INTERSEXion of Queer Bodies and Biomedical Practice: a lecture


A group of 25 individuals gathered in Peeler Auditorium Wednesday to listen to INTERSEXtion of Queer Bodies and Biomedical Practice.
Hilary Malatino, a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University in Bloomington Ind., gave the lecture. She began by giving the best definition she could find of what an intersex individual is: "'Intersex' is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male." Malatino took the definition from what is formerly known as the Intersex Society of North America.
Malatino said one in 2,000 babies are born intersex, although she also has heard of odds as high as one in 1,000.
"We all have a gender identity," Malatino said. "The concept was used to make sense of intersex issues."
John Money, a twentieth century psychologist, coined the term gender identity. He used it differently than Malatino though.
"Money used the term when the gender couldn't be determined using biology," Malatino said.
Malatino told the crowd that in the early to middle twentieth century if an infant's sex wasn't apparent using what she called a "Phall-O-Meter," doctor's performed surgery, which would determine the sex of the child, and the parents would raise their child accordingly. Any genitalia measuring between .9 centimeters and 1 centimeter meant the child would get assigned as a female; below .9 centimeters a girl, and above one centimeter a male.
"If someone was born with ambiguous genitalia they had to be altered with the gender they parents are raising them," Malatino said.
Malatino did not agree with all of Money's work, but acknowledged that the phrase "gender identity" transformed into a helpful term in contemporary times.
"The gendering process is never fully up to us," Malatino said. "[We] just have to navigate it the best we can."
Malatino said she believes there are other ways to identify an individuals' gender other than genitalia, or the gonads, like was practiced in the past.
"Gonads are no longer seen as the be all and end all truth," Malatino said.
Junior Annelise Delcambre, a LGBT services intern, believes having speakers like Malatino come to campus will help raise awareness of transgender and intersex issues on campus.
"In the [acronym] LGBT in some circles now there is the Q [for queer]," Delcambre said. "And in some circles they include the I [for intersex]."
Last year DePauw Student Government passed a white paper calling for gender neutral bathrooms in all new facilities. For Vivie Nguyen, the coordinator of LGBT services, bringing in speakers educating students about gender issues remains a small step in the process.
Nguyen hopes having speakers come to campus will spur conversation in classes and the community.
"We will start small with talks, and over time [the community] will be more accepting," Nguyen said.
Malatino believes the way sexual identity gets treated needs to become the same for gender identity.
'We need to grant fluidity to gender," Malatino said, "but also to sex."