On sex (including intersex) and gender (including “gender dysphoria”)

This page provides links to some of what I’ve written and edited with regard to sex and gender This page doesn’t link all of my work on these topics--just the ones I would recommend as a starter. If you're interested instead in reading about human sexual orientation and erotic practices, click here. If you're interested in sex- and gender-testing in sports, click here.

 

Important material on sex anatomy:

  • For a primer on why you can’t be born “with both sets of genitals,” go here.
  • For an illustration of genital development, go here
  • For an illustration of natural human genital variation, go here

 

Intersex and differences of sex development (DSDs):

“Intersex” and “DSDs” are terms used to talk about when a person is born with a sex anatomy that (someone has decided) isn’t standard for males or females. Intersex involves anatomic sex anomalies, i.e., atypical sex chromosomes and/or gonads and/or sex parts. It isn’t primarily about gender identity (so it isn’t the same as transgender). Look down the page for material specifically on gender.

For what care for children with DSDs ought to look like now, see:

For ethical critiques of the traditional treatment for DSDs, see:

On the history of intersex and of intersex activism, see:

On terminology issues, see:

 

On gender:

Even though intersex is primarily about biological sex (parts) and not about gender (self and social identity), if you work on intersex and you’re a feminist (as I do and I am), you end up talking about gender. If you’d like to see what I’ve written about what sex and gender have to do with each other, check out my essay, Sex Beyond the Karyotype and my insanely popular blog, The Social Construction of Sex and Me. If you’re interested in intersex-related issues of gender specifically, look towards the top of this page for resources.

Pacific Standard reprinted my essay on why it's time the government stopped deciding our genders for us.

For Bioethics Forum, I’ve also written a popular little piece about why routine neonatal male circumcision is silly (Proof that I LIke Penises), and a piece about why doctors ought to get out of the business of adjudicating gender identity (Really Changing Sex).

I’ve also written some advice to parents whose children who are said to have “gender identity disorder.” Read about that article and a follow-up to that here. And I’ve written an essay arguing why and how “gender identity disorder” should be removed from the DSM.

By the way, teens with DSDs or who are transgender will find comfort and understanding in Lisa Lees wonderful young-adult novels, Fool for Love and A Queer Circle of Friends. They feature main characters who are intersex and trans.