An introduction to «Sanctioned Sexualities: The Medical Treatment of Intersex Bodies and Voices»

This text is based on, and has evolved from a communication given by Janik Bastien Charlebois on the panel «Sanctioned sexualities» at the ILGA International World Congress that took place in Mexico between October the 27th and 31th, 2014.

Entitled «The Medical Treatment of intersex bodies and voices», it introduces the readers to the medical treatment intersex people are subjected to, encompassing not only bodily management of minors and information related to them, but also reaction to adults speaking up and being critical of their protocols. Since many people are unfamiliar with what intersex means and what issues we face, this text slowly spirals up in depth and details. It stands halfway between academic text and essay so as to be in line with conversations that are taking place on political levels.

It sheds light on power dynamics between the medical institution and intersex people, thus helping LGBTQ activists better frame solidarity work. Intersex has frequently been instrumentalized if not colonized by various activists and academics, which has contributed to isolation and oppression of intersex people. Better understanding the structural and institutional mechanisms actively producing oppression and human rights violations of intersex people constitutes a stepping stone on which successful strategies for change can be built. It can also help potential allies grasp, respect, and honor many intersex activists’ great reluctance in adopting negotiation strategies with the medical establishment, preferring instead to adopt the human rights and legislative routes.

This text also is the product of a dedicated effort to make intersex scholars and activist’s voices more visible, many sources quoted throughout being their works and reflections. Moreover, it opens a breach in English-speaking domination of academia and international activism, which increasingly ignores sources produced in other languages. It thus includes Spanish, French and German sources, although English remains over-represented and much that has been produced in other languages remain to be valued. Intersex activism is international, and knowledge sharing between linguistic spheres and nations can only deepen our reflections and hone our critical and political tools.

Click here to download the full text of The Medical Treatment of intersex bodies and voices

The Author:

Janik Bastien Charlebois is regular professor at the Sociology Department of UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal/Québec University in Montréal). She is co-researcher for the partnership research group «Testimonial Cultures», as well as a member of the Chair of Research on Homophobia (UQAM), and the Feminist research and studies institute (IREF). She was recently visiting scholar at the Centre for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies of Humboldt University, Berlin, during the summers of 2014 and 2015. She leads a participatory-based research on the Emergence of Intersex Voices. Openly intersex, she also is politically involved in intersex activism, taking part as an OII-francophonie member to the ILGA-supported Second and Third International Intersex fora in Stockholm (2012) and Malta (2013).

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