Health Care Analysis

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 134–143 | Cite as

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

  • Ellen K. FederEmail author
Original Article


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.


Disorders of Sex Development Foucault Identity Intersex Normalization 



The invitation to the symposium, “Self, Identities, and Bioethics” sponsored by the Division of Health and Society of Linköping University, prompted the argument that appears here, and I am grateful to the participants of the symposium for their challenging questions and generous support. Special thanks are owed Erik Malmqvist for his detailed remarks, as are readings of Eileen Findlay, Shelley Harshe, Katrina Karkazis, Andrea Tschemplik, and an anonymous reviewer.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and ReligionAmerican UniversityWashingtonUSA

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