Healthcare providers are an important source of information and comfort amidst such confusion.But in recent decades, many doctors have defaulted to advising early irreversible surgery on intersex children.Intersex people are born with sex characteristics, such as genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns that, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies".
Whether parents are alerted to their child’s intersex traits at birth, puberty, or another point in life, they can struggle with confusing information and advice.
In some cases, doctors instructed parents to conceal the diagnosis and treatment from the child, instilling feelings of shame in parents and children both.
Many intersex people did not learn about their conditions until they accessed their medical files as adults—sometimes as late as in their 50s.
As detailed below, there have been changes in practice in recent years, with many doctors now advising against surgery on infants and young children.
But even so, surgery continues to be practiced on children with atypical sex characteristics too young to participate in the decision, when those procedures both carry a meaningful risk of harm and can be safely deferred.