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      Does Surgical Genitoplasty Affect Gender Identity in the Intersex Infant?

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          Abstract

          There is no clear-cut answer to the question of whether surgical genitoplasty affects gender identity in the intersex infant. The debate centres around which is more important for the development of gender identity: the biological sex of a child or the sex in which a child is reared. We believe that the surgical achievement of a phenotype concordant with the sex of rearing is a tremendous help to the parents of an intersex infant. We do not consider that the ‘neutral’ upbringing of a child with ambiguous genitalia is a feasible option, first because of the parents’ distress which prevents them from raising their child normally and second because in most cultures around the world gender variants are not treated as equals. A neutral upbringing may induce psychosocial consequences that are more pernicious than carefully considered neonatal sex attribution and concordant surgical genitoplasty.

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          Most cited references 9

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          Discordant sexual identity in some genetic males with cloacal exstrophy assigned to female sex at birth.

          Cloacal exstrophy is a rare, complex defect of the entire pelvis and its contents that occurs during embryogenesis and is associated with severe phallic inadequacy or phallic absence in genetic males. For about 25 years, neonatal assignment to female sex has been advocated for affected males to overcome the issue of phallic inadequacy, but data on outcome remain sparse. We assessed all 16 genetic males in our cloacal-exstrophy clinic at the ages of 5 to 16 years. Fourteen underwent neonatal assignment to female sex socially, legally, and surgically; the parents of the remaining two refused to do so. Detailed questionnaires extensively evaluated the development of sexual role and identity, as defined by the subjects' persistent declarations of their sex. Eight of the 14 subjects assigned to female sex declared themselves male during the course of this study, whereas the 2 raised as males remained male. Subjects could be grouped according to their stated sexual identity. Five subjects were living as females; three were living with unclear sexual identity, although two of the three had declared themselves male; and eight were living as males, six of whom had reassigned themselves to male sex. All 16 subjects had moderate-to-marked interests and attitudes that were considered typical of males. Follow-up ranged from 34 to 98 months. Routine neonatal assignment of genetic males to female sex because of severe phallic inadequacy can result in unpredictable sexual identification. Clinical interventions in such children should be reexamined in the light of these findings. Copyright 2004 Massachusetts Medical Society
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            Effects on gender identity of prenatal androgens and genital appearance: evidence from girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

            To address questions about sex assignment in children with ambiguous genitalia, we studied gender identity in girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) in relation to characteristics of the disease and treatment, particularly genital appearance and surgery. A 9-item gender identity interview was administered to 43 girls with classical CAH ranging in age from 3-18 yr, 7 tomboys, and 29 sister control girls. Groups were compared on total score and on individual items. Results showed that, on the total gender identity score, 88% of girls with CAH had scores overlapping those of control girls, but the average score was intermediate between control girls and tomboys. On individual items of gender identity (discomfort as a girl, wish to be a boy), girls with CAH were similar to control girls. Gender identity in girls with CAH was not related to degree of genital virilization or age at which genital reconstructive surgery was done. Thus, moderate androgen excess early in development appears to produce a small increase in the risk of atypical gender identity, but this risk cannot be predicted from genital virilization.
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              The effect of clitoral surgery on sexual outcome in individuals who have intersex conditions with ambiguous genitalia: a cross-sectional study.

              The effects on sexual function of surgical removal of parts of the clitoris are unknown. For infants with intersex conditions and ambiguous genitalia being raised female, this surgery is often undertaken in early childhood. Our aim was to assess the effects of surgery on sexual outcome in this population. We did a cross-sectional study to which we recruited 39 adults who had intersex conditions with ambiguous genitalia who were living as female from clinical (n=15) and peer-support (n=24) settings. We obtained data by use of a postal questionnaire, incorporating a validated sexual function assessment inventory. We also obtained hospital notes of 36 respondents who did not want to remain anonymous, and did genital examinations of 19 women. We assessed sexual problems in relation to surgical history and compared the results for our population to those of a healthy control group. Of the 39 individuals enrolled, 28 had been sexually active and all had sexual difficulties. The 18 women who had undergone clitoral surgery had higher rates of non-sensuality (78%) and of inability to achieve orgasm (39%) than did the ten who had not had surgery (20% [p=0.002] and 0% [p=0.03], respectively). Sexual function could be compromised by clitoral surgery. Debate on the ethics of the use of this surgery in children should be promoted and further multicentre research is needed to ensure representative samples and comprehensive outcome assessment. Meanwhile, parents and patients who consent to clitoral surgery should be fully informed of the potential risks to sexual function.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                HRE
                Horm Res Paediatr
                10.1159/issn.1663-2818
                Hormone Research in Paediatrics
                S. Karger AG
                978-3-8055-8009-0
                978-3-318-01274-3
                1663-2818
                1663-2826
                2005
                November 2005
                15 November 2005
                : 64
                : Suppl 2
                : 23-26
                Affiliations
                Chirurgie Pédiatrique, Hôpital des Enfants Malades, Paris, France
                Article
                87749 Horm Res 2005;64:23–26
                10.1159/000087749
                16286766
                © 2005 S. Karger AG, Basel

                Copyright: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in government regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug. Disclaimer: The statements, opinions and data contained in this publication are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of the publishers and the editor(s). The appearance of advertisements or/and product references in the publication is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval of the products or services advertised or of their effectiveness, quality or safety. The publisher and the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content or advertisements.

                Page count
                References: 10, Pages: 4
                Categories
                Gender Identity

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