Experiencing “the Wrong Kind of Puberty”: Navigating Teenage Years with a Variation in Sex Characteristics
Permanent link to Research Commons versionhttps://hdl.handle.net/10289/15665
There are many different variations in sex characteristics, some of which have implications for how the body goes through puberty. This paper draws from critical disability studies and childhood and youth studies to understand the teenage experiences and aspirations of young people with variations in sex characteristics, focusing particularly on navigating puberty. We undertook a reflexive thematic analysis with interview data from 12 young people in England, all assigned female at birth. Our analysis produced a central theme: aspiring to certainty through “fixing” the wrong kind of puberty. Participants experience puberty as a time where things exist on a continuum of rightness and wrongness in comparison with their peers and in relation to their specific variation. We suggest that the neoliberal aspiration to and illusion of bodily control and certainty provides the context within which the medical management of variations in sex characteristics makes sense. Going through medical intervention in relation to a variation in sex characteristics provides a very particular aspirational context for young people. The experience of puberty is intersectionally differentiated for young people with variations in sex characteristics.© 2023 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open-access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.