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Changing Attitudes about Hermaphrodites over Time Over time, the impossibility and unclear definition of a hermaphrodite has led doctors to identify hermaphrodites.

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Presentation on theme: "Changing Attitudes about Hermaphrodites over Time Over time, the impossibility and unclear definition of a hermaphrodite has led doctors to identify hermaphrodites."— Presentation transcript:

1 Changing Attitudes about Hermaphrodites over Time Over time, the impossibility and unclear definition of a hermaphrodite has led doctors to identify hermaphrodites as a mistaken sex The strict binary sex system that has been followed for centuries has forced intersex and transgendered individuals to blend in Our view of hermaphrodites has been influenced by centuries of inferences and generalized ideas of sexuality Images from Aristotles Master Piece, a manual of sex and pregnancy

2 Timeline of Changing Attitudes 1684 – Aristotles Master- Piece described hermaphroditic creatures in the same text as other monsters because, an outward deformity of the body is a sign of the pollution of the heart, (Reis, 418) – Aristotle also blamed the clitoris for mistaken cases of hermaphrodites 1741 – A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry into the Nature of Hermaphrodites by James Parsons outlined the standards regulations for how a hermaphrodite could choose male or female as a sex and a criteria for marriage 18 th century – Early Americans placed hermaphrodites in a broader category of monstrous births, a catchall that included all kinds of birth abnormalities – These monstrous births were seen as signs from God – A mothers impure thoughts or impressions were also seen to cause a birth anomaly 1786 – Writers such as Dr. Alexander Hamilton and Nicolas Culpeper, gave little attention to the clitoris; Rendering the clitoris insignificant posed a problem for women with a larger or noticeable clitoris when identifying their sex

3 1819 – Parsons definition of a perfect hermaphrodite made it impossible to allow for someone born with genitalia that was not exactly half male and half female to avoid surgery due to doctors stern recommendations – In the age of gonads, French and English doctors first identified a criteria for identifying a true hermaphrodite 19 th century – With the advent of scientific medicine, a greater effort was directed at determining true sex of hermaphrodites 19 th and 20 th century –In contrast to today, the role of surgery then was to confirm a hermaphrodite diagnosis rather than to change or reinforce the binary sex of male or female 1950s – Physicians understood the scientific importnace of chromosomes and hormones, but they elevated external genitals to the single most important criteria for sex identification

4 1950s and 1960s – The optimal gender policy, proposed that all infants are gender neutral at birth and that their gender development occurs by interaction with the environment, processes that rely on the appearance of genitalia, (Creighton, 569) Mid-twentieth century – it was discovered that ones gender identity was malleable until eighteen months of age. – Once their bodies were surgically shaped to appropriate typical male or (usually) female figures, the children would develop personalities happily matched to their assigned sex, (Reis, 414). October 26, 1996 – The ISNA first demonstrated at the annual meeting of American Academy of Pediatrics of Boston – Intersex individuals are also taking a closer look at the limits of our language and request that they are identified as intersex, (Turner, 469) Today – Intersex activists recommend raising ambiguously gendered children on a best guess basis and barring surgical intervention until the child is old enough to best identify with one gender, the child should choose the binary criteria Creighton, S.M. and L.M. Liao. Changing attitudes to sex assignment in intersex." BJU International, 93 (2004): Reis, Elizabeth. Impossible Hermaphrodites: Intersex in America, " The Journal of American History. September 2005: Turner, Stephanie, Intersex Identities: Locating New Intersections of Sex and Gender, Purdue University,


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