"I want to get to a place again where I am fully comfortable with physical contact"

Traumatic experiences

The trauma intersex people face often directly relates to the medicalization and unwanted treatments they experienced. Also their parents and families can be affected and suffer similarely. While there is repeating evidence of the traumatic results those human rights violations have on intersex people, there still is a substantial lack of data and surveys regarding the living situation of intersex individuals, including the issue of trauma and mental health.

Also the current Covid-19 pandemic has a negative impact on intersex people in regards of trauma, as first findings of a survey conducted by OII Europe show: One example is retraumatising stress due to the omnipresence of medical face masks in public, another is the fear of having to be hospitalised, due to trauma aquired in medical settings.

Trauma, Taboo and Stigma

Despite the increased visibility of both intersex people and the human rights violations they face in recent years, intersex people still encounter taboo and stigma in their everyday lives. Many intersex people face severe trauma from the unconsented interventions they were subjected to: of the 439 participating intersex individuals of all ages in a 2007 German study, almost 50% reported psychological problems and a variety of problems related to physical well-being and sex life. Not only the adult respondents but also the children and adolescents reported significant disturbances, especially with their family life and in relation to their physical well-being. *

* 81% of the participants had been subjected to one or multiple surgeries due to their DSD diagnosis. Two-thirds made a connection between those problems and the medical and surgical treatment they had been subjected to, see: Netzwerk Intersexualität (2008) and, for a comprehensive summary J. Woweries (2012), p. 16-17.

"I can never reconcile nor expect to heal the hurt & damage of the past.
But it still burns a hole in my heart"

Harmful practices impacting children and their families

Intersex children face the risk of a disturbed family life due to medicalisation, which can include extended and/or multiple hospitalisations, multiple surgeries and/or procedures, invasive testing, administration of medication including hormone therapies, and clinical research practices. They are also at risk of not being able to develop their full potential and of dropping out of school due to the effects of medicalisation and related trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic illness or disability.

Please also watch this short video by Europe and Central Asia UNDP with our colleague and friend Kris and hear what he has to say about trauma.