Bodies in Doubt, by Professor Elisabeth Reis

If you’re interested in the history of intersex people’s treatment in the United States, look no further than Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex (John HopkinsPress, 2009), by intersex ally Professor Elisabeth Reis. The book provides an in-depth look at recorded intersex American history.

Dr.Reis, PhD., a Women’s and Gender Studies scholar and Historian at the University of Oregon, was one of the first American academics to oppose the pathologization of intersex people with the medical label, “Disorders of Sex Development (DSD).” In her paper, “Divergence or Disorder?:The Politics of Naming Intersex” (February 20017), Reis started that:

“I argue that using disorder is problematic, because it implies medical conditions in need of repair, when some intersex anatomies, though atypical, do not necessarily need surgical or hormonal correction. I advocate a less pathologizing new term, divergence of sex development, that might reduce some of the conflict over nomenclature and satisfy intersex people, their parents, and their doctors.”

Reis’s argument against labelling intersex a medical disorder has been widely adopted by both scholars and intersex advocates today, although Reis, like our founding director and others, was years ahead of popular thinking in the Untied States in doing so. We thank her for advocating that intersex people be treated and labeled as equal human beings!