Secrecy and Disclosure: The Politics of Containment

Geertje Mak

in Doubting Sex

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780719086908
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702628 | DOI:
Secrecy and Disclosure: The Politics of Containment

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter seeks to take seriously the fact that the initial response in cases of hermaphroditism was not to disclose the sexual body to a physician in order to have it examined objectively. The cases of Anna Barbara Meier, Finon D. and Elisabetha Holzheid are first discussed. All of them had to reach the ages of 49, 72 and 77 respectively before their sex was physically checked by a doctor. It is shown that cases of doubtful sex often were ignored, even if the ambiguity was publicly observable. There was clearly a generally supported restraint in physically exposing a (female) body to a (male) physician. The reasons for disclosure in cases where lay people were aware of irregularities concerning someone's genitals or sexual function and (eventually) decided to consult a doctor are elaborated. Doubts about someone's sex not only involved the person concerned, but the entire community surrounding this person.

Keywords: hermaphroditism; Anna Barbara Meier; Finon D; Elisabetha Holzheid; doubtful sex; disclosure; secrecy

Chapter.  11598 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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