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Intersex Politics in Europe: Activism, the State, and Medical Authority

Gender
Human Rights
Social Movements
Identity
Mobilisation
Political Activism
State Power
LGBTQI
P059
David Paternotte
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Gijs Hablous
Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen
David Paternotte
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Cynthia Kraus
University of Lausanne

Building: Faculty of Social Science, Floor: Ground Floor, Room: FDV-10

Wednesday 11:00 - 12:30 (06/07/2022)


Abstract

Intersex politics occurs at the intersection of activism, human rights, healthcare, medicine, and the state. In the last two decades, European intersex activists have put intersex issues firmly on the international agenda. The United Nations (UN), the Council of Europe, the European Agency for Fundamental Rights have all made statements and written reports on the human rights situation of intersex people. Oftentimes, these international human rights bodies directly target states. Dozens of UN reprimands, calling upon states to prohibit non-consensual unnecessary medical interventions such as normalizing genital surgeries performed on intersex babies, have been published in the last ten years. Although in some countries significant progress has been made when it comes to changes in state policies regarding intersex issues, most states continue to medicalize intersex and deflect responsibility for human rights issues associated with non-consensual medical interventions. These states place responsibility for what they frame as a medical matter in the hands of clinicians, who claim that their practices have changed and are still changing. Yet evidence for this supposed clinical shift is lacking, which raises questions about the effectiveness of activism in the face of medical authority. The papers in this panel all address questions concerning the political dynamics outlined above. Why is it that intersex movements have been more successful in confronting states – sometimes leading to tangible policy changes – than they have been in causing a shift in medical practice? Based on evidence from Germany, Angelika von Wahl argues that private medical authority and public state authority work according to different logics, resulting in different political opportunity structures for social movements. While having been largely unsuccessful in transforming clinical practice, German intersex movements have had a profound impact on state policies by avoiding opportunity hoarding and by building transnational alliances with women’s and LGBTQ movements. Audrey Aegerter zooms in on such transnational alliances, and asks how transnational organizing has impacted local (national) intersex movements in Belgium and Germany differently. Drawing on observational data from within a DSD clinic in the Netherlands, Gijs Hablous shows how healthcare practitioners use human rights frames performatively and rely on their status as experts, masking the lack of actual change in their work. Just as Von Wahl’s paper, this article sheds light on the ways in which medical authority escapes democratic scrutiny. Staying within the medical domain, Martin Gramc dives into medical and psychological academic literature on multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) in intersex healthcare. They show that (often implicit) cis- and heteronormative values inform practitioners’ understandings of sex and gender, resulting in negative personal and political consequences for intersex individuals. The proposed panel contributes to the growing interdisciplinary field of intersex studies, with a clear focus on politics and power. It sheds light on the complexities and intricacies of state power and medical authority relating to intersex issues, and the more or less successful activist interventions into both.

Title Details
Does Transnational Intersex Activism Trickle Down into the Clinic? Assessing the Presence and Use of Human Rights Discourse and Framing in DSD healthcare in the Netherlands View Paper Details
Gender as Projection: The Politics of Decision Making in Multidisciplinary Teams in Intersex Care View Paper Details
From the I to the we : the development of an intersex political subjectivity View Paper Details