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What do the public understand about intersex and its medicalization?

IPSY Seminar

Friday November 22nd 11 am

What do the public understand about intersex and its medicalization?

Peter Hegarty, University of Surrey

Intersex also called “variable sex characteristics” and “disorders of sex development” refers to physical characteristics that are different from normative definitions of male and female bodies. Early medical interventions on such characteristics are ongoing and increasingly critiqued as infringing human rights around the world. Whilst such interventions have, for decades, been justified on the grounds that they avoid what would otherwise be unbearable stigma, this form of stigma has been virtually ignored by social psychologists. Accordingly, the questions of how ordinary members of the public conceptualize intersex and whether or not they support early medicalization has remained under-researched. Drawing together research from focus groups, surveys, and experiments conducted in the UK, USA and Scandanavia, I will argue that public understanding of intersex is constructed through analogies to more familiar experiences, that sexual identity is an important predictor of opinions about medicalization, and that laypeople sometimes underestimate the difficulties of constructing one’s intersex characteristics as the grounds for an intersex social identity.

Invited by: Annalisa Casini

UCLouvain, IPSY, Place Cardinal Mercier 10, B-1348, Louvain-la-Neuve
Room E241