Reproductive justice for children and young people with gonadal variations: Intersex, queer and crip perspectives



Intersex, Reproductive justice, Crip Studies, Queer Studies, gonads, gonadectomy, qualitative, variations in sex characteristics, differences in sex development, healthcare


INTRODUCTION: This article draws on understandings from reproductive justice, crip and queer theories to discuss gonadectomy for children and young people with gonadal variations. Gonadectomy is sometimes performed on people with gonadal variations without their free and informed consent. Some parents report experiencing pressure to consent to such surgery when their children are young. We understand this to be an issue of reproductive justice.

METHOD: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with parents of affected children and young people (n = 13). Thematic coding was used to identify data relating to gonads, ovaries, testes and gonadectomy. The data were analysed using discursive questions drawn from a reproductive justice framework.

ANALYSIS: Parents’ talk about gonads suggests a process of sense-making that can be emotionally challenging. Our analysis situates their talk within broader societal discourses of ablebodiedness and the sex binary. Parents explained their choices and decisions by centring various understandings. Some explained how gonadectomy made sense for maintaining binary sex and following medical advice. Others emphasised the child’s consent and bodily autonomy. Our analysis draws out how parents’ decisions navigate reproductive justice and injustice.

CONCLUSIONS: Dominant beliefs about ablebodiedness and the sex binary appear to influence and frame decision-making about the gonads of children and young people with variations in sex characteristics. A crip, queer, and reproductive justice lens allows us to expand understandings of reproductive justice for all and potentially helps to destabilise and disrupt the sex binary.

Author Biography

Eileen Joy, School of Social Sciences, University of Waikato, Aotearoa New Zealand.

  • Sexuality
  • Feminism
  • Attachment 
  • Neuroscience
  • Epigenetics
  • Thematic Analysis
  • Child protection
  • Intersectionality
  • Critical theory 


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How to Cite

Joy, E., Roen, K., & Lundberg, T. (2023). Reproductive justice for children and young people with gonadal variations: Intersex, queer and crip perspectives. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 35(4), 45–58. Retrieved from