What happens when a baby is born with “ambiguous” genitalia or a combination of “male” and “female” 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 “too small” for a male sex assignment. Since the 1950s, standard treatment has involved determining aWhat happens when a baby is born with “ambiguous” genitalia or a combination of “male” and “female” 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 “too small” for a male sex assignment. Since the 1950s, standard treatment has involved determining a sex for these infants and performing surgery to normalize the infant’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 parents—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 “sex” 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....
|Title||:||Fixing Sex: Intersex, Medical Authority, and Lived Experience|
|Number of Pages||:||384 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Fixing Sex: Intersex, Medical Authority, and Lived Experience Reviews
For most parents, the first question asked after the birth of their child – “Is it a boy or a girl?" – is a straightforward one. For parents of children born with chromosomes, organs, and/or genitalia that do not fit neatly within the common conceptions of either maleness or femaleness, this seemingly simple question can become a source of extreme anxiety and mark the beginning of a long and complex journey filled with difficult decisions.In Fixing Sex, Katrina A. Karkazis draws on the experiences of doctors, intersex people, and parents of intersex people to take a critical look at the medical treatment of intersex infants - including sex assignment and genital surgery performed for cosmetic reasons – to match a child's outward appearance to that of a "normal" male or female. In incorporating the voices of not only medical professionals, but also the people whose lives have been affected in major ways by the results of medical decisions enacted on their or their children's bodies (and identities), Karkazis presents a more complete view of the topic than has been offered in the past.Karkazis draws attention to the staggering power of societal assumptions about sex, gender, and sexual identity. She discusses their influence on medical decisions, many of which have come to be seen as wrong (or at least deeply problematic) in retrospect. The sex/gender assignment of intersex infants is now understood to be a complex issue in which many factors (i.e., genetics, hormonal exposure in utero, and fertility) must be taken into account, but for years, the appearance and functionality of an individual's genitals was believed to be the most important factor. Therefore, sex assignments were determined by whether the infant's genitals appeared – or could most easily be surgically altered to appear – male or female. This practice, combined with the influential doctor John Money's assertion that nurture trumped nature, often led doctors to make surgically assign female genitals and to assume that in being raised as female, the individuals would come to fully identify as such. This turned out to not be the case.Doctors were making decisions based on the assumption that it would be far better for a child to grow up and be able to be "normal" (i.e., get married and have heterosexual intercourse) than to endure the psychological implications of having atypical genitals and not fitting squarely into the gender binary. In her interviews with intersex adults, Karkazis uncovers the psychological implications of having undergone genital surgery (which often includes several follow-up surgeries during childhood and even adolescence) and being treated as a medical oddity. In the end, decisions made in order to allow people to live "normal" lives created their own set of complications that have left many people feeling angry, violated, scarred, and anything but normal.Karkazis devotes a substantial portion of Fixing Sex to the intersex activist movement and the issues it has raised. These include critiques of the medical establishment's tendency to perform genital surgery on children (as opposed to waiting until the individual is old enough to decide), to treat intersex children as medical specimens in psychologically damaging ways, to deny families of intersex children the counseling and resources they need, and to adhere to rigid, heterosexist conceptions of male and female. Karkazis doesn't claim to offer any answers, but she brings the discussion up to date in a way no one else has yet, raising the difficult questions necessary to move the discourse on intersex issues forward.Review by Kiri Oliver
This wasn't in my list of books to read, but it came up when searching for other in regards to Intersex. I was surprise to find that this within the range of topics I was looking for. Fixing Sex takes a critical look at how we treat Intersex individuals and what influence our culture and society has on the medical arena. Karkazis did a great deal of research. Despite the side Karkazis takes, she provides a lot of details and research in her book. She focuses on the medical treatment of intersexed individuals and the response from doctors, parent and patients. What it comes down to, is what could be considered cosmetic surgery takes places on infants as if it's necessary. Is this ethical? Well Karkazis doesn't simply come out and say "No", but rather asks readers to consider all that goes into the making of gender and the decision for it. It becomes quite clear in her book that is not a simple matter. No one institution or people are made out to be the evil. There's conflict within every community.We are a culture that doesn't allow for there to be people who are not female or male. As we aim to be less restricted we still expect certain norms. It's quite bizarre to think tiny babies are having operations done to their genitalia for cosmetic appeal. It doesn't seem like such a drastic measure should be taken until the child has grown. When will relief come to this area of gender? In Karkazis book, as well as others I've read, it's clear that several gender movements have taken place and work off each other's steam. In more than one books it is pointed out that the feminist movement and the gay/lesbian movement has opened doors for other gender and sex issues. I've held the opinion that gender is mistaken and makes way too many unrelated connections between behavior, personality, socializing and norms. In my opinion, I suppose I would agree with those in the social sciences about this being a construct greatly determined by culture and history. In a somewhat crude comment a social scientist points out that the old will simply have to "die" for us to get anything done in this area.I agree that intersex conditions that pose no threat to a child's health shouldn't be "treated" until the child has a say in the treatment. It's a matter of being open minded and more honest with the children who are different. The biggest issue that stuck out to me was the fact that the children were so young when undergoing this surgery. It doesn't seem safe or right to make an infant undergo unnecessary surgery.I ended up thinking that the parents were the most... problematic. They were blamed as the people who made the decisions for their child, being uneducated and not protecting their children. At the same time, the doctors were noted as not always treating the intersex individuals as people and were the source for traumatic memories. As I said though, there isn't a bad guy in this book, there isn't someone to put all the blame on. If the blame is to go anywhere it is on society.The book itself seemed a little tedious in details. There was redundant information and some stuff was mentioned over and over. I understand that with a book with so much information that it's somewhat helpful to have the information re-addressed when it's talked about. I found myself needing that redundant information in a few instances. I kind of wonder if Karkazis covered too much, but then it wouldn't have been the same book or had the same amount of value if she hadn't taken if from many angles.
Thoroughly researched. Objectively critiqued. Well-written and highly (and properly) contextualized.Karkazis documents the competing structuring of identity politics of intersex-diagnosed individuals through multiple lenses, most significantly that of physicians. The voice of physicians/clinicians is easy to ignore or overlook, because many of them refuse to go on the record. However, Karkazis gives many of them a chance to voice their thoughts on past, current, and future reflections of sex diagnosis, gender identity politics, and the overall medicalization of human individuality.The book is highly academic and thoroughly researched. The author's approach digs into the cultural perceptions behind our supposed moral judgements at the core of treatment practices that may or may not be human, when properly interpreted. The conceit of the cure can be dangerous if there is nothing that truly needs to be cured.Many important topics are addressed, including: how sexual function is conceptualized by medicine; how technology gives clinicians more authority over the lived experience than the patient; the psycho-social care of an individual, and it's valuation, or lack thereof, in the midst of life-changing surgical practices; the routine medical decisions made to subvert female sexuality; social constructionist perspectives and how ambiguity predisposes or presumes difference; and the contradictions apparent, either by clinicians, parents of intersex children, or other individuals, who argue on the grounds of normative social policy, exaggerating social approval and ultimately regarding variation (somatic or otherwise) as an inadequate (and for some reason, dangerous) human existence. "Bodies are not only biological phenomena, but also complex social creations on to which meanings have been variously composed and imposed according to time and place."
This is a fabulous book that takes a critical look at the intersection of medical & authoritative discourse about gender, technology, even psychology with the experiences and interpretations of those with intersex diagnoses and their families. The book does drag at times, getting almost bogged down in details about medical diagnoses and procedures, but ultimately, this is because Karkazis covers so much ground and has do much to catch us up on. While the book is a fascinating treatment of gender, where it really shines is in the ways Karkazis highlights the more general critiques of biomedicine's approach to disease, including the separation of mind and body and the heavy reliance on rapidly changing (improving?) medical technologies.
Interesting examination of clinical approaches to intersexed individuals, as well as the experiences of parents and patients. I wish she had included more individual stories, but given that her goal was to produce an overview, she has given future researchers a great foundation to build on.
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