Bodies in Doubt
An American History of Intersex
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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I am indebted to the readers at the Journal of American History and David Nord for their comments on “Impossible Hermaphrodites: Intersex in America, 1620–1960.” I also appreciate the almost instantaneous and enormously helpful evaluations I received for the article that I published in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, ...
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What does it mean to be human? Since antiquity, philosophers have pondered such a question. We need not answer the question comprehensively, nor do we need to be philosophers to realize that among the essential attributes of humanity is sex. To be human is to be physically sexed and culturally gendered. ...
A Note about the Illustrations
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Some contemporary intersex people oppose medical photography because of its tendency to expose and objectify, reducing subjects to body parts only. Intersex people who have been photographed unremittingly at doctors’ visits have at times felt exploited and have commented on the sense of shame that such scrutiny engenders.* ...
1 Hermaphrodites, Monstrous Births, and Same-Sex Intimacy in Early America
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So wrote Dr. Alexander Hamilton in the mid-eighteenth century. His description of a possible hermaphrodite sighting is meant to be amusing and fantastical. A hermaphrodite? The very idea was preposterous, for such a creature was as mythical as a mermaid, he implied. But Hamilton’s far-fetched vignette hints at tropes ...
2 From Monsters to Deceivers in the Early Nineteenth Century
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In each era, doctors interpreted hermaphrodites in a larger cultural context of ideas about women, about men, and about what was normal. In the colonial period, unusual anatomies were seen through the lens of monstrosity. Creatures with very atypical bodies were not human at all, ...
3 The Conflation of Hermaphrodites and Sexual Perverts at the Turn of the Century
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In the last decades of the nineteenth century, the controversy over whether hermaphrodites existed intensified. Doctors on both sides of the issue wrote of actual cases and tried to persuade colleagues of their interpretations of patients’ conditions. Despite their fundamental disagreement, ...
4 Cutting the Gordian Knot: Gonads, Marriage, and Surgery in the 1920s and 1930s
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As the epigraph from 1898 suggests, there were no easy ways for patients and their families to determine the “essential distinction of sex,” though most doctors remained convinced that the presence of either ovaries or testes would provide the answer. By the first half of the twentieth century, ...
5 Psychology, John Money, and the Gender of Rearing in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s
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By the 1940s, doctors were better able to shape people’s bodies hormonally and surgically. When ambiguously sexed patients arrived at their offices wanting to have something done to remedy their situations, endocrinologists, urologists, and surgeons turned to drugs and surgical procedures ...
EPILOGUE. Divergence or Disorder? The Politics of Naming Intersex
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In the time that it took to write this book, the term “intersex” has come under scrutiny and is the subject of much debate from many quarters. The epilogue will analyze the current controversy, placing it in the historical context of over three hundred years of intersex management in this country. ...
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Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 15 halftones
Publication Year: 2009