Reading Alice Dreger’s book, Hermaphrodites, and her discussion of memoirs from Herculine Barbin, was very eye opening to me and made me realize the struggles and obstacles that intersex individuals had to overcome, and still have to overcome, within society.

While watching the puppet show about the memoirs of Herculine Barbin, I knew that Barbin wasn’t going to be very well received by the public. But what surprised me was the scene in which Barbin was figuratively placed in a Petri dish, and being pointed at, taunted, and examined by various physicians and medical professionals. This was significant for me because it brought to my attention that intersex individuals were very rarely treated like actual human beings. Instead, they are put into Petri dishes and are looked at as a scientific specimen that needs to be examined, and classified.

The process of looking at intersex bodies and classifying them proved to be a difficult task for physicians to accomplish in Dreger’s book. Physicians simply did not know what they were looking at when analyzing the tissue of intersex bodies. Instead of thinking as intersex individuals as a possible third sex, physicians continued to think in dimorphic matter and would ultimately determine their sex based on whether the individual’s genitalia were composed of ovarian tissue, or testicular tissue.

In addition to reading Dreger’s book, I also spent some time exploring the website for the Intersex Society of North America. The entire website is very informative and clearly defines their goals and purposes, but I found a lot of interesting debates and questions on the Frequently Asked Questions section of the site. I found the discussion of handling intersex children to be the most interesting, because those situations need careful thought and care, especially on the parents’ part, and the doctors. But no matter what is decided by the child’s parents, it is the duty of the parents to ensure that their child is raised in such an environment that is not hostile, and that won’t draw attention to the child’s differences.

-Aubrey Merrell

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