Deciding on gender in children with intersex conditions: Considerations and controversies

Ute Thyen, Hertha Richter-Appelt, Claudia Wiesemann, Paul Martin Holterhus, Olaf Hiort*

*Corresponding author for this work
41 Citations (Scopus)


Biologic factors such as genetic and hormonal influences contribute to gender identity, gender role behavior, and sexual orientation in humans, but this relationship is considerably modified by psychologic, social, and cultural factors. The recognition of biologically determined conditions leading to incongruity of genetically determined sex, somatic phenotype, and gender identity has led to growing interest in gender role development and gender identity in individuals with intersex conditions. Sex assignment of children with ambiguous genitalia remains a difficult decision for the families involved and subject to controversial discussion among professionals and self-help groups. Although systematic empirical data on outcomes of functioning and health-related quality of life are sparse, anecdotal evidence from case series and individual patients about their experiences in healthcare suggests traumatic experiences in some. This article reviews the earlier 'optimal gender policy' as well as the more recent 'full consent policy' and reviews published data on both surgical and psychosocial outcomes. The professional debate on deciding on sex assignment in children with intersex conditions is embedded in a much wider public discourse on gender as a social construction. Given that the empirical basis of our knowledge of the causes, treatment options, long-term outcomes, and patient preferences is insufficient, we suggest preliminary recommendations based on clinical experience, study of the literature, and interviews with affected individuals.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTreatments in Endocrinology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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