Research Article| Volume 17, ISSUE 2, P210.e1-210.e9, April 2021

Majority of females with a life-long experience of CAH and parents do not consider females with CAH to be intersex

Published:September 15, 2020DOI:



      To assess opinions of females with CAH, and parents of females with CAH, about designating this population “intersex,” particularly in legislation about genital surgery during childhood.


      We conducted a mixed-methods (quantitative and qualitative) anonymous cross-sectional online survey of females with CAH (46XX, 16+years old) and independently recruited parents of girls with CAH (2019–2020) diagnosed in first year of life from the United States. A multidisciplinary CAH team drafted the survey in collaboration with women with CAH and parents. Fisher's exact test was used to compare female and parent responses. A qualitative thematic approach was used to analyze open-ended answers for emergent categories of reasons why CAH females should or should not be considered as intersex.


      Of 57 females with CAH participating (median age: 39 years, 75.5% of ≥25year olds had post-secondary degree), all had classical CAH and 93.0% underwent genital surgery at median 1–2 years old. While 89.5% did not endorse the intersex designation for CAH, the remaining 5.3% did (5.3% provided no answer, Summary Figure). Most CAH females (63.2%) believed CAH females should be considered separately in “any laws banning or allowing surgery of children's genitals” (19.3% disagreed, 17.5% neutral, 0.0% no answer). Most common themes identified by females with CAH not endorsing an intersex designation were: normal female internal organs, sex chromosomes, personal identity, genital appearance, issues with language, hormones, and those endorsing it: genital appearance, community/group experiences, topic complexity.
      Overall, 132 parents of females with CAH participated (parent/child median ages: 40/11 years, 81.7% of ≥25year olds had post-secondary degree). All children had classical CAH and 78.8% underwent surgery at median <1 year old. While 95.5% of parents did not endorse the intersex designation for CAH, 2.3% did (2.3% no answer), similar to females (p = 0.29). Most parents (81.1%) believed CAH females should be considered separately in legislation (9.1% disagreed, 6.1% neutral, 3.8% no answer), a slightly higher percentage than females (p = 0.01).


      Echoing previously published disagreement with clinically designating CAH females as intersex, majority of CAH females and parents oppose a legal intersex designation. Differing opinions among females and parents strengthen concern about a one-size-fits-all approach to legislation about childhood genital surgery. Differences in opinions between female and parent responses, while statistically significant, were relatively small.


      Summary Figure
      Graphical AbstractOpinions about females with CAH being legally designated as intersex.



      CAH (congenital adrenal hyperplasia), IQR (interquartile range), DSD (differences of sex development)
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