Education Policy | Post Primary | Preschool | Primary | Tertiary | Search


Lack of support for New Zealanders with intersex conditions

29 January 2014

Research highlights lack of support for New Zealanders with intersex conditions

A lack of experience and traditional assumptions about male and female bodies make it challenging for New Zealanders with intersex conditions to get the support they need from the medical profession according to PhD research from Victoria University of Wellington.

Dr Geraldine Christmas studied medical management of intersexuality in New Zealand and the level of support available for intersex New Zealanders—those whose bodies fall between male and female—and their families.

Although medical publications indicate that intersex conditions may occur in two percent of live births, the New Zealand rates are not known. However, Dr Christmas says her research indicates the numbers in New Zealand are comparatively small.

“That means some doctors and nurses here may have very little practical experience of supporting intersex people and their families. In bigger countries, there are centres with specialists in the field but here it can be difficult for families to find medical staff who know much about the condition.”

Dr Christmas attended lectures at New Zealand medical schools to hear first-hand what trainee doctors learn about intersexuality and interviewed a range of health professionals and support agency staff. She also talked to a sample group of intersex New Zealanders.

She found that some doctors and nurses hold traditional views about gender identity and parents of intersex babies can be pressured into choosing surgery to ‘normalise’ their child’s body.

“There is still a lot of shame and secrecy surrounding intersexuality. One mother I interviewed talked about being given a videotape of intersex people who had not had surgery and warning them that their children may not be successful or accepted if they did not go ahead with the surgery.

“But the problem with surgery is that it is irreversible and the choice parents make for their child when they are very young may turn out not to be the right one.”

Dr Christmas says she spoke to clinicians who are keen to provide better support for intersex people by establishing an Australasian multi-disciplinary group which would include doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers and representatives from community support agencies.

“The main theme of my interviews with parents of intersex people is that they need really good support from the time that their baby is born.

“They need information that doesn’t pathologise the condition or make it seem damaging or dangerous and they need reassurance that they are not alone.”

Her research also shows that intersex people have widely differing views on their condition and their gender identity.

“Some parents, especially in rural areas with closer-knit communities, are concerned that their children may become the subject of gossip and experience discrimination. Some people don’t see themselves as intersex, even if they have an intersex condition, while others are fluid in how they describe their gender.”

Dr Christmas’ research findings are available online at:


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Scoop Review Of Books: Worldly And Unworldly

"Being Magdalene" by Fleur Beale The situations shown in this youth novel are shocking, scary, and very moving as we experience Magdalene’s struggle to be a perfect girl as defined by the cruel and unreasonable leader of “The Children of the Faith”, as she moves reluctantly into young womanhood. More>>

Whistle Stop: Netball NZ To Implement New INF Rules

Netball New Zealand (NNZ) will implement the new Official Rules of Netball, as set down by the International Netball Federation (INF), from January 1, 2016. Key changes include the elimination of whistle following a goal, amendments to injury time and changes to setting a penalty. More>>


Scoop Review Of Books: Waiata Aroha

Vaughan Rapatahana on Chappy by Patricia Grace: With this eminently readable novel Patricia Grace returns to the full-length fiction stage after a hiatus of ten years. More>>

'Ithaca' At Q Theatre: Introducing NZ's World Class Cirque Troupe

NZ’s very own cirque troupe is set to become a household name with the premier of its adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey having secured a key season in Auckland. More>>

Music Awards: The Tuis Are Broody This Year

Topping off a sensationally eventful year both at home and internationally, Nelson born brother-sister duo Broods has taken home four Tuis from this year’s 50th annual Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. More>>


Sport: Richie McCaw Retires From Rugby

Richie McCaw has today confirmed he is hanging up his boots and retiring from professional rugby. The 34-year-old All Blacks captain and most capped All Black of all time has drawn the curtain on his stunning international career which started in Dublin 14 years ago, almost to the day, and ended in London last month when he hoisted the Webb Ellis Cup aloft for the second time. More>>


John McBeth: On Jonah Lomu

For many New Zealanders, the enormity of Jonah Lomu's reputation will have come as a surprise... His deeds were watched and enthused over by movie stars and musicians, politicians and superstars from other codes. He reached into the lives and homes of millions and mixed with famous people most New Zealanders would only have read about. More>>


Get More From Scoop



Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news