Inside the doctor's office. Talking about intersex with Italian health professionals

Prandelli, Marta and Testoni, Ines (2021). Inside the doctor's office. Talking about intersex with Italian health professionals. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 23(4) pp. 484–499.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13691058.2020.1805641

Abstract

This article explores how health professionals in Italy understand variations of sex characteristics (VSC), also referred to as intersex and/or disorders of sex development (DSD). With estimates of VSC frequency ranging from 0.018% to 1.7%, only a handful of highly specialised medical doctors are considered DSD experts. When addressing the daily health management of children and families who do not live near specialist DSD centres, these experts may refer individuals to the nearest health professional that Italian health services provides, opening up questions regarding how these professionals might act and react when faced with VSC. In this analysis of interview data from 65 Italian general practitioners, paediatricians and psychologists, we address two themes. The first theme discusses participants’ previous experiences and case management, with a focus on social, medical and gender biases. The second theme examines health professionals’ opinions and perspectives on ongoing conflicts concerning current best care practices. Our results highlight health professionals’ cultural and gendered biases, confirming the need to develop specific professional training, guidelines and policies to improve the healthcare of people with VSC.

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