When sociologist Georgiann Davis was a teenager, her doctors discovered that she possessed XY chromosomes, marking her as intersex. Rather than share this information with her, they withheld the diagnosis in order to “protect” the development of her gender identity; it was years before Davis would see her own medical records as an adult and learn the truth. Davis’ experience is not unusual. Many intersex people feel isolated from one another and violated by medical practices that support conventional notions of the male/female sex binary which have historically led to secrecy and shame about being intersex. Yet, the rise of intersex activism and visibility in the US has called into question the practice of classifying intersex as an abnormality, rather than as a mere biological variation. This shift in thinking has the potential to transform entrenched intersex medical treatment.
“Through piercing interviews and astute analysis, and in a readable style, Contesting Intersex gets at the heart of recent controversies about the medical management of intersex and perceptively tracks the political engagement of intersex activists.”
—Elizabeth Reis, author of Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex
“With refreshingly honest prose and an insider's insight, Georgiann Davis illuminates the ongoing, heated, and often painful debate about how best to respond to the naturally occurring diversity of sex development in human beings. This is groundbreaking work that is sure to become required reading for scholars of gender and the social history of medicine.”
—Sharon Preves, author of Intersex and Identity: The Contested Self
“Davis presents a compelling and beautifully-crafted text about the complex issues of gender and sexual identity. How medicine and diagnosis can either come in aid of, or brutally disrupt the experience of intersexuality is an important paradox, worthy of reflection and debate. With this book, Davis gets the ball rolling and demands our attention. It is well-worth the read.”
—Annemarie Jutel, author of Putting a Name to It: Diagnosis in Contemporary Society
“The histories of medicine, social movements, and gender productivity collide in sociologist Davis’s compelling account of how activists, parents, assorted medical specialists and institutions, and people with intersex traits respond to the diversity of human reproductive development...[T]his book will inspire and inform the wide readership it deserves.”
“Contesting Intersex is an unapologetic coalescence of Davis’ first-hand experiences of an intersex diagnosis and her academic inquiry into the topic. Whilst this, as she acknowledges, ‘may make the book read like an autoethnography at certain points,’ theory, politics and practice have never been discrete in intersex studies. Davis’s own history and current participation in the intersex community help her to provide a circumspect consideration of the tensions at play.”
—Sociology of Health & Illness
“Davis provides her readers with a concise overview of her research as well as lists calls to action. Davis’s strengths lie in the seamless blending of research, ethnography, interviews, and personal activism.”
—American Book Review
“Contesting Intersex is an essential update to studies of the intersex and a must-read for those interested in social movements, gender, medicalization, diagnosis, and the relationship between science and culture.”
—American Journal of Sociology
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