Bodies In Doubt—Alex Poly

Elizabeth Reis highlighted the evolution of the medical field in “Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex.” Specifically, Reis focused on the term “intersex” (and/vs transgenderism) and what that meant throughout time. For example, intersex individuals were previously thought to be abnormal and were perceived in an extremely negative light. Therefore, physicians would quite literal mutilate their bodies to ensure a proper “marriage” in the future (89). These experimentations were absolutely disgusting in my opinion given the lack of agency the patients truly had. It is clear the understanding of sexuality compared to intersex was not very well known and treated with the same suspicion and disgust, given the reactions from physicians. Additionally, many people viewed intersex individuals as the way we view transgender people now. If they were deemed as a man and wanted to marry a man, for example, that would stick out and impact their treatment. Many of these experimental procedures would occur without the patient’s knowledge nor their parents at birth, when a physician would randomly choose based on outward appearance or what they thought worked, as a means to protect their “happiness” (86). This is absolutely disturbing and should have never been allowed, but it does provide insight into doctor’s thoughts at the time and their intentions. Intersex individuals were treated with disgust instead of embraced for who they were and given proper medicinal treatment which often directly contradicted this desire to secure their “happiness.”

The reason I enjoyed this novel as much as I did was primarily based on the ways in which I could relate to feeling alienated and not female or male enough. I am cisgender and label myself as a lesbian but I have never felt “female enough” as deemed by society. Even though I am pretty feminine presenting, that has still caused me to feel pretty isolated at times. I can seem not gay enough to others in the community or too gay by those outside it, which has been a rather unique experience as I have adjusted my dress overtime. This reminded me of Arresting Dress and how people had to change their behavior according to the environment they were in and who would accept them. Additionally, I related to the novel because of societal alienation. Even though many people I know are open and tolerant, society at large is not about homosexuality. I quite literally would’ve been killed in my home country if I ended up staying there and decided to be out. It’s wonderful that we have made so much progress regarding sexuality and/vs the intersex community throughout the 20th century to now, as mentioned, but it is still scary to think about how many people are impacted today across the world and how far we have to go.