Diagnosing Sex: Intersex Surgery and 'Sex Change' in Britain 1930-1955

Sexualities. 2018 Mar;21(3):476-495. doi: 10.1177/1363460717740339. Epub 2018 Jan 17.


The medical 'management' of individuals with atypical sex characteristics, or intersex variations, has been under scrutiny since the beginnings of intersex activism in the 1990s. This article explores a history of intersex surgeries in Britain and the interaction with medical and popular discourses around 'sex-change' between 1930 and 1955. A focus on this period in Britain helps to critically elaborate on debates in intersex scholarship; provides historical context for the introduction of approaches and protocols based on John Money and colleagues' work in the USA in the mid-century; and analyses a long history of tension and intersection between trans and intersex experiences, treatments, politics and popular representations that continue into the present.

Keywords: history; intersex; medicine; surgery; trans.