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Postcolonial genealogy of intersexuality. Influence of US and Spanish scientific theories in the Colombian medical practices and discourses about intersexuality in the second half of twentieth century

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Intersex Genealogy (Postcolonial genealogy of intersexuality. Influence of US and Spanish scientific theories in the Colombian medical practices and discourses about intersexuality in the second half of twentieth century)

Reporting period: 2016-09-12 to 2018-09-11

The concept of gender has been useful for feminism in order to propose cultural and social struggles outside biological disputes about the supposed anatomical differences between men and women. Nevertheless, the separation between sex and gender works also as a liberal argument for medical intervention in the case of newborns with genital diversity. This means that, while the concept of gender has allowed feminists to problematize assigned roles and the unequal distribution of social labors, it has also consolidated an epistemic frame that was used by scientists in the 1950s to reinforce the heteronormative order. Looking forward to contribute to the construction of a genealogy of history of intersexuality in Colombia, and analyzing the circulation of knowledge between USA, Spain and Colombia, three scientists were chosen as clue of this research: respectively, John Money (1921-2006), Gregorio Marañón y Posadillo (1887-1960) and Francisco Gnecco Mozzo (1904-1973), who evidenced the tensions between global and local conceptualization of intersexuality as a disease. Besides their scientific affinities and historical connections, this research evidence their need to perpetuate liberal and conservative orders compelled them to construct epistemological strategies to medically represent normalized and binary sexed bodies.
The influence of Gregorio Marañón y Posadillo was crucial in the first half of 20th century to bring medicalization of infancy up. Francisco Gnecco Mozzo’s medical discourses evidenced his discussions with Marañón’s theories, after his studies at the Pathology Institute conducted by Gregorio Marañón in the Provincial Hospital of Madrid (1932), problematized both the Colombian medical representation of sexed bodies, and Marañón’s theories, in which some of the widespread positions based on. Additionally, from his studies new local ways of understanding sexuality and intersexuality were evidenced. In the middle of the same century, when the transition of the French medical epistemic model was been changed for the liberal North American one, the influenced of John Money’s research team of the John Hopkins Hospital has been established in Colombian medical praxis and discourses. Besides the analysis of John Money and his research team’s theories, Bernardo Ochoa Arismendy (1926 - 2016) was interviewed as a Money’s ideas promoter. The perspectives that this project results suggest to tackle the historical conceptualization of intersexuality as a disease are manly three: the relationships between liberal ideologies and the gender concept used in medicine, the institutionalization and professionalization of some medical specialties as pediatrics and obstetrics and, the conceptualization of the infancy as a new biological and social entity that have to be medicalized.
Concerning the history of intersexuality, one of the methodological problems that arose is the search of primary sources. The same process of infancy medicalization and the pathologization of intersexuality in Colombia has been evidenced in the absence of references to intersexual individual during the beginning of the 20th century. Nevertheless, in general journals of medicine, and in the ones of specialties like pediatrics or obstetrics, is evident an increasing interest for subjects related to children sexuality, childcare (puericultura), prenatal “sex predetermination” and “sex diagnostic”, circumcision, amenorrhea, homosexuality, sexual precocity as well as feminine or masculine genital “pathologies” such as cryptorchidism and hypospadias, among others. These matters allow to evidence determinant categories to construct the normal parameters used by Colombian physicians when they needed to delimitate the meaning of being a woman or a man since the birth. Having into account some merges of categories as degeneration with sexual precocity and normal or abnormal behavior of children, hormonal treatments to the children behavior, or endocrinology and homosexuality, 136 articles of the 355 recovered between 1900 and 1980 in Colombian medical journals. In addition, among the 355 publications recovered, 25 were specifically about intersexuality. They could be classified by the medical category associated to each case, such as: Pseudohermaphroditism, Genitals malformations, Intersexuality, Pituitary Failure, Hermaphroditism, Adrenogenital syndrome, Turner, Congenital adrenal hyperplasia, True hermaphroditism, Gynecomastia and Testicular feminization. Finally, the results achieve were communicated in sixteen national and international conferences, five articles were redacted and the courses imparted by the researcher has been feed by the findings.
More than going in depth into the controversy about intersex label, with this project we would like to propose that concepts of the individual, utopia and freedom (but also concepts like gender, sex, body, and child), used by hegemonic medicine, feminism and intersex movements, have been defined from liberal and conservative ideology; and, unless we change the fundamental ideology upon which those concepts are based, we cannot build a mundo-otro [another-world]. Medicine and biology, understood as social constructions which are not neutral, universal, or even objective, have constructed meanings riddled with ideological and philosophical standing-points. These modern positions, in general, reinforce a hierarchical, patriarchal status quo and, for this reason, are discriminatory and violent. Therefore, one of the duties of feminist historians of sciences has been to unveil these ideological positions in order to be able to imagine, and make sciences and technologies consonant with, a more inclusive and diverse geopolitical order. Through the historical analysis of the uses of words we can understand the flying lines proposed by different social groups in order to manage bodies and sexualities in response to the control apparatus. However, even if these diverse ways of understanding and living transform people’s daily lives, as they become visible they also become appropriated by the hegemonic order and perpetuate hierarchies.
Evidentially, the most significant impact of this project is the historical understanding of pathologization of intersexuality that influence the legal and medical praxis around people who is born with genital diversity. We expect continuing the dissemination of the results achieved and working to publish further analysis of the resources recovered. Particularly, in the Colombian context the academic analysis of intersexuality and sex and gendered bodies has reached the Constitutional Court and has influenced the sentences that now rule in favor of freedom and dignity of intersex newborns and children. Even though, this is the case in the Colombian context, the medical community not always respects the new social and legal guidelines. Therefore with this kind of projects and the results achieved we expect to contribute with the knowledge democratization and empowerment of intersex individuals how are using and challenged hegemonic knowledge to produce new bodies representations.
Arbitrary scientific parameters to normativized bodies