Archives for posts with tag: intersex

We as society look at people who are different than the norm as monsters.  We have created a society where people feel obligated to get surgeries or take drugs to change their appearance to better fit society.

In the article, Haraway says that we, as a societal whole, feel the entitlement to be able to act like God in certain situations. For example, parents may choose, without insight into their newborn child’s best interests, to determine the sex of their naturally intersex child at the time of birth, without giving the child a chance to decide for him or herself. It is not a parental right, or a human right, to be able to disregard the will of the Creator and natural genetics and choose the sex of a child without regard to the intersex individual’s interest. These intersex individuals may also face being looked upon by society as monstrous inappropriated others.

Haraway felt that we look at “inappropriated others” as monsters or different as well.  We also think that they live in different worlds and cannot possibly live the same life we do.  But in all reality, they are just like us and there is not anything wrong with them. They are not deficient, nor do they deserve being put into a separate class in society.


Jessica Plunkitt

In class, we spoke about the Age of Gonads, followed by intersex and determining the sex of intersex children. This lead our discussion to the topic of the Intersex Society of North America. This site highlights intersex issues, and actions families may take to directly deal with their situation at hand.

After briefly talking about this site in class, I decided to follow-up this discussion by analyzing the site in order to answer questions of curiosity that occurred to me during our discussion. I found this site to be nothing but helpful, educating, and more than anything calming to those that may be dealing with an intersex situation. I found that all questions that I had about intersex were on the site with helpful solutions. A few specific questions I thought of are: What is intersex? How common is intersex? What do doctors do now when they encounter a child with intersex?

I clicked on all of these links on the side and after reading all the pages, I felt fully educated on the subject. For example, when explaining what intersex is, it gave the definition of intersex which is: “a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” It then continued to give an example of what this may mean stating that a person may look female on the exterior, but really internally they have male-typical anatomy. It also continued to explain that intersex is an inborn condition but is not always visible at birth.  I found this tab the most educating as it was the one that explained intersex and broke it down so that anybody could interpret it. It was also soothing for the INSA to state that they are open and caring and are trying to create a world free of shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries.

Next how common is intersex? The site began to breakdown the different types of intersex births followed by the probability that one would be intersex. For example, For Not xx and Not XY it said one in 1,666 births. This among many other variations is what this page consisted of.  It was based off of statics from Brown University researcher Anne Fausto-Sterling. In my eyes this page was important to include because it shows research and evidence of the rarity of the case, yet the possibility t at it can happen and if it does, it is okay.

Lastly, What do doctors do now when they encounter a patient with intersex? It states that doctors are willing to “cut now and worry about the quality of life later.” This is important, because the whole purpose of this site is to not just go ahead and do that. There is not much information or writing on this page as they state their concern and drive to implement their patient-centered model of care through visits to medical centers. Hopefully, this makes a difference for intersex people as it should be their decision.

This site fights for freedom of the intersex patients and is nothing but education and supportive to those that have this diagnosis. It gives these people hope and knowledge when dealing with their situation so they are able to make the best decision in what they want to do regarding their sex. This site is helpful, and whoever started it is a very smart person, as they have helped many people.

-C. Praljak

My grandfather use to tell me not to judge people and that you should always put yourself in their shoes and walk around in them for a while and maybe you would understand where they are coming from. This statement that he made to me kept playing in my head as I read Alice Dreger’s book Hermaphrodites and the medical invention of sex. After reading the story she told about Barbin I decided to put myself in her shoes. How would I feel to look different than all the other females around me and to love someone who society says it to be unfit. I thought about the day she went to the doctor and was poked and prodded by a “man of science.” Being unsure of what he was discovering and feeling so violated only to find at the end that I was not a women but a man. To be torn from the life I knew and place in a world so strange to me, away from the women that I was in love with. To feel so alone, no one to talk to, no one to understand me, alone in a world that I didn’t belong. I too would have wanted to end my life like she did. These thought made me realize how lonely and confusing a Hermaphrodites life must be. Worse is begin made a certain sex that you don’t feel you are. I thought about what I would do if I myself had an intersex baby. Would I like so many choose the sex for my baby before they even had a chance to decide? Would I want to be the one to cause such pain and mental torcher to my baby or would I tell the doctors to let my baby be and let them decide down the road what they wanted to do with their own body? If I chose to let them decide for themselves how would I present my baby to society how, would I dress them? After thinking about this for many hours I decided that I would most certainly let them decide for themselves and I would present my child to society as my perfect child the one meant for me. I would dress my child in gender natural clothing until they decided what they wanted to be and when they were ready to go to school I would let them choose what they felt was the right sex at that time and if down the road they changed their mind I would be there with them on their journey never judging. I know that even though I thought about all this that it wouldn’t all end up pretty and happy there would be people that would judge my child down the road and they would be face with a lot of hard ships. That no matter what path you take an intersex person has a lot to deal with. All this makes me sick to think how society is so set on picking a gender and how we are wrapped up in gender that people who can not help how they were born are stuck in this web where they can not win. Where they can not be left alone in the world to be who they are without being looked at as some freak that will be tagged with a label as” it” or some scientific name and placed in science magazines.

~Kielly Perkins~

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

This week seems to provoke one of the most basic concerns within Gender Studies: the use of binaries. However, people with intersex condition spark the debate and issues in an entirely different way. Instead of thinking about what is commonly considered “social constructions” such as gender, femininity, masculinity, etc., intersex makes us think about the validity of the category of “biology”. Alice Dreger’s piece makes us think about the solidity of the biological, anatomical, gonadal, hormonal, and chromosonal determinants of sex. Now, in this sense we are not questioning the validity of these categories as having a function, we are questioning what about or combination of these factors makes one a “female” or “male”. Personally, I would like to say, “Thank you”, to whatever in the womb caused this because “abnormality” needs to be reconsidered and not seen to ever be affected by a “biological” process which is usually out of one’s control. I mean unless your smoking crack or doing heavy drugs, your baby will most likely develop in the manner which “it just does” (I refrain from using “supposed to” due to the loaded nature of this statement).

Intersex condition reminds me of research that I am currently doing for another class on “the identical body” aka identical twins. When I was doing my research, I found no secondary sources on the use of the identical bodies for experiments. Within my  research, I found experiments done on twins and science news letters which marveled at the identical body. However, one statement in a 1931 science news letter explained all of the amazement. The quote went somewhat like this “Identical twins can be an amazing surprise, but if the egg had not separated, the result would be monstrous and the conjoined individuals would be freaks”. Much like intersex condition, in which their ambiguous sex does not conform with a binary framework, conjoined twins who also didn’t develop “as they were meant to” were all the sudden freaks? Ok, wait. Soo, yes this statement was in 1931, but I believe the same stigma still exists within biological processes. We put so much emphasis and trust into the “biological”, which is seen as this perfect, flawless, field, and allow for no variation to occur. I mean during the 9 months you’re in the womb, a biological process did not go “right”, and all of the sudden your considered a “freak” for the rest of your life. That sounds like a misplaced scale to me! Rubin can I get a “WHOOP WHOOP”? When is biology going to understand its own foundations without integrating society’s binary system within it? If we place these binaries within the biological then we allow for no real “nature” to occur. These sorts of issues within Gender Studies, always remind me of the monumental book “Evolution’s Rainbow”. It completely astounds me that biology and society are so linked, always influencing each other in the search for new categories and outcasts. However, with conditions which are not a choice, I am purely outraged that they are seen to be political and are seen to be freaks to society. Society you made this paranoia, not the intersexed individual. Thank biology for that :).

-Katie Schaffer

Throughout our reading of Alice Dreger and our various discussions in class I found myself fascinated by the story of Abel/Alexina Barbin.  As we watched the puppet reenactment of her story in class I began to understand the difficulties all intersex individuals must face, especially in the nineteenth century as Barbin did.  As I read Barbin’s story I began to understand that Abel/Alexina was seen as little more than a fascinating piece of scientific information that needed to be studied, even after her body was found dead.

As I read this I found myself being appalled and saddened that after Barbin’s suicide, scientists were eager to study the body for its oddities.  At first I considered these actions of as something that would only happen in the nineteenth century and concluded that modern society is more sympathetic and understanding to those intersex individuals.  As I thought of this though, I began to relate this story to Caster Semenya’s story and began to realize just how little our society has changed in its treatment of intersex individuals.

As in the nineteenth century, our society demands that each person must be either man or woman, with no gray area.  At birth and till her twenties Alexina identified as a women and fit comfortably into society as such, not until doctors discovered her ambiguous genitalia was she made to identify as a man.  Caster Semenya just as Alexina identified and lived her entire life as a woman, and her gender was brought into to question only because she was succeeding so much in her sport.

Gender is such a fundamental part of our society that we feel we have the right to demand proof of someone’s sex even if it involves invasive testing like in the case of Caster Semenya.  Throughout the readings and the stories of these to women, I can only keep going back to what I have learned in gender studies, that gender is not a simple binary that can easily be defined by genitals.  As a society we should strive to not repeat history and be understanding to those intersex individuals, as insensitivity is shown to destroy lives.  Dreger quotes in her book from the diaries of Abel/Alexina Barbin “Reality is crushing me, is pursuing me,” I feel we must take note of these struggles and work to create a reality that is not oppressive to intersex individuals.

-Claire Amick


In other classes I’ve read about Cheryl Chase and the group she created, the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA). However, I know little about the organization or why a new organization was created, the Accord Alliance. So, this week I wanna talk about the ISNA, Accord Alliance, and support groups for intersex individuals.

In Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, Dreger argues that some intersex patients were angry because they were not offered psychological support (200). They, and their families, had to deal with their feelings on their own (200).  Many were happy just to find out that they were not alone and not “freaks” (201).

When I googled ‘Intersex support groups’ the first thing that popped up was Chase’s group, the Intersex Society of North America. Their mission is:

The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) is devoted to systemic change to end shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries for people born with an anatomy that someone decided is not standard for male or female.

We have learned from listening to individuals and families dealing with intersex that:

  • Intersexuality is primarily a problem of stigma and trauma, not gender.
  • Parents’ distress must not be treated by surgery on the child.
  • Professional mental health care is essential.
  • Honest, complete disclosure is good medicine.
  • All children should be assigned as boy or girl, without early surgery.

ISNA seems to be a hub of information for intersex individuals. Besides their mission, the website offers the history of the group as well as some of the positive changes that have happened. For example, there has been a new standard of care created that is more patient centered, avoids misleading language, and is more cautious about surgery. The website also offers A LOT of information about law, such as how to contact Advocates for Informed Choice, as well as information about the law and sex reassignment and the rulings of recent court cases. The website offers a lot of books, videos, and bibliographies about and for intersex (or DSD) individuals.

ISNA also offers a lot of links to specific support groups, such as:

  • Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome
  • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
  • General Intersex Information/Groups
  • Hypospadias
  • Klinefelter Syndrome
  • Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser Syndrome
  • Mosaic Turner’s Syndrome
  • Other Resources
  • Other Support Groups
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Testicular Dysgenesis
  • Transgender
  • Turner Syndrome
  • XXYY

ISNA is not the only website offering resources and help to intersex individuals. There is also the Organization Intersex International ,Accord Alliance, blogs by individuals such as The Intersex Roadhouse, and many other websites.

However, what exactly is Accord Alliance? Accord Alliance was created in 2008 by ISNA and is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to improving DSD health care. It is comprised of health care and advocacy professionals. So, ISNA is no longer in opperation, it is now Accord Alliance. However, the ISNA website still exists and continues to be an invaluable source of information for intersex individuals and their families.

By Kristy Wilson

Throughout the past week our class has discussed hermaphrodites, or what are now known as intersexed people their origins and growth within the social understanding of sex. In one of our discussion, the issue of the medicalization of birth was addressed.

In the 1900’s 50% of babies were still being delivered by midwives. Though the middle and upper-class had accepted that the intervention of a physician was necessary, the lower half of society didn’t have that luxury. They relied on midwives to help with birth, or ran the risk of loosing their if there were complications. Midwives were prepared to live with a mother from the onset of labor until the mother was fully recovered, and  some stayed until the mother and child were situated into their new life within a family. Usually there was one midwife for every village or small town that assisted with every birth possible. Doctors saw midwives as “hopelessly dirty, ignorant, and incompetent, relics of a barbaric past” (78). The funny this is, if midwives had not been around at the time, the infant mortality rate would have been much greater. There were not enough doctors at the time to help deliver children being born across the country. (From Exorcising The Midwives, Ehrenreich and English)

Currently, 35 of the 50 states allow non-nurse midwives while the other 15 prohibit them. “Today, the likelihood that midwife-assisted home-births can occur without surgical intervention, with low infant mortality rate and at much lower coast is as good or better as in hospitals. $13 billion to $20 billion can be saved every year in health care costs by developing midwifery care, making childbirth less of a medical procedure. (From Efforts Continue to Legalize Midwifery Nationwide).

Presently though midwives are still apparent, doulas have become a much more popular mode of assistance for pregnant mothers of the 21st century.

“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.”
Dr. John H. Kennell

This quote comes from a wonderful website called A Blissful Transition. Doulas have become the present day midwife. They are there not only to assist in emotional support for a mother while she is in labor, but also with things like breast feeding and a less likely chance of postpartum depression. My girlfriend’s older sister had a doula for both of her births. Rachel chose to have a doula because she wanted to have a home birth initially. Her first child was an emergency c-section so that was not possible. Rachel wanted it to be as natural as possible, she wanted it to be personal; no drugs, no people that don’t know her. She wanted to make it through what most people called a nasty ugly process as calmly as possible. Rachel’s best friend Laura was her doula for all three births. Laura was there more for emotional support and helping for adjustment into the family than help with the actual births. Rachel’s second birth also had to be in the hospital because it was a v-bac. Rachel went to Le Leche League, a national breast feeding and support group organization to be more oriented as a mother in addition to having her doula. If you are looking to have childbirth be as natural as possible, having a doula is the best way to go. There is more support than you would ever receive from a doctor or hospital nurse.

For those that have never considered a home birth, or a less medicalized childbirth a doula can be a wonderful alternative. Here is the link for A Blissful Transition ( if people are interested in more information.

-Sarah Klapperich

Caster Semenya sparked an immense amount of controversy after the 2009 World Championships when she received criticism concerning whether or not she had a “physical condition” that enabled her to surpass her competitors. Questions were then raised about her gender and suspicions arose because of Semenya’s outstanding athletic ability and her masculine appearing physique. It was eventually discovered that Caster Semenya had an intersex condition. It was up to the medical establishment to determine what they thought to be her “true” sex, a discovery which was prompted by societal skepticism. This example of an intersex condition relates to the story of Alexina/Able in Alice Domurat Dreger’s “Hermaprodites and the Medical Invention of Sex.”

These cases are similar in that neither individual was aware of their condition until later in life, chiefly due to the curiosity of others, including “medical men.” While Caster Semenya was led to the medical determination of her “true” sex through societal coercion, so too was Alexina/Abel. Alexina/Abel sought the “truth” concerning her sex to explain her sexual attraction to Sara, a concept that could not be explained by the other women living in the convent with Alexina/Abel and Sara. According to Dreger, “A combination of a weighty conscience and a painful abdomen finally led the tormented Alexina to a series of priest-confessors and medical men, the result of which was a consensus that Alexina was a man, a male who had been mistaken at birth for a female, and that therefore her legal and public identity ought to be “rectified” to match her “true sex” (Dreger 18).  By contrast, Caster Semenya still identify’s as a woman. Both cases led to the medical “discovery” of each person’s “true” sex, male for Alexina; not “totally” female for Caster. Abel eventually committed suicide, whereas Caster Semenya still participates within the framework that first scrutinized her. The outcomes of each individual’s “true” sex determination were different, but both individuals were subjected to the societal and medical scrutiny that was placed upon their bodies.

– Sophie Reynolds


The David Spade article really got me thinking about a lot of things surrounding the whole idea of having to change one’s gender and how political it really is. I had no idea the lengths that a person had to go to in order to change their gender…let’s say on their birth certificate. Not only do people have a million hoops to jump through, but in some states they won’t even reissue an updated birth certificate. According to a website I found that discusses this issue; Ohio, Tennessee, and Idaho all will not “issue a birth certificate reflecting the proper sex.” I asked in class on Thursday about intersex issues in places around the world and so I decided to do some outside research to figure out if the US is behind or ahead of the curve about this. I found this video that touches on a few different places….

It seems as if places are at least semi-attempting to be more accommodating to the intersex community, but there is still a ton of work that needs to be done.

The whole topic of nakedness seemed to be an interesting talking point that everyone seemed like. It’s so funny how we as a society are so obsessed with our and other people’s bodies but yet are so hush hush about actually viewing or talking about them. Naturally…I had to look into nudist colonies and ended up searching online for everything nudist because it was so interesting! I found on one website an article about 5 things you might not know about nudists, here’s my summary:

1. Since nudism often leads to the idea that the entire goal of the act is to promote uninhibited sex, they started by debunking that theory. Come to find out, sex isn’t even allowed in most nudist camps, beaches, or clubs.

2. Nudism needs to be thought of more as “an expression of freedom” rather than something sexy. Being naked isn’t sexy, it’s the small bathing suits, the sexy clothes, the revealing and tight ensembles that turn people on and make them all oh lala

3. Nudist camps and resorts aren’t full of models and hot-bods, in fact the exact words used were “some are thin, some are well-proportioned, and some are outright fat”

4. This is the one that really surprised me: nudism is for the whole family! So, grab your Grandma Betty and crazy Uncle Jim because there are actually nudist communities that are family-theme parks, talk about one unforgettable family vacation

5. The last of the things that you may not know about nudists are that even though they may decide to lose their clothes and go naked, they need privacy too and most resorts and clubs that are nudist prohibit videoing and photography

Arizona, California, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia all house nudist retreats, clubs, and get-a-ways. There’s also a 5k nude race to participate in too (brought to you by BARE: Buts A’runnin Race Enterprises) that reminds “newbie nudes” to remember their sunscreen. How great is that?!  This whole nudist idea really has gotten to me. I mean, we were all born naked; why not stay that way…maybe I’ll try it out and see what my roomates think.

–Jenna Wise