HISTORIAN and ethicist Dr Alice Domurat Dreger co-founded the now defunct Intersex Society of North America (ISNA), which later morphed into the Accord Alliance.

Accord Alliance is an organisation of doctors and parents that promote non-consensual intersex infant genital surgery. It adopted a replacement term for intersex – Disorders of Sex Development (DSD) – that most intersex people find objectionable in the extreme. Dreger has claimed authorship of the term DSD. She remains a controversial figure – to say the least – amongst intersex people but few would disagree with her testimony in Between XX and XY.

She has met many people who, as children, had surgeries intended to make their genitals appear more typical. “I suspect there must be happy people out there, but I’ve never met one,” Dr. Dreger says. “Well, literally, I’ve met one. I should have met more by now if, in fact, the numbers were anything like the reports say they are. I should be hearing from lots and lots more people who had surgery as children and are happy, and over twelve years of this work I’ve heard from one person who had a vaginoplasty as a child who is happy with it.”

“The thing that people with intersex suffer from most is shame, it’s not surgery. The surgeries are motivated by shame. So I think the bigger issue is people getting the message that [people with intersex] are not human, that they are not acceptable, that they are not loveable. That’s a much bigger issue for everybody than the surgery is really. Because, what people who are anatomically different need the most is the message that they’re human and acceptable and loveable.”

Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the Myth of Two Sexes, by Gerald N. Callahan, 2009.