Bodies in Doubt blog post

Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex by Elizabeth Reis explores the history of intersexuality from the Colonial era up to today. The author examines how different factors such as language can effect the true meaning of intersexuality. Reis explained in the 18th century, intersex patients were seen not-normal. On page 89, “Doctors were of two minds regarding hermaphrodites and marriage. They generally wanted to ensure that their patients’ bodies were properly equipped for heterosexual penetration should they indeed marry” as well as “Though they may have preferred that hermaphrodites not wed, doctors were surprised to find that many did, sometimes as the ‘wrong sex’… Thus, in the minds of many physicians who accepted the gonadal definition of sex, a person who fit that description was really male, not female”. The second quote stood out to me because of how they identified it as being the “wrong” sex.


One of the parts of the book I found interesting was on page 109, when Reis talked about people profiting off being categorized as intersex. “Some people used their intersex condition to their advantage, displaying their unusual bodies to make money. Francis Benton, a self-termed hermaphrodite, billed himself as ‘Male and Female in One: One Body- Two People’.” This reminded me of Arresting Dress in a sense that it relates to dressing in Drag in a way. Being able to profit off of an uncommon way to dress or being intersex, was a way for people who weren’t “normal” or who didn’t conform to social pressure and social norms was a way for them to feel comfortable and be themselves.