Securing Cisgendered Futures: Intersex Management under the “Disorders of Sex Development” Treatment Model

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In this critical, feminist account of the management of intersex conditions under 2006’s controversial “Disorders of Sex Development” (DSD) treatment model, I argue that like the “Optimal Gender of Rearing” (OGR) treatment model it replaced, DSD aims at securing a cisgendered future for the intersex patient, referring to a normalized trajectory of development across the lifespan in which multiple sexed, gendered, and sexual characteristics remain in “coherent” alignment. I argue this by critically analyzing two ways that intersex management has changed between OGR and DSD: 1) regarding sex-assignment recommendations for three patient populations and, 2) with the prenatal treatment of pregnant individuals at risk of conceiving a fetus with congenital adrenal hyperplasia with the steroid hormone dexamethasone. I conclude that like OGR before it, DSD also unjustifiably presumes that typical genitalia are necessary for cisgendered development. However, unlike OGR, it appeals to the empirically inadequate, theoretically suspect, and biologically determinist model of gender development known as brain-organization theory. Given this, I conclude that the treatment of intersex people under DSD continues to be driven by problematically heterosexist and transphobic assumptions regarding the value and normalcy of cisgendered life, while practically and discursively constituting it as such.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)690-712
Number of pages23
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Philosophy


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