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Tuesday, 10 September, 2002, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Sex defect adults happy with gender
One in 2000 babies are born with ambiguous genitalia
People born with defective genitalia are generally happy with the gender assigned to them at birth by doctors, a study suggests.

Researchers in the United States interviewed adults who had been born with ambiguous genitalia - defects that make it difficult to determine if they are male or female.

They found that three out of four felt the right decision had been made in their case.


Gender assignment should be based on the type of intersex condition

Dr Claude Migeon
Historically, many infants born with ambiguous genitalia were brought up as female.

However, the study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Children's Centre in Baltimore shows that may not always be the correct decision.

Dr Claude Migeon and colleagues interviewed 39 21-year-olds who had been assigned their gender at birth. Of these, 21 were raised as male and 18 as female.

They found that 76% of men and 78% of women were satisfied with their assigned sex. Just two patients had changed gender when they became adults.

Satisfaction rates

Most subjects were satisfied with their body image, sexual functioning and sexual orientation. They considered themselves to be sufficiently masculine or feminine.

The researchers said it was important for parents and doctors to consider the options carefully when they assign genders to these infants.

"These and earlier studies here suggest that gender assignment should be based on the type of intersex condition and a thorough discussion of the risks and benefits of treatment," he said.

"For those born with ambiguous genitalia, it is important for families to consult closely with paediatric endocrinologists, urologists and counsellors to consider many variables, including complications and outcomes of genital reconstruction, the need for long-term sex hormone replacement and the desire for fertility."

A spokeswoman for the UK Intersex Association said further study is needed.

"The sample of 39 people is really far too small to be of much significance and appears to have been conducted among people within a very small subset of Intersex conditions.

"The actual figures relating to surgical reassignment of intersex infants are debatable, but such surgeries are often performed as a matter of course in major hospitals in the USA and Europe.

"Therefore, there are potentially several tens of thousands of people in the USA who could have been included in this survey and to date, there is no significant data collected from comprehensive longitudinal studies."

An estimated one in 2,000 babies are born with ambiguous external genitalia.

The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.

See also:

27 Jan 02 | Health
01 May 01 | Health
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