Normalizing Medicine: Between “Intersexuals” and Individuals with “Disorders of Sex Development”

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In this paper, I apply Michel Foucault's analysis of normalization to the 2006 announcement by the US and European Endocrinological Societies that variations on the term “hermaphrodite” and “intersex” would be replaced by the term, “Disorders of Sex Development” or DSD. I argue that the change should be understood as normalizing in a positive sense; rather than fighting for the demedicalization of conditions that have significant consequences for individuals' health, this change can promote the transformation of the conceptualization of intersex conditions from “disorders like no other” to “disorders like many others.” Understood in these terms, I conclude, medical attention to those with atypical anatomies should be recast from a preoccupation with “normal appearance” to the concern with human flourishing that is the proper object of medical attention.

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