TitleThe cost of normal
NameChittenden, Katharine (author), McWilliams, Nancy (chair), Williams, Nina (internal member), Rutgers University, Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology,
Sex differentiation disorders,
Intersex people--Case studies
DescriptionFor nearly 50 years children born with a Disorder of Sexual Development (DSD) were routinely treated with early corrective genital surgery, and their families were encouraged to keep their full conditions secret from them. Many of these patients experienced their treatment as a physical and emotional trauma that has left them with impaired sexual functioning and feelings of shame and violated trust. This was a qualitative study exploring the experience of three individuals who were born with a DSD and who have undergone corrective genital surgery and hormone replacement therapy. Data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach. In spite of their different disorders, and quite different medical treatments, all three subjects described, in an interview, similarities in their experience of their bodies, their dawning sense of difference and shame, particularly as they approached adolescence, and their employment of dissociative strategies to escape their difficult childhood experiences. Each described a family culture of secrecy and silence about their medical conditions. As adults, they describe the effects of trying to “pass” and their efforts to regain a sense of bodily autonomy. All three women reported ongoing struggles to hold on to a positive self-image and to build and maintain positive relationships. This study suggests that growing up with a DSD has added to problems each women had in coming to terms with her sexual identity. It corroborates much of the literature in the field regarding a ‘coming out’ process: all three women described ending their isolation by connecting to an online community, and finding comfort, pride and self-esteem in an intersex identity. Finally, suggestions are offered for psychotherapists working with individuals with DSD, both survivors and the newly diagnosed, as well as their families.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Katharine Spencer Chittenden
CollectionGraduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.