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Fixing Sex: Intersex, Medical Authority, and Lived Experience


Fixing Sex: Intersex, Medical Authority, and Lived Experience Cover

ISBN13: 9780822343189
ISBN10: 0822343185
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Synopses & Reviews

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What happens when a baby is born with andldquo;ambiguousandrdquo; genitalia or a combination of andldquo;maleandrdquo; and andldquo;femaleandrdquo; body parts? Clinicians and parents in these situations are confronted with complicated questions such as whether a girl can have XY chromosomes, or whether some penises are andldquo;too smallandrdquo; for a male sex assignment. Since the 1950s, standard treatment has involved determining a sex for these infants and performing surgery to normalize the infantandrsquo;s genitalia. Over the past decade intersex advocates have mounted unprecedented challenges to treatment, offering alternative perspectives about the meaning and appropriate medical response to intersexuality and driving the field of those who treat intersex conditions into a deep crisis. Katrina Karkazis offers a nuanced, compassionate picture of these charged issues in Fixing Sex, the first book to examine contemporary controversies over the medical management of intersexuality in the United States from the multiple perspectives of those most intimately involved.

Drawing extensively on interviews with adults with intersex conditions, parents, and physicians, Karkazis moves beyond the heated rhetoric to reveal the complex reality of how intersexuality is understood, treated, and experienced today. As she unravels the historical, technological, social, and political forces that have culminated in debates surrounding intersexuality, Karkazis exposes the contentious disagreements among theorists, physicians, intersex adults, activists, and parentsandmdash;and all that those debates imply about gender and the changing landscape of intersex management. She argues that by viewing intersexuality exclusively through a narrow medical lens we avoid much more difficult questions. Do gender atypical bodies require treatment? Should physicians intervene to control the andldquo;sexandrdquo; of the body? As this illuminating book reveals, debates over treatment for intersexuality force reassessment of the seemingly natural connections between gender, biology, and the body.


A history about infants that are born intersex--with a combination of "male" and "female" chromosomal, gonadal, and genital characteristics--and how these cases are managed and treated within the United States from 1955 to the present.

About the Author

“I couldn’t put Fixing Sex down once I started it! Masterfully balancing all aspects of one of the most polarizing, contentious topics in medicine, this thoughtful book is destined to become the most recent authoritative treatise on intersex. Non-medical persons will find it easily digestible, yet it is a ‘must-read’ for every pediatrician and pediatric subspecialist caring for children with disorders of sex development.”—Kenneth C. Copeland, M.D., Jonas Professor of Pediatrics, University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, and former President of the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society
“The cultural rules of gender are complex, and they are never more tested than in the case of intersex. Fixing Sex is a huge addition to the field, encompassing as it does the views of clinicians, patients, parents, and others. The topic is intrinsically interesting, but Katrina Karkazis’s wonderful writing makes this a compelling story and a great read.”—Abraham Verghese, M.D., author of The Tennis Partner and Senior Associate Chair for the Theory and Practice of Medicine, Stanford University
“This book is a velvet-gloved punch to the gut. Fixing Sex is astonishing, a tale told straight from the mouths of affected adults, parents, and physicians in tender and lyrical prose. It resonated deeply with my memories of motherhood in the disorders of sex development community. But the chapters devoted to clinicians made me weep. A physician myself, I remember my disbelief as the worlds of intersex and medicine collided in my own family. An extraordinary book for a wide audience, it is a huge step toward reconciliation and spiritual healing for its protagonists.”—Arlene B. Baratz, M.D., family and medical consultant, Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome Support Group and Accord Alliance
“This meticulous, sensitive, and brilliantly executed book will transform our knowledge of intersexuality, gender, and the ethnographic study of medical practice.”—Gayle Rubin, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan
“With her fascinating field data, Katrina Karkazis exposes the contentious disagreements among theoreticians, physicians, intersex adults, and parents—and all that those debates imply about the changing landscape of gender and intersex management.”—Suzanne J. Kessler, author of Lessons from the Intersexed

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

Part 1. What is Intersexuality? History and Theory

1. Taxonomies of Intersexuality to the 1950s 31

2. Complicating Sex, Routinizing Intervention: The Development of the Traditional Treatment Paradigm 47

3. From Socialization to Hardwire: Challenges to the Traditional Treatment Paradigm 63

Part 2. Making Decisions For and About a Baby with an Intersex Diagnosis

4. Boy or Girl? Bodies of Mixed Evidence and Gender Assignment 89

5. Fixing Sex: Surgery and the Production of Normative Sexuality 133

Part 3. Living the Medicalized Body

6. Waning and Deciding What is Best: Parents' Experiences 179

7. Growing Up under the Medical Gaze 216

8. The Intersex Body in the World: Activism and Social and Medical Change 236

Notes 291

References 321

Index 343

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Andita, August 6, 2012 (view all comments by Andita)
This book is not only an excellent investigation of the medical treatment of people who are intersexed/DSD, but an essential illumination of our culture's beliefs about gender and the "fact" of anatomical sex. It is sensitively and compassionately written, and as a clinician, I find it to be personally moving and professionally crucial. An excellent contribution.
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Product Details

Karkazis, Katrina
Duke University Press
Gender identity
Anthropology - Cultural
Gender Studies
Health and Medicine-Medical Specialties
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
1 table
9.25 x 6.13 in

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Medical Specialties
History and Social Science » Anthropology » Cultural Anthropology
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » General
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » Transgender
History and Social Science » World History » General

Fixing Sex: Intersex, Medical Authority, and Lived Experience New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$28.95 In Stock
Product details 384 pages Duke University Press - English 9780822343189 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
A history about infants that are born intersex--with a combination of "male" and "female" chromosomal, gonadal, and genital characteristics--and how these cases are managed and treated within the United States from 1955 to the present.
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