Gender identity, gender assignment and reassignment in individuals with disorders of sex development: a major of dilemma

J Endocrinol Invest. 2016 Nov;39(11):1207-1224. doi: 10.1007/s40618-016-0482-0. Epub 2016 Jun 10.


Introduction: Disorders of Sex Development (DSD) are a wide range of congenital conditions characterized by an incongruence of components involved in sexual differentiation, including gender psychosexual development. The management of such disorders is complex, and one of the most crucial decision is represented by gender assignment. In fact, the primary goal in DSD is to have a gender assignment consistent with the underlying gender identity in order to prevent the distress related to a forthcoming Gender Dysphoria. Historically, gender assignment was based essentially on surgical outcomes, assuming the neutrality of gender identity at birth. This policy has been challenged in the past decade refocusing on the importance of prenatal and postnatal hormonal and genetic influences on psychosexual development.

Aims: (1) to update the main psychological and medical issues that surround DSD, in particular regarding gender identity and gender assignment; (2) to report specific clinical recommendations according to the different diagnosis.

Methods: A systematic search of published evidence was performed using Medline (from 1972 to March 2016). Review of the relevant literature and recommendations was based on authors' expertise.

Results: A review of gender identity and assignment in DSD is provided as well as clinical recommendations for the management of individuals with DSD.

Conclusions: Given the complexity of this management, DSD individuals and their families need to be supported by a specialized multidisciplinary team, which has been universally recognized as the best practice for intersexual conditions. In case of juvenile GD in DSD, the prescription of gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogues, following the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and the Endocrine Society guidelines, should be considered. It should always be taken into account that every DSD person is unique and has to be treated with individualized care. In this perspective, international registries are crucial to improve the understanding of these challenging conditions and clinical practice, in providing a better prediction of gender identity.

Keywords: Disorders of Sex Development; Gender Dysphoria; Gender assignment; Gender identity; Gender reassignment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disorders of Sex Development / diagnosis*
  • Disorders of Sex Development / therapy*
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Sex Reassignment Procedures*