Doctor’s appointments

Most people generally don’t look forward to visiting the doctor. Inter* people and parents of intersex children or young people can find these visits particularly difficult and overwhelming due to their special nature. They can even turn out to be unpleasant and upsetting.

Some visits to the doctor can involve discussing physical variation, whilst other appointments may concern other health matters. However, regardless of the type of visit, it can often lead to unpleasant or unexpected situations.

We would like to give you a few tips to help make these types of situations easier to handle. You can decide for yourself which tips would be most useful to you:

Be prepared

  • Write down questions
    It doesn’t matter what sort of doctor’s appointment you will be attending, it is useful to write down a few questions beforehand that you definitely want to be answered. You can find out from support groups and online forums which kinds of questions could be important for your appointment and what type of examination you might need to expect.
  • Prepare answers
    It can also be useful to prepare answers to specific questions the doctor might ask, especially before you attend routine appointments or appointments with your general practitioner. This is because, depending on which gender is specified on your or your child’s medical record, certain assumptions are made which may not necessarily need to apply to your body or your child’s body. Pre-formulated answers to specific questions can help you to feel less anxious in these situations and to retain control over the conversation. It can be useful to find out about other people’s experiences and to ask for their advice about your concerns.

Emotional support

  • Take a trusted person with youa
    Emotional support is important. For example, it can be very helpful to have a trusted person by your side who will help you to feel safe and secure. It is also important to remember that two heads are often better than one. The two of you together are more likely to remember everything the doctor has said.
  • Sensory distraction
    Sensory distraction can help to reduce anxiety because it diverts your attention away from your fears and even rising panic towards something else that is more pleasant. There are a few techniques you could try, such as listening to a playlist of your favourite songs whilst you are in the waiting room or watching some videos on the internet. You could also try using a hand cream which smells particularly nice or aromatherapy oil. Taking sips of cold water can also help.
    Mindfulness exercises can also help to reduce feelings of panic that may be starting to increase.
  • Taking care of yourself after the appointment
    After you have experienced a stressful and perhaps unpleasant visit to the doctor, it can be good idea to spoil yourself a little or to try to connect with people from your support network. Perhaps you could treat yourself to a delicious ice cream, maybe read a book and/or have a chat with your friends.

Your doctor’s appointment

  • Ensure you are able to ask questions
    If you are feeling unsure, find out what you need to expect from your appointment at the doctor’s surgery or at the hospital. Also feel free to ask why the procedure is taking place and what will happen throughout the process. You should also ask what the findings mean to ensure that everything is happening for a good reason in order to better understand your own body or the body of your child.
  • Ask for specialist terms to be explained
    If the meaning of specialist terms is not clear, then ask for them to be explained. You have the right to not only hear what the doctor is saying but also to understand it. This also applies to all treatments or therapeutic measures, particularly if the procedure is expected to be invasive (e.g. through surgery).
  • Take copies of your patient documents
    Whenever you visit your doctor to discuss intersex matters, it is particularly important to ask for copies of any patient documents. This ensures you will always have the facts to hand if you change doctor or need to check any details.

Even if you are being well cared for by medical staff, it can often be the case that you are the best expert when it comes to your or your child’s experience of being intersex. It can be frustrating if you in fact know more about intersex than the doctor. However, this could give you the opportunity to share your knowledge. For example, it might be useful to take one of your pamphlets or to recommend this website to enable the doctor to acquire more knowledge. It can also be helpful to discuss matters with other experts, for example, those that offer advice in support groups.

Doctors can sometimes be intimidating. If you want to find out more about your rights, please take a look here.

It is also still the case that doctors will recommend operations on the genitals which are not necessary for health reasons. These types of operations on young children are now recognised by the UN as human rights violations. If you would like to find out further details about this, please click here.

The most important thing when visiting your doctor is that you should feel you are being well looked after and supported. The doctors are there to help you or your child to feel better!