Comparing contemporary medical treatment practices aimed at intersex/DSD bodies in Israel and Germany

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Recently, new laws and medical guidelines in many countries have prohibited early genital surgeries and irreversible medical treatment for intersexed babies. Following the passing of the German law that allows parents to register intersexed babies with no sex/gender, and after the establishment of new medical guidelines for intersexed patients in Israel, this study aims to examine the current medical policies regarding intersexed bodies at DSD centres and hospitals in Israel and Germany. How, if at all, have they changed the previous medical guidelines? This is a narrative study that includes 62 in-depth interviews with medical professionals, parents and intersexed people from Germany and Israel. Three main controversial themes are examined, including the situated diagnostic medical gaze, the surgical practices for normalising intersexed bodies and the concealment of intersexed bodies. I find that in Israeli hospitals, early irreversible surgeries for ‘ambiguous genitals’ and the removal of internal sex organs are taking place frequently, whereas in Germany, the three DSD centres examined offer psychological counselling for parents instead of early surgeries for their babies. While in Israel concealment practices are embodied in the medical policy, the DSD centres in Germany encourage openness and peer group support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-164
Number of pages22
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors received research grand from Cost Action (DSD net), Short Scientific Mission, BMI 1303. I thank all the wonderful, unique people who took part in this study. I thank the Cost Action Fund (DSDnet) for their contribution to the research through their STSM fund. I express my appreciation to the management of the Martin Buber Society of Fellows for supporting my research process, Israeli-German academic cooperation in general, and this study in particular. I also thank Dr. Gili Hammer, Dr. Belek Ben, Dr. Nadeem Karkabi, Dr. Hodel Ophir, Dr. Nitzan Rotem and Dr. Orit Gazit for their generosity in giving me time, support and ideas that contributed to my work. Finally, I thank Dr. Hannah Komy for her sociolinguistic skills and continuous support.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness.


  • Israel
  • biopolitics
  • body
  • cosmetic surgery
  • genetic testing
  • narrative method


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