Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 117-133

First online:

Where “Sex” Is Born(e): Intersexed Births and the Social Urgency of Heterosexuality

  • Roger AdkinsAffiliated withCultural Studies in Gender, Sexuality, and the Body, University of Oregon

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Our beloved “genders” of the present moment are neither universal nor trans-historical presences in the world. The specific gender order which we employ today is the legacy of a particular cultural and political history, and there is still a great deal at stake in preserving it. As a graduate student I stumbled upon the topic of intersexuality a few years ago and found myself enthralled with its implications. Continuing to present itself inspite of all our scientific knowledge about the supposed immutability of “female” and “male,” intersexuality disrupts the gender order. The response to this disruption has been swift and terrible: from the intersexed infants who enter “our” world everyday are carved (literally and figuratively) supposedly “normal” boys and girls (mostly girls). The following exposition represents a pre-fieldwork (theoretical) stage in my current research and attempts to demonstrate that medical authorities manage intersex “cases” as they do in order to stabilize the always precarious institution of heterosexuality.