Introduction to intersex studies

The peer-reviewed journal Culture, Health and Sexuality has published a co-authored paper that introduces a special issue on intersex studies, and the interdisciplinary field of intersex studies.
Page last reviewed 2 April 2021

Culture, Health and Sexuality journal
The peer-reviewed journal Culture, Health and Sexuality has published the final article in a series for a special issue on intersex. The latest article is authored by the editorial team, including myself.

The article gives an overview of the ten papers in the special issue, presenting a diverse range of perspectives. It also aims to introduce the interdisciplinary field of intersex studies to a wider audience.

The paper makes a clear call for intersex-led and co-produced knowledge in intersex studies by intersex and endosex people. It is available open access.

Intersex has been a topic of much discussion in courses on sex and gender in the academy. Much of this discourse has centred on the nature of intersex and how far it challenges the categories of sex and gender. As Emi Koyama and Lisa Weasel pointed out in 2002, this form of academic appropriation risks diverting attention from important social justice issues towards trivial or reductive theorising about social construction. Academic enquiries into the oppression of people with intersex variations may only sometimes be helpful in bringing hegemonic forces of body normativity, prejudice and sex/gender norms into question. Some scholarship on intersex has attempted to include the experiences of intersex people to a greater extent. This research has been empirical (for instance Kessler 1998; Preves 2003; Karkazis 2008; Davis 2015; 2015a; Monro, Crocetti and Yeadon-Lee 2019; Crocetti et al. 2020), autoethnographic or informed by personal experience (Holmes 2009; Morland 2009; Davis 2015; Rubin 2017; Carpenter 2018, 2020; Malatino 2019) and archival (Griffiths 2018; Dreger 1998). Rather than focusing on what intersex people are, this growing body of work has examined the challenges that intersex people face, which include systematic oppression, discrimination and human rights violations (Ghattas 2013; FRA 2015; Carpenter 2016; Crocetti et al. 2020). The emerging field of interdisciplinary intersex studies, therefore, can be characterised by the co-constitution of knowledge with the individuals and communities it seeks to study, as intersex activists (both academics and non-academics) are important authors in the field. This special issue of Culture, Health & Sexuality brings together some of this work and introduces interdisciplinary intersex studies to a wider audience. This editorial provides an overview of intersex issues, paying homage to the activists and academics who have forged the development of this field.

I also wrote one of the papers in the special issue, on the subject of the Yogyakarta Principles plus 10, and a need to address intersex human rights through specific language and not via a framework on sexual orientation and gender identity.

I’d like to thank all the members of the editorial team for this fantastic project, and especially Surya Monro for instigating it at the 2018 intersex studies conference in Bologna, Italy. This was such a great opportunity to work with some highly respected researchers.

Suggested citation: Monro, Surya, Morgan Carpenter, Daniela Crocetti, Georgiann Davis, Fae Garland, David Griffiths, Peter Hegarty, Mitchell Travis, Mauro Cabral Grinspan, and Peter Aggleton. 2021. ‘Intersex: Cultural and Social Perspectives’. Culture, Health & Sexuality. 1–12. doi:10.1080/13691058.2021.1899529.