York LGBT History Month Talk: How does public understanding of intersex matter?


Friday 7 February 2020, 2.00PM to 3.00pm

Speaker(s): Professor Peter Hegarty, University of Surrey

Early medical intervention on intersex traits, also called variable sex characteristics (VSC), happens for reasons that go beyond those demanded by medical emergencies. For generations, early surgical interventions have been justified by a psychosocial rationale which assumes that people whose natural traits are left as they are will face unbearable social stigma and shame. Yet, the psychological evidence for this assumption is systematically lacking in some areas, creating a hole in the argument that surgical intervention on VSC is truly a form of evidence-based medicine. Accordingly, I will review recent studies that examine public understanding of intersex/VSC, which allow us to better conceptualize (1) how ordinary members of the public without direct experience conceptualize intersex/VSC (2) which subgroups of the public are most likely to accept or reject the legitimacy of early intervention (2) and the important role of linguistic and conceptual framing in creating stigma and shame, both in everyday life and in high-stakes medical encounters.

Location: PS/B/020 (Psychology Building, University of York)