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Doubting SexInscriptions, Bodies and Selves in Nineteenth-century Hermaphrodite Case Histories$
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Geertje Mak

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780719086908

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719086908.001.0001

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Secrecy and Disclosure: The Politics of Containment

Secrecy and Disclosure: The Politics of Containment

(p.19) 1 Secrecy and Disclosure: The Politics of Containment
Doubting Sex

Geertje Mak

Manchester University Press

This chapter seeks to take seriously the fact that the initial response in cases of hermaphroditism was not to disclose the sexual body to a physician in order to have it examined objectively. The cases of Anna Barbara Meier, Finon D. and Elisabetha Holzheid are first discussed. All of them had to reach the ages of 49, 72 and 77 respectively before their sex was physically checked by a doctor. It is shown that cases of doubtful sex often were ignored, even if the ambiguity was publicly observable. There was clearly a generally supported restraint in physically exposing a (female) body to a (male) physician. The reasons for disclosure in cases where lay people were aware of irregularities concerning someone's genitals or sexual function and (eventually) decided to consult a doctor are elaborated. Doubts about someone's sex not only involved the person concerned, but the entire community surrounding this person.

Keywords:   hermaphroditism, Anna Barbara Meier, Finon D, Elisabetha Holzheid, doubtful sex, disclosure, secrecy

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