Does ISNA think children with intersex should be raised without a gender, or in a third gender?

No, and for the record, we’ve never advocated this. We certainly would like to see people become less freaked-out by people who don’t fit sex and gender cultural norms. But there are at least two problems with trying to raise kids in a “third gender.”

First, how would we decide who would count in the “third gender”? How would we decide where to cut off the category of male and begin the category of intersex, or, on the other side of the spectrum, where to cut off the category of intersex to begin the category of female? (To read more about how intersex is not a discrete category, go to our FAQ called What is intersex?)

Second, and much more importantly, we are trying to make the world a safe place for intersex kids, and we don’t think labeling them with a gender category that in essence doesn’t exist would help them. (Duh, huh?)

ISNA recognizes that it can be damned hard to be intersex, or to have an intersex child. That’s why we exist. That’s why we don’t advocate doing nothing. What we do advocate is providing parents of intersex newborns—and within a couple of years, intersex children themselves—honest and accurate information about intersex, psychological counseling by professionals who are not intersex-phobic, medical help for any real medical problems, and especially referrals to other people dealing with the same issues. Time and again researchers have found that, no matter what the condition—being gay, dealing with a serious disease—peer support, even if informal, saves families and lives.

To read more about our recommendations for dealing with intersex, check out our FAQ What does ISNA recommend?

To read about how you assign a gender of boy or girl to a child with intersex, take a look at our FAQ How can you assign a gender without surgery?