Intersexuality: On Secret Bodies and Secrecy

Limor Meoded-Danon, Niza Yanay

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The article problematizes the treatment of intersex as a secret within the medical and family systems. Under the biosocial assumption that the "intersexual" body is pathological and requiring immediate surgical and hormonal regulation, intersex individuals are made to undergo a process of transforsexation, that is, the violent production of a normative masculinity or femininity by means of invasive clinical practices. In this process absolute secrecy serves as a central factor for the success of normalization. We argue that not only does "the secret" of intersex bodies become an active factor in the normalization of sex but also paradoxically it is counteracted by the body, which does not "speak" the language of "the secret" and continues to reproduce new forms of intersex combinations in response to ongoing medical intervention. Our analysis is based on case histories told by 6 mothers of intersex children and by 11 intersex adults, stories in which secrecy has been an essential theme in the process of transforsexation imposed by doctors and followed by the parents. Secrecy, even more than the surgery itself, was, in the experience of intersex adults, a great cause of confusion, anger, mistrust, and criticism. Because of secrecy, intersex children are thus deprived of a language to name their experience or interpret the sense of their body.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-72
Number of pages16
JournalStudies in Gender and Sexuality
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies


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