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Online Intersex Communities: Virtual Neighborhoods of Support and Activism By Brian ...

Chapter 1:  Introduction
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Online Intersex Communities:

To conduct a rhetorical analysis, then, is to conduct an analysis of the culture, of the discourse, that surrounds the words, the norms, the systems that shape, in this case, past medical practice that brought about a rise in intersex activism, and a resulting alternative rhetoric that has served to modify perception and practice of the treatment of intersexuality. Rhetorical analysis, therefore, is not just an amusing dance with words. Rhetoric is representative of and contributor to a complex, dynamic discourse of values, truths, and rules. A study of the rhetoric produced online by intersex communities, in response to a particular rhetoric espoused for some time regarding the treatment of intersexuality, enables us to take a different approach from previous criticism to comprehending the medicalization of intersexuality as well as the forces at play that have shaped productive resistance to it.

There are many examples of rhetoric at work as producer and product of the medical discourse surrounding intersexuality. Let’s explore one briefly to show just how much intersexuality is a cultural or rhetorical construct. Read first Gayle’s story, told online at the Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome’s support group Web site:

My daughter was born by C-Section. The gynecologist told us that we had a beautiful baby girl. Then she was taken by the pediatrician and was checked out. At that time I knew that something was wrong. It seemed to go quiet and people were gathering around her. I had been worried during my pregnancy because I had to take medication for my asthma, and one of the side effects of one of the medications, was that babies could be born with a cleft palate. So I thought that our baby had a cleft palate. The pediatrician then came over and told us that he wasn’t sure if we had a boy or girl and that arrangements needed to be made to transfer the baby about seventy miles away to a hospital in Philadelphia.