Intersexuality and the Law

Why Sex Matters

179 pages

3 illustrations

January, 2012

ISBN: 9780814731895



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Julie A. Greenberg is Professor of Law and former Associate Dean at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and an internationally recognized expert on the legal issues relating to sex and gender identity.

All books by Julie A. Greenberg

Winner of the 2013 Bullough Award presented by the Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality 

The term “intersex” evokes diverse images, typically of people who are both male and female or neither male nor female. Neither vision is accurate. The millions of people with an intersex condition, or DSD (disorder of sex development), are men or women whose sex chromosomes, gonads, or sex anatomy do not fit clearly into the male/female binary norm. Until recently, intersex conditions were shrouded in shame and secrecy: many adults were unaware that they had been born with an intersex condition and those who did know were advised to hide the truth.  Current medical protocols and societal treatment of people with an intersex condition are based upon false stereotypes about sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability, which create unique challenges to framing effective legal claims and building a strong cohesive movement.   

In Intersexuality and the Law, Julie A. Greenberg examines the role that legal institutions can play in protecting the rights of people with an intersex condition. She also explores the relationship between the intersex movement and other social justice movements that have effectively utilized legal strategies to challenge similar discriminatory practices. She discusses the feasibility of forming effective alliances and developing mutually beneficial legal arguments with feminists, LGBT organizations, and disability rights advocates to eradicate the discrimination suffered by these marginalized groups.


  • “This volume solidifies Greenberg’s reputation as a thinker of uncommon clarity and, unquestionably, the leading legal scholar on intersex issues. While other scholars have explored—and sometimes exploited—intersex identities to advance theoretical propositions about gender and sexuality, Greenberg is the first to examine how the emerging intersex movement might use the law to advance its own goals.  Based on her unparalleled knowledge of the nuances and internal debates among intersex advocates, Greenberg provides a richly detailed and masterful account of the legal issues affecting intersex people, enlivened by a keen appreciation of the tensions and potential conflicts between legal advocacy for intersex and transgender people.” 

    —Shannon Minter, co-author of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Family Law

  • "A careful, concise, and accessible analysis of legal issues that bear on the lives of those born with atypical sex anatomies, and an essential guide for those who choose gender reassignment as adults. This will be an invaluable source not only for all those—children and adults with intersex conditions, transsexuals, and their advocates—who have a stake in these matters, but it will also be essential reading for those in the humanities and social sciences reckoning with the harms experienced by those whose bodies transgress sex and gender norms.”

    —Ellen Feder, author of Family Bonds: Genealogies of Race and Gender

  • "A much-needed summary of how the law is functioning (or not functioning) to protect a vulnerable group of citizens. Greenberg writes with sensitivity, addressing the legal issues faced by intersex people as they struggle for full citizenship and equal protection.” 

    —Anne Tamar-Mattis, Executive Director of Advocates for Informed Choice

  • “Greenberg has written a highly accessible book for both the general public and academia.  The writing style and her clear explanation of the theory are much needed in the literature on intersexuality.”

    —Shu-Ju (Ada) Cheng, American Journal of Sociology