hermaphrodite has always been the term coined by people for someone who has both female and male parts, Intersex is the appropriate term that will be used during this presentation.
Sine the nineteenth century there has always been different perceptions and definitions of what a true intersexual person is.
Over the course of three centuries, most of the medical believed that intersex never existed and were all cases of “mistaken sex”
This over view is concerned with the cultural history of how doctors and scholars regarded people who were did not fall into a specific gender type from the colonial period till the twentieth century
Each century expresses different perceptions and ideas of sexual identity.
Colonial Period :17th and 18th century
Intersexual people were suggested to be monsters sent down from God as signals or warnings.
In 1637 one of the first cases of intersex was recorded
-A woman, Mary Dyer, delivered a baby who was malformed and was forced to disguise the baby because of it’s “monstrous” looks .
The descriptions of Mary Dyer’s baby made other colonists conform to the idea that monstrous births were seen as deviations from normal
In 1683, the book Aristotle's Masterpiece was published
-This book was a sex guide and a book used by midwifes.
The book included reports of babies born with mixed animal, human, and mythic features
In his book Aristotle, advised woman to stay away from sex while menstruating, making it clear that it was “unclean and unnatural”
Other medical texts during this period correlated intersex with monstrous births.
Colonial Period continued
One of the first cases that didn’t connect monstrous births to intersex was the case of Thomas Hall.
Thomas Hall dressed as man and woman, this brought him to the Virginia court.
Thomas told the court that he was both female and male and gave a description of his genitals as processing both male and female characteristics.
Instead, of making Hall choose a gender, they ordered him dress in male apparel only but to also wear an apron.
This was the first case that contradicted earlier and later medical and legal attitudes toward intersex.
18th and 19th Centuries
In 1741, James Parson wrote the book, A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry into the Nature of Hermaphrodites.
His discussed practical issues concerning those with indistinct genitals and tried to persuade readers that intersexual people do not exist.
He insisted that a person who was truly intersex would have both perfect male and female genital, which was seen as impossible, if such a case did happen the intersex person should choose his/her own gender
Parsons joined the long line of doctors and people who believed that being intersexual was mythical.
In 1806, Aristotle came out with his second edition of Aristotle’s Masterpiece
He suggested that the clitoris determined which sex a intersexual would be.
If the Clitoris received sexual pleasure then the person was female and if the penis received sexual please then the person was male.
Like Parson’s, Aristotle believed that the person should choose it’s own gender.
Later 18th and 19th Century
People still followed Parsons idea that intersexual didn’t exist, but other writers started to suggest that they did exist, they were just really rare.
In 19th century, Medical journals began being published and case concerning both genitals were being written.
Doctors coined the word hermaphrodite and other words including: hybrid, imposter, and unfortunate monstrosity.
Doctors began giving surgeries upon the request of patients in hope make that the patient end up in a happy marital status.
Even after all the surgeries medical journals and doctors were still claiming that intersexual people didn’t exist
There is an emergence of doctors deciding whether a patient is intersex, where as before the court or the person made the decision.
Hostile beliefs of intersexual people were still being adapted.
It was still impossible for anyone to be labeled as an intersex.
Later twentieth century, studies and the advancement in medicine and understanding the human genome, helped people understand more about intersex.
Through out the centuries , different perceptions on intersex existed and still do exist, the most common being that they didn’t exist at all.
Advancements in the medical field, helped the perception of intersex from being monstrous to being more human.
Today there is no doubt in the medical field that intersexual people exist, but although this is true many people still don’t know what it means to be intersex and people will always have their own perception.
One way to help people become more aware of intersex, is for people to be more open about the topic.