“There is the opinion that it is necessary to protect children and young people from the burden of being different by withholding knowledge from them and possibly even operating on them so early that they do not even notice it. I don’t share that view.
I believe that the decision for your child and for its right to self-determination includes giving the child age-appropriate information about its particularity from the very beginning and, on the other hand, always giving your child the certainty of being loved the way it is.”
(Translated from: “Für mein Kind entscheiden. Eine Mutter” [Deciding for my child. A mother], Intersexualität kontrovers, 2012: 157)
In the past, medicine and psychology have contributed to making intersex and congenital variations in physical sex development invisible through so-called gender-“normalising” or even “corrective” surgery and upbringing.
This approach has come under massive criticism. Lived-experience experts, activists, self-help organisations and scientists have worked to ensure that intersex is recognised as an expression of nature’s diversity. In many countries, these efforts have triggered processes of change.
Processes of rethinking have begun in medicine, politics and society. Since 2013, for example, the German Personal Status Code (Personenstandsrecht) has stipulated that the sex entry for a child with an indeterminable sex must remain open. Within medicine, interdisciplinary guidelines (2016) have been adopted and the German Medical Association (Bundesärztekammer) issued a statement on dealing with intersex in 2015: Here, extreme restraint is advised with regard to irreversible interventions on children with variations in physical sex development that are unable to give their consent.
Nevertheless, there are still unresolved medical, psychosocial and legal issues, for example on the necessity of genital surgery, gonadectomies and hormone administration in certain forms of variations in physical sex characteristics, but also on the “sex of upbringing”, the development of identity, and the best possible support for affected people. There are also grave complaints that human rights violations through medical interventions continue to occur. A short-term survey conducted by the German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs (BMFSFJ 2015) on the counselling situation in cases of intersex revealed the great need for counselling and information, and not only for parents of intersex-born children.
The aims of the INTERSEX-KONTROVERS project are:
- to provide information about the existence of intersex
- to impart knowledge and identify knowledge gaps
- to reveal controversies and conflicts, as well as exploring them
- and to contribute to an appreciation of bodily ambiguity.