UM professor says “no shame” for children with disorder of sex development

Feb 3, 2013

It’s not uncommon for newborn babies to have an unclear gender. About one in 300 infants have a disorder of sex development (or DSD). That means babies have atypical sex chromosomes, atypical gonads, or atypical genitals.

Credit Flickr user Amy the Nurse

For some parents, the experience can be overwhelming and in the past, shame and secrecy have been associated with the disorder.

Researchers at the University of Michigan hope to change that dynamic and make the relationships between health professionals and families more open. Researchers are working on a guide for parents of these children. The guide will share medical, surgical and social information with families. It will also help parents make educated decisions about whether to raise their child as a boy or a girl. 

David Sandberg is a professor of pediatrics at the university. He's also the director of the Division of Child Behavioral Health at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. He says our gender identity (or how we see ourselves) is complex and it’s not something that’s only based on our sex chromosomes.

For some of these people who are born with a disagreement in different levels of sex development like the chromosomes, the gonads, or the genitalia, there isn’t one gold standard for determining which would be the best way to rear this child.”

Sandberg says this guide is the first of its kind and he hopes it will be used in medical establishments around the world. Sandberg also wants parents know there’s nothing shameful about their child.