Author Affiliation

Department of Social Work, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Document Type

Policy Advocacy Brief

Publication Date


Issue Statement/Executive Summary

The "problem" of intersex conditions is not due to intersex variations themselves, rather contemporary society's binary understanding of sex. The term “intersex” refers to individuals born with “anatomies that are considered ‘atypical’ for either male or female bodies.” There are over 40 variations of sex development that can be referred to as “intersex”, which makes conforming to the binary (i.e. male/female) system of gender problematic. The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner affirms that, "being intersex relates to biological sex characteristics, and is distinct from a person's sexual orientation or gender identity." Dominant medical procedure throughout the past 60 years has been to perform genital “normalization” surgery on infants to make them conform to a strict male/female binary. Due to a lack of policy regarding the treatment of intersex infants, many hospitals continue to perform early surgical intervention on infants, which fails to consider the future quality of life and well being of intersex people. The practice of early surgical interventions ignores the agency of individuals. It is a blatant disregard of one's capacity to be free to make a choice, which contradicts social work values.


Social Work

Included in

Social Work Commons



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