An Exploration of the History behind Perceptions of Intersex People in America Presentation by Joanie Gentile
Intro to Presentation This presentation is an exploration of the history of intersex people in America from 1620 until 1960. The presentation is based of Elizabeth Reis’s article “ I mpossible Hermaphrodites: Intersex in America, 1620-1960”
Intro to Presentation Continued This presentations aims to provide an overview of the main points and arguments of Reis’s article as well as providing information on the most important case studies and publications discussed in the article
After much consideration the court agreed to acknowledge that Hall embodied physical qualities of both sexes.
Instead of choosing a sex for Hall (which was common at the time), Hall was ordered to wear men’s clothing but also wear a bonnet on his head and an apron as to alert everyone around that he was not fully a man.
Conclusions on Hall As Reis points out, the courts decision was probably not a case of a progressive court accepting intersex people, but more likely the court trying to make Hall out as a public embarrassment discouraging others to follow his/her example. Image from Uen.org
“ A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry into the Nature of Hermaphrodites” (1741 )
In his publication Dr. James Parson “maintained that hermaphrodites could be found among earthworms, snails, and some reptiles, but not among humans” (420).
Therefore intersex births were not a case of hermaphrodites but simply a case of mistaken sex.
During this time period the emergence of information sharing and medicine as a profession moved the issues of intersex people into a medical discipline
Intersex births are now seen as a medical condition rather than a punishment from god.
1800’s-1900’s Continued Even with the advances in medicine, intersex people still carry the stigma of monsters and are generally viewed as deceitful, untrustworthy, and unnatural people. Image from letthedogin.com
In 1806 a new edition of Aristotle’s Masterpiece was reprinted
This new edition discussed the similarities between the clitoris and penis
‘“ The next thing is the clitoris . . . [which] in the same manner as the side ligaments of the yard [penis] suffers erection and falling in the same manner, and both stirs up lust and gives delight in copulation’” (421).