Intersex Shaming in the Media

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How Intersex is understood and percieved by wider society is inexorably influenced by how it is presented in the media, in print, and even more so via electronic media.

It is vanishingly rare for intersex advocates to be given a platform to voice the concerns surrounding intersex human rights.  More often than not it is other people who jostle to speak on our behalf.

Talking about us, without us.

There has been a flurry of articles recently that this organisation will not give credence to, but have gained traction, for it’s association with one of the monstrous figures of 20th century history and the implication he may have been intersex.

Portraying intersex as monstrous,  invalid people unable to fully function in society, has been a subtext to justifying surgical and hormonal interventions toward people born intersex for nearly 70 years.  It is a narrative borne of prejudice and ignorance, and one the press repeatedly, and gleefully fall on to sensationalise and stigmatise intersex embodiment. Perpetuating a negative portrayal of intersex, and associating it with the monstrous is a mechanism of power that ensures the diminishment and invalidating of intersex people to one of circus freaks.

The journalist Gary Younge, giving the James Cameron Lecture, very eloquently illustrated exactly how disconnected the media is from the issues and people it supposedly reports, but more realistically offers a subtext commentary that reinforces the status quo.


So news values are not an objective account of the most important things that have happened in any given time and place. They are the sum total of the priorities and received wisdom of those who provide the news.


Gary Younge was speaking about how national media utilises journalism,  the inherent biases that journalists bring to social issues, and who benefits from that.

“The fact that sections of the public don’t want to know about certain kinds of repetitive suffering does not make the fact that the media does not report on it less problematic.

For how can we expect legislative action about issues that are not discussed or which are only discussed in certain ways.”


The manner in which intersex human rights issues are presented in the media negatively influences the opportunities to challenge the current orthodoxies.  Orthodoxies that were first adopted in 1950’s America at the height of the McCarthy-era paranoia, and maintained by a medical authority that continues to hold a hegemonic grip on the decisions made for and about intersex infants and young childen.