Updated: DECEMBER 23, 2019
Gender assignment is the act of assigning a gender to an infant at birth.
A health professional, such as a midwife, nurse, or doctor, is usually responsible for gender assignment. Gender is assigned after examining the baby’s genitals. This is usually a simple process, but is more complicated with intersex infants.
Gender assignment is also sometimes called infant gender assignment or sex assignment.
More About Gender Assignment
In most cases, babies present with obviously male or female genitalia. Babies with male genitalia are assigned the male gender while those with female genitalia are assigned the female gender.
However, some babies, known as intersex babies, have ambiguous genitalia. Usually a decision will be made to raise these babies as male or female following hormonal, genetic, and radiological testing to determine the child’s most likely gender. The decision may be reinforced with surgery to shape the genitals to appear more masculine or feminine, although this practice is becoming less common.
Usually a child will grow to identify with the gender assigned at birth. However, in some cases, the children feel their true gender does not match their assigned genders. This can occur with intersex children who were raised one gender or the other and with transgender individuals.
Some people are against gender assignment, even in seemingly straightforward cases. They feel the process raises expectations about what an individual will be which may be damaging in the future. These people believe children should be raised gender neutral and allowed to declare their own genders once they are able to verbalize them.