Fluidity models in ancient Greece and current practices of sex assignment

Semin Perinatol. 2017 Jun;41(4):206-213. doi: 10.1053/j.semperi.2017.03.014. Epub 2017 May 3.


Disorders of sexual differentiation such as androgen insensitivity and gonadal dysgenesis can involve an intrinsic fluidity at different levels, from the anatomical and biological to the social (gender) that must be considered in the context of social constraints. Sex assignment models based on George Engel's biopsychosocial aspects model of biology accept fluidity of gender as a central concept and therefore help establish expectations within the uncertainty of sex assignment and anticipate potential changes. The biology underlying the fluidity inherent to these disorders should be presented to parents at diagnosis, an approach that the gender medicine field should embrace as good practice. Greek mythology provides many accepted archetypes of change, and the ancient Greek appreciation of metamorphosis can be used as context with these patients. Our goal is to inform expertise and optimal approaches, knowing that this fluidity may eventually necessitate sex reassignment. Physicians should provide sex assignment education based on different components of sexual differentiation, prepare parents for future hormone-triggered changes in their children, and establish a sex-assignment algorithm.

Keywords: 5-alpha reductase deficiency; Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome; DSD; Gonadal dysgenesis; Sex Assignment.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Disorders of Sex Development / history*
  • Disorders of Sex Development / psychology*
  • Disorders of Sex Development / therapy
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Greece, Ancient
  • History, 21st Century
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mythology* / psychology
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Sex Counseling* / methods
  • Sex Reassignment Surgery