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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:

Thus, in the case of intersex children, parents once readily acceded with doctors’ recommendations for treatment not only because they accepted the authority of the doctors but also because they shared the doctors’ views on normalcy, which reflected those of society generally. This kind of power seen at work in the parents’ decision Carolyn Dean calls “monstrous precisely because it can no longer be anchored, located, or contained; it now infuses, occupies, and produces everything” (280). A diffuse set of forces affects the parents. As Foucault argues, it is within the subject, whether it be the parent, the doctor, or the intersex child, that power can best be observed. In the History of Sexuality, Volume I, Foucault asserts that “modern societies” have not “governed sexuality through law and sovereignty” (90). Rather, they have relied on certain technologies, such as medicine, pedagogy, psychiatry, demography, media, and now, he might have said, even the Internet. The technologies provide concepts and norms for regulation that people absorb, engage with, and disseminate as subjects, because of and in reaction to power. These technologies make possible the construction of sex, just as they make possible the construction of personal identity.

But they also make possible the construction of alternative rhetoric that counters such truths. Judith Butler argues that gender is, like so many things, a discursive construct “performatively produced” (Gender Trouble 24). This means that if gender is performatively constructed, then any transgressions against normal gender, such as stories that run counter to official stories and truths, provide a rhetorical mechanism for changing discourses about gender and sex. In other words, because gender is continuously instantiated through individual performances of it, alternative performances, such as those told online, arguably have the potential to shift our concepts of gender and identity.