Your book, your Biology teacher, and even your classmates may talk about DSD (also written as “intersex conditions”) in class. Chances are they will discuss it without thinking a lot about it.
The H word
When people do talk in class, they may think of the word “hermaphrodite”—a science term dealing with types of worms and animals that don’t need a partner to reproduce. If they use the H word to talk about DSD, it is outdated and incorrect. As far as scientists know, no human has been able to reproduce alone.
The I word
Some people use the term “intersex” or having an “intersex condition” to talk about DSD. Intersex is an older term that refers to people with mixed sex characteristics (even though many have typical male or female sex characteristics.) Some people prefer this over DSD.
While DSD is what we use here at dsdteens.org, remember that—when it comes to resources available—some places may refer to DSD as “intersex” or “intersex conditions.”
As always, you can decide what works best for you: maybe you really like DSD or just calling it their condition’s name. Maybe you think intersex works best for you. You can let your doctors and parents know what words you prefer.
In general, know that people may not have seen much information about DSD or thought about it very much. They may talk about it in a way that seems to judge people who have it or in a way that gossips about people. This probably comes from ignorance and maybe even fear of what they might not understand.
Although deep down we think most people don’t want to hurt others, this is not okay.
Also, when we aren’t familiar with something, people tend to push it away and talk about it as though people who are affected are not normal. This is called ‘othering’ and you can see it many places where people don’t understand differences.
So, what can you do when this does happen? Sometimes, the easiest thing to do is share real stories of people who are affected to these friends and classmates. (We recommend Katie Baratz (link to Marie Claire) and Emily Quinn (link to Intersexperiences). Behind the topic of DSD or ‘intersex’ are real people. When people become more aware of this, they will hopefully feel more responsible to talk about differences (like DSD) with respect and sensitivity.
Also, biology teachers are human too, and make mistakes. But they also have a special responsibility to represent DSD/intersex variations sensitively and accurately.