reading list and links to diagnosis-specific support groups.

For more information and peer support regarding Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome and a wide variety of related conditions, including 5-Alpha Reductase Deficiency (the syndrome referred to in the book Middlesex), please visit the Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome Support Group in the U.S. or the British group’s more comprehensive website,

Here at Intersex Society of North America, we encourage you to visit our Frequently Asked Questions page. You can also order videos, or make a donation to support our work.

As of last year, there is a new international medical consensus that families and people affected by disorders of sex development should receive patient-centered care, as outlined in the DSD Guidelines. ISNA is working to make this kind of care a reality. If you would like to help us, please consider making a donation to support our work.

If you would like to discuss the show with other Oprah viewers, visit the Oprah Message Boards.

Want to see some photos of real people with Disorders of Sex Development who are not ashamed to talk about it? See photos at DSD Guidelines site and photos at Oprah’s website.

If you’ve looked over all these resources, and need to contact us, please enter your message or question at our helpdesk (you’ll need to create an account).

Advocates for Informed Choice

Classification: Law

Founded in 2006 through an Equal Justice Works Fellowship, Advocates for Informed Choice is the first organization in the country to undertake a coordinated strategy of legal advocacy for the rights of children with intersex conditions.

DSD But Intersex Too: Shifting Paradigms Without Abandoning Roots

by Sherri Groveman Morris, Esq.

The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) and the Consortium on Disorders of Sex Development (“DSD Consortium”) have recommended that in venues where the medical care of infants is considered, the initialism “DSD” be used in favor of the term “intersex.” While both “DSD” and “intersex” are “umbrella” terms (meaning that they encompass people born with a variety of discrete conditions but having important features in common), the former has recently been adopted to aid in classifying conditions involving sex development. Prior to the adoption of “DSD” as the preferred term, there was apparently some confusion about whether certain medical conditions properly fell under the heading of “intersex.” ISNA’s avowed aim in preferring “DSD” is to support improved medical care for children born with such conditions. To that end members of ISNA have participated in the DSD Consortium, which has produced two publications entitled Clinical Guidelines For The Management of Disorders of Sex Development In Childhood and Handbook for Parents, both of which employ “DSD” nomenclature almost exclusively.

Why is ISNA using "DSD"?

Founded in 1993, the Intersex Society of North America has always had reforming medical care for children with intersex conditions as one of its cherished goals. In our early years, ISNA also served as a support group for adults. When we incorporated, in 1999, we determined to focus our work primarily on medical reform. That means that much of our communication is created with parents and doctors in mind.

Over the past year, we have begun to use the term “disorders of sex development,” or DSD, in place of “intersex” in these contexts. It’s not our intention to make intersex an entirely medical issue. But we are addressing people working in a medical context. We have found that the word DSD is much less charged than “intersex,” and that it makes our message of patient-centered care much more accessible to parents and doctors. Our aim is to meet them where they are.

Swedish researchers: Genitoplasty outcomes poor

Classification: What We're Reading

Many U.S. physicians continue to dismiss the results from the London group of researchers, documenting poor outcomes from early genital surgery, as irrelevant. At a recent European Society for Pediatric Urology conference, a Swedish group reported similarly poor genitoplasty outcomes.

RESULTS:47 women had been operated, more than 50% had been operated at two or more occasions. 11 patients had only vaginoplasty done and in the remaining women it was combined with clitoroplasty. The cosmetic appearance as well as the function of clitoris and vagina are often not optimal. There is also a need from these patients to be able to discuss former surgery, especially since it was common in this group to state that the functional result has influenced their sexual life negatively.

UK Researchers: A knack for asking good questions

Classification: What We're Reading

I’ve been updating my references database, and I continue to be impressed by the sophistication of the work coming from UK professionals on intersex issues. These articles are a great example.

  • Alderson, J, A Madill, and A Balen. 2004. Fear of devaluation: Understanding the experience of women with androgen insensitivity syndrome. BJ Health Psychol 9 (1):81-100.
  • Liao, Lih-Mei. 2003. Learning to assist women with atypical genitalia: journey through ignorance, taboo and dilemma. J Reprod Infant Psychol 21:229- 38.
  • Boyle, Mary E., Susan Smith, and Lih-Mei Liao. 2005. Adult Genital Surgery for Intersex: A Solution to What Problem? Journal of Health Psychology 10 (4):573-584.

Intersex Declared a Human Rights Issue

Classification: News

Today the San Francisco Human Rights Commission declared that the standard medical approach to intersex conditions leads pediatric specialists to violate their patients’ human rights.

“In issuing this report, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission has essentially declared me a human being,” said Cheryl Chase, Executive Director of ISNA. “They have agreed that I—and children born like me—deserve the same basic human rights as others.” Chase, who was born with mixed sex anatomy internally and externally, went on: “No longer should we be lied to, displayed, be injected with hormones for questionable purposes, and have our genitals cut to alleviate the anxieties of parents and doctors. Doctors’ good intentions are not enough. Practices must now change.”

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