The Sociological Aspects of the Management of Intersexuality
In June 2013, the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union adopted guidelines to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by sexual minorities, including, for the first time, intersex persons, those who are born with chromosomal, hormonal, and/or anatomic variations, that do not fit the typical definitions of female and male. In March, again for the first time, the United Nations Special Report on Torture recommended the member States to avoid unnecessary surgical and pharmacological interventions often used to “normalize” primary and secondary sexual characteristics in intersex children. The present project aims to investigate, in a comparative and diachronic way with an interdisciplinary approach, the medical, juridical, and social practices adopted in the management of intersexuality in Europe (focusing on the Italian case, where a conspicuous intersex movement does not exist yet) and in the U.S. (the cradle of the intersex movement). The goals of the research are: to investigate the socio-cultural changes in commonly adopted intersex protocols over time and their significance for the social actors involved; to analyze the intersex people’s (those medicalized and not) points of view; to inquire into how feminist movements and GLBTQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) organizations, which focus on self-determination rights, deal with (or not) the intersex issue, and the links among them; to analyze the different strategies adopted by intersex associations, depending on their viewpoint (pathologizing or not); to identify the best practices vis-à-vis intersex issues in the U.S., Europe, and the rest of the world; to contribute to the debate on the power dynamics found within the gender binary structure, heteronormativity, and bioethics. The methodology is a combination of quantitative (using the few collective data available) and qualitative (in-depth interviews, autobiographical narratives, digital ethnography) sociological research.