The Management of Intersexuality in Biomedicine
Approach: the Incorporation of Sexual Dimorphism
Intersexuality challenges one of the most solid principles of Western epistemology: sexual dimorphism. This raises interesting questions which involve the nature/culture debate, calling into question dichotomies like man/ woman or sex/gender. The ethnographic research conducted at the Regina Margherita Hospital in Turin emphasizes a contradiction: biomedicine intervenes systematically to correct what appears to be a “fact of nature”. From a biomedical perspective, the body that is characterized by “ambiguous” genitals represents an “emergency”, since it would potentially lead to an ambiguous development of all the other levels. Adapting intersex genitals to the norm would limit the spread of their ambiguity and allow for the development of a “stable” gender identity and sexual orientation, conforming to the heterosexual standard. Far from positively affecting the health of the intersex, the clinical management, through sex assignment, hormonal therapy and surgery, is one of the devises through which “normal” men and women are incorporated and the heterosexual matrix reproduced.