Beyond Binary Genders: Reviewing the Medical Management of Intersex Infants

By Jennifer Lee.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The medical management of intersex births is based on a binary view of gender and an assumption of heterosexual identity, with little acknowledgment of the gender and queer theory that challenges the heteronormative gender binary. The term ‘intersex’ refers to conditions that involve anatomical, chromosomal and/or hormonal variance from what is expected in a male or female (Karkazis, 2008), therefore intersex births transgress the gender dichotomy established in the medical field.
This paper focuses on analysing intersex medical treatment of infants who are born intersexed within a gender studies framework. Gender studies theorists and writers who transgress gender expectations in their own lives address binary definitions of male and female and the expectations of feminine and masculine behaviour in men and women in a manner that is rarely acknowledged by medical professionals who are treating intersex infants. It will be argued that the current intersex treatment guidelines are inadequate because they do not address the underlying gender normative assumptions made by the medical profession when surgically altering intersexed infants.

Keywords: Gender, Sexuality, Intersex, Queer, Medical Ethics, Disorders of Sex Development, DSD, Sex Reassignment

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 12, pp.139-150. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 771.646KB).

Dr. Jennifer Lee

Lecturer, School of Communication and the Arts, Victoria University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Dr. Jennifer Lee is a Lecturer in Creative Writing and Literary Studies at Victoria University, Australia. She teaches memoir and fiction, and a range of literary studies subjects. Jennifer writes fiction, non-fiction and memoir and organises Reading nights at Australian festivals like Fringe and Midsumma. Her research and fiction has focused on ‘intrusions on the body’, including: intersex and non-consenting infant surgery, and the non-disclosure surrounding that; female sexual abusers; and government and media messages to ‘fat’ people about their bodies.


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