A Look Into Intersex Individuals in the 19th Century
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A Look Into Intersex Individuals in the 19th Century

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Presentation by Tina Gupta for WRTG 3020 Fall 2010.

Presentation by Tina Gupta for WRTG 3020 Fall 2010.

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    A Look Into Intersex Individuals in the 19th Century A Look Into Intersex Individuals in the 19th Century Presentation Transcript

    • Tina Gupta http://www.peoplemendersblog.com
      • Imagine it is the year 1892. You are a physician and a woman comes in your office. This person looks as if her womanly demeanor is forced. She is wearing a dress, corset, and makeup, but everything looks disheveled and unordinary. You are about to see this patient. She has come in to retrieve treatment for a inguinal hernia. You examine her hernia. What you expect to see is not actually what you see. You see something medically rare….
      • You find testicles and a small penis
            • What does this mean?………..
      • This woman ’ s story is the beginning of Alice D. Dreger ’ s article titled “ Hermaphrodites in Love: The Truth of the Gonads. ”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/
      • In the summer of 1892, Louise Julia Anna went to see two doctors. These doctors noticed that she had ambiguous genitals. In other words, her genitalia was somewhere in between male and female parts. She had a small penis and testicles.
      • She identified as a woman and was attracted to men, which the doctors found curious.
      • They thought, if she was biologically male, shouldn ’ t she desire women?
      • The doctors told Louise that she was a man and told
      • her she needed to stop pretending. The doctors waited for her reaction. They believed that women would cry to this response. If she really was a women she would shed tears and be panicked. One of the doctors, however, noticed that there was “ not a tear, not a sigh, not the least vestige of an attack of nerves. ” Because Louise did not display intense emotions, she was defined as a “ true man. ”
      • She did not cry in response to her revelation.
      • She had testicles.
      • In the doctors minds, those two things were more powerful than the fact that she had a feminine name, desired men, and had a female appearance.
      • The doctors were weighing biology more heavily rather than behaviors and appearance.
      • The doctors confirmed she was a man and, as a result, the doctors believed her attraction to men was considered inappropriate.
      • This shows how complicated the relationships between biological sex, anatomy, gender identity and gender expression were.
      • Surprisingly, Louise Julia Anna is one of the many similar stories that existed throughout the 19th century.
      • People with the intersex conditions were considered hermaphrodites.
      • Hermaphrodite was a term used in the late 19th century to describe individuals in Louise ’ s case. Hermaphrodite was “ a name given to a person who possessed something other than one of the two sets of sexual organs common to most people ” (49).
      • In present day, our society describes these individuals as INTERSEX.
      • The 19th century was an important time for sexuality. Doctors and scientists became increasingly interested in the human body and behavior. Thus, the field of medical research and science expanded.
      • Much of the labels and definitions in society were based on the notions of “ Truth. ” Science and medicine believed “ Truth ” was found by examining the body. A true man had a penis and testicles, and a true female had vagina, uterus, and ovaries. Social and personal self were not deciding factors in shaping identity.
      • • Feminists and social activities were opposed to the medical model that looked for “ Truth ” in the body.
      • • However, many people began thinking that the notions of intersex may be less about the concepts of Truth, and more so a political agenda.
      Cherly Chase, intersex activist. http://en.wikipedia.org/
      • Before the medical models, sex, gender, and sexuality were used interchangeably, and had the same definitions.
      • A male that identified as a man was assumed to desire a female.
      • The medical model inspired people to reconsider the differences between sex, gender, and sexuality.
      • This change in definitions reflected a growing awareness that their exists separate categories of identity and behavior.
      • People began realizing that sex, gender, and sexuality are not linked.
      • SEX
      • Features of the anatomy, reproductive organs, genitalia, hormones, and chromosomes. Someone ’ s sex is considered male or female.
      • GENDER
      • Category of social identity based on internal or external perception. People have a gender that is woman or man.
      • SEXUALITY
      • Sexual desires and acts. This includes heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexuals.
      • Despite the progress being made, the doctors generally still believed that male anatomy equaled heterosexual.
      • Despite the many doctors that were willing to help out those that did not naturally have one sex, doctors and society still believed that “ testicles naturally meant desire for women, and ovaries meant desire for men ” (51).
      • • Marriage became a concern of many supporters of the medical model. If two people got married, and one was a hermaphrodite, then what would happen?
      • • In other words, if a hermaphrodite had a gender that was opposite to a person ’ s sex (male or female) that would cause problems if they got married because they would be the same sex.
      • • Doctors began saying if this did happen, the two in the marriage would be unhappy and sexually ungratified.
      • • The British used anatomy as an excuse for why people had same-sex marriages and unions. They believed that this occurred because people had no control, rather than an act of choice.
      • • People were concerned about anatomy rather than psychology.
      • The 19th century was a time where people were questioning the labels of sex, gender, and identity.
      • Society was questioning the medical model.
      • Doctors were concerned about same sex marriages as a result of ambiguous examples.
      • This was a time where more and more people that were hermaphrodites decided to share their stories, and examples of cases came to light.
      • Matters of mistaken sex were very private and confidential in Britain. For instance, two sisters in Scotland were found to be men, and had their sexual identities quietly changed. They were then expected to do manly occupations.
      • Britain surgeons began habitually changing sexes. For example a British surgeon altered Christina, a nine year old girl. She removed her testicles with out even letting her know. The surgeon quotes, she “ always lived as a woman [and] I did not think it necessary or even fair to inform her of what we had discovered, and when she left the hospital she believed, as far as I am aware, that she had been suffering from ordinary rupture which had been cured ” (54).
      • A woman, after getting married to man when she was 44 years old, found out she had male testicles. This was surprising because she had sounded like a women, but her chest was flat, and she did not get menstruation. The doctor agreed to do the surgery to change her into a women after discussing this with the patient.
      • This article concludes with the same story Dreger began with pertaining to the story of Louise Julia Anna. Louise Julia Anna wanted to find a doctor that would help her so she could continue to love men. Louise wanted to act on her desires.
      • However, doctors refused to help Louise Julia Anna out because most continued to be stubborn in their ways, believing that “ the truth was in her body, and not in her desires, not in her acts ” (64).
      • Today, we are moving away from the notions of anatomy defining sex and sexuality. However, people still do withhold these views towards anatomy, identity, and behavior.
      • Dreger writes a thoughtful, interesting article on the natures of biology, truth, and hermaphrodites. She uses examples for the late 19th century British and French societies to explore the relationship.
      • We have come along way since the 19th century, but we still are in the process of making further progress on our views of sex, gender, sexuality, anatomy, and much more.
      • We have come a long way in our thinking of hermaphrodites. We now give the name intersex to those with ambiguous genitals.
      • The concepts of intersex helped society to recognize sex, gender, and sexuality in different ways.
      • Progress is being made in treating intersex as a third sex, and not trying to force a sex.
      • Expanding the ideas of gender binaries are supported by some, and will hopefully continue to gain support.
      • http://www.alicedreger.com/articles.html
      • Dreger, Alice. “ Hermaphrodites in Love: The Truth of Gonads. ” Science and Homosexualities. Ed. Vernon, A. Rosario. New York: Routledge, 1997. Print.
      • Fausto-Sterling, Anne. The Five Sexes Revisited. Sexual Lives: A Reader on the Theories and Realities of Human Sexualities . Eds. Robert Heasley and Betsy Crane. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2003. 334-339. Print.
      • Reis, Elizabeth. Impossible Hermaphrodites: Intersex in America, 1620-1960. The Journal of American History 92 (2005): 411-441. Print.
      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbwR0inBd8s
      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Twe8p0R8tms
      • www.isna.org
      • www.intersexualite.org