Literature about intersex

Intersex, in humans and other animals, describes variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals that, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies".[1][2]

Intersex people and themes appear in numerous books, comics and magazines. Morgan Holmes describes common representations of intersex people as monsters or ciphers for discussions about sex and gender,[3] while Phoebe Hart contrasts a small number of examples of well-rounded characters with the creation of "objects of ridicule".[4]


Intersex representations in fiction

Intersex people have been portrayed in literature as monsters,[3] murderers and medical dilemmas. Characters in award-winning literature include Cal Stephanides in the novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides[5] and Max Walker in the novel Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin.[6]

Morgan Holmes, Canadian sociologist and a former activist with the (now defunct) Intersex Society of North America, comments on constructions of intersex people as monsters or ciphers for discussions about sex and gender.[3] Holmes describes her weariness "of writers who had contacted me for a number of years during my intersex-activist days, trying to determine if their proposed ‘hermaphrodites’ could do things like impregnate or have sex with themselves", and how depictions of intersex people are "stalled", reifying "the proper place of traditional visions and modes of masculinity in opposition to femininity" or "beyond and outside the realm of gender altogether";[3] the character of Annabel/Wayne, in the Canadian novel Annabel by Kathleen Winter, provides an example of monstrous auto-impregnation, while science fiction representations of intersex may also reflect monstrous interpretations of a hermaphrodite.

Phoebe Hart describes a range of media representations, from a small number of examples of well-rounded characters such as Cal Stephanides in the novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides to the creation of "objects of ridicule".[4]


The list is organised by the author's surname.

The Queen's Tiara – Carl Jonas Love Almquist

The Queen's Tiara (Swedish: Drottningens juvelsmycke) is a classic Swedish novel by Carl Jonas Love Almquist about a beautiful androgyne, Tintomara.

The World Wreckers – Marion Zimmer Bradley

The World Wreckers is a 1971 science fiction novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley in her Darkover series. The book contains a complex sub-plot involving the sexual interactions between a hermaphrodite native species known as the chieri and humans.

The Vorkosigan Saga – Lois McMaster Bujold

The Vorkosigan Saga is a series of science fiction novels and short stories set in a common fictional universe by American author Lois McMaster Bujold. Many novels in the series contain an intersex character, Bel Thorne.

Rokitansky – Alice Darwin

The novel by Alice Darwin, published in 2014. The story is about three women with MRKH.

The Looming Fog – Rosemary Esehagu

The 2006 debut novel by the Nigerian writer, Rosemary Esehagu. The story follows the life of an intersex child as they struggle to live in a pre-colonial village in Nigeria that considers the anomaly an abomination.

Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex (2002) by Jeffrey Eugenides is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel narrated by an intersex character who discusses the societal experience of an intersex person.[7] The novel's interrelationship between intersex and incest gave the book a controversial reception from intersex commentators.

Hermaphrodeity – Alan H. Friedman

Hermaphrodeity by Alan H. Friedman was originally published in 1972 and has been republished many times again. Hermaphrodeity is a grand comedy of gender surprises. Millie, a hermaphrodite, must make a decision in the novel. Boy or girl—choose one. Millie or Willie.

The Ilario series – Mary Gentle

Mary Gentle used an intersex narrator in Ilario: The Lion's Eye and its sequel Ilario: The Stone Golem, published in 2007.

None of the Above – I. W. Gregorio

A homecoming queen and champion hurdler finds her life turned upside-down after a diagnosis with androgen insensitivity syndrome in None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio,[8] a young adult book published in 2015.

All You Zombies – Robert A. Heinlein

All You Zombies is a science fiction short story by Robert A. Heinlein, recently adapted in the movie Predestination.

The Hermaphrodite – Julia Ward Howe

The Hermaphrodite is an incomplete novel by Julia Ward Howe about Laurence, an intersex character raised as a male but whose underlying gender ambiguity often creates havoc in his life. It was probably written between 1846 and 1847.[9]

Raptor – Gary Jennings

Raptor is an historical novel by Gary Jennings set in the late fifth and early sixth centuries. It purports to be the memoirs of an Ostrogoth, Thorn.

Pantomime – Laura Lam

Laura Lam's young adult fantasy novel Pantomime and its sequel Shadowplay feature an intersex protagonist named Micah Grey.[10]

The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness is a multiple award-winning 1969 science fiction novel by Ursula K. Le Guin. Le Guin's introduction to the 1976 publication of the book identifies Left Hand of Darkness as a thought experiment to explore society without men or women, where individuals share the biological and emotional makeup of both genders.[11]

2313 - Kim Stanley Robinson

2313 is a science fiction novel written by Kim Stanley Robinson. It includes two lead characters, Swan Er Hong and Fitz Wahram, with intersex characteristics.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – Arundhati Roy

The novel by Indian writer Arundhati Roy, published in 2017. Roy's characters run the gamut of Indian society and include an intersex woman (hijra), a rebellious architect, and her landlord who is a supervisor in the intelligence service.

Golden Boy – Abigail Tarttelin

Abigail Tarttelin's 2013 novel Golden Boy is about an intersex teenager.[12] The book has won multiple awards, including a 2014 Alex Award, which recognize the book's appeal to young adult readers.[13]

Annabel – Kathleen Winter

Kathleen Winter's 2010 novel Annabel is a fictional account of an intersex person growing up in Labrador, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

Intersexion – P.D. Workman

P.D. Workman's 2016 novel Intersexion tells the story of Taylor, an intersex teen who is disowned by his family, living on the street, and battling abuse and prejudice.



Herculine Barbin – Herculine Barbin, Michel Foucault

Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-century French Hermaphrodite is a 1980 English-language translation of Herculine Barbin's nineteenth-century memoirs, which were originally written in French. The book contains an introduction by Michel Foucault. Foucault discovered Barbin's memoirs during his research about hermaphroditism for The History of Sexuality.[14]

Interdicciones – Mauro Cabral (editor)

Interdicciones. Escrituras de la intersexualidad en castellano (Interdictions. Writings on intersex in Spanish) is a 2009 collection of non-fiction, fiction, and poetry edited by Mauro Cabral.[15]

Contesting Intersex: The Dubious Diagnosis - Georgiann Davis

Contesting Intersex: The Dubious Diagnosis by Georgiann Davis examines the history of the U.S. intersex movement with a focus on the medicalization of intersex bodies and a contested shift in clinical language from intersex to "disorders of sex development".[16]

Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex - Alice Dreger (editor)

A collection of essays on intersex as a social phenomenon, living with intersex traits, and medical management.[2] The book was published in 1999 by University Publishing Group, Maryland and edited by Alice Domurat Dreger.

Galileo's Middle Finger - Alice Dreger

Galileo's Middle Finger is a 2015 book on the ethics of medical research by bioethicist and author Alice Dreger. The book recounts Dreger's activism against surgical "correction" of intersex individuals' genitalia and the use of prenatal hormone treatments. The book also reviews research on transsexualism and the treatment of the Yanomamo people.[17][18]

Sexing the Body – Anne Fauso-Sterling

Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality is a 2000 book by Brown University Professor of Biology and Gender Studies Anne Fausto-Sterling in which she explores the social construction of gender and the social and medical treatment of intersex people.

Human Rights between the Sexes – Dan Christian Ghattas

Human Rights between the Sexes is an analysis of the human rights of intersex people in twelve countries. It was written by Dan Christian Ghattas of IVIM (OII-Germany) and published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in October 2013.[19][20][21][22]

Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word) – Thea Hillman

Intersex author Thea Hillman's memoir Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word) was published by Manic D Press in 2008 and won a Lambda Literary Award.[23][24]

Critical Intersex – Morgan Holmes (editor)

Critical Intersex is a collection of essays on intersex issues, including theoretical and empirical research. Edited by intersex professor of sociology Morgan Holmes, Critical Intersex has been described as "an important book" (Anne Fausto-Sterling), "the "go to source" for a contemporary, international representation of intersex studies,"[25] making "contributions that are precise, plainly written and very illuminating... the detail is fascinating and somewhat unnerving... beautifully clear and compassionate" (Contemporary Sociology), and "an important collection" (Suzanne Kessler, State University of New York).[26][27]

Fixing Sex – Katrina Karkazis

Fixing Sex: Intersex, Medical Authority, and Lived Experience by Stanford anthropologist and bioethicist Katrina Karkazis was published in 2008. Described as "thoughtful", "meticulous", and an "authoritative treatise on intersex",[28] the book examines the perspectives of intersex people, their families, and clinicians to offer a compassionate look at the treatment of people born with atypical sex characteristics.

Born Both: An Intersex Life – Hida Viloria

An intimate memoir by Hida Viloria, a writer and intersex activist, a candid, provocative, and eye-opening perspective of life, love, and gender identity as an intact intersex person, as well as a call to action for justice for intersex people. The book was published in 2017 and is a Lambda Literary Award finalist.


Hermaphrodites with Attitude

The former Intersex Society of North America published the journal Hermaphrodites with Attitude between 1994 and 2005.


Dear Herculine – Aaron Apps

A 2015 hybrid/poetry collection by Aaron Apps won the 2014 Sawtooth Poetry Prize. The book recalls and interacts with portions of the memoirs of 19th Century French hermaphrodite Herculine Barbin.[29]

Intersex: A Memoir - Aaron Apps

A 2015 poetry collection and memoir by Aaron Apps explores gender and what happens when a body is normalized. A section of the book, Barbecue Catharsis, appeared in the 2014 edition of Best American Essays.[29]



The Japanese manga series I.S., first published in 2003, features intersex characters and how they deal with intersex-related issues and influence the lives of people around them. It was complimented by as "groundbreaking" and the "world's first serial comics based on the real lives of intersex people".[30]

Demon Knights

In 2012, the character Shining Knight was revealed as DC Comics's first intersex character in Demon Knights #14.[31]

See also


  1. "Free & Equal Campaign Fact Sheet: Intersex" (PDF). United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 2015. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  2. Domurat Dreger, Alice (2001). Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex. USA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-00189-3.
  3. Holmes, Morgan (August 16, 2007). "Cal/liope in Love: The 'Prescientific' Desires of an Apolitical 'Hermaphrodite'". Journal of Lesbian Studies. 11 (3–4): 223–232. doi:10.1300/J155v11n03_05. ISSN 1089-4160. PMID 17954458.
  4. Hart, Phoebe (June 2016). "Writing characters with intersex variations for television". Journal of Screenwriting. 7 (2): 207–223. doi:10.1386/josc.7.2.207_1. ISSN 1759-7137. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  5. Gilpin, Sam (September 28, 2003). "Paperback pick of the week: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides". The Times. London. Archived from the original on February 21, 2010. Retrieved February 15, 2010.
  6. Thornton, Jeanne (May 21, 2013). "Book Review: 'Golden Boy'". Austin Chronicle. Archived from the original on October 16, 2014.
  7. Eugenides, Jeffrey (2002). Middlesex. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-19969-2.
  8. Leary, Alaina (2015). "This Intersex Character Is Leading The Way In YA". Bust. Archived from the original on 2016-04-16. Retrieved 2016-05-26.
  9. Williams, ed., Gary; Julia Ward Howe (2004). The Hermaphrodite. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. p. x. ISBN 978-0803204270. Archived from the original on 2018-01-04.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  10. "5 Things Laura Lam Learned While Writing SHADOWPLAY and PANTOMIME". 2014-01-06. Archived from the original on 2014-11-05. Retrieved 2014-09-26.
  11. Reid, Suzanne Elizabeth (1997). Presenting Ursula Le Guin. New York: Twayne. ISBN 978-0805746099.
  12. Matt Phil Carver (2013-05-31). "Meet Max, 16, a Golden Boy and intersex". Gay Star News. Archived from the original on 2013-06-13. Retrieved 2013-07-05.
  13. "YALSA's Alex Awards. 2014 Winners". 2012-02-27. Archived from the original on 2014-03-26. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  14. Brown, Frederick (1980-10-09). "The Heroic Hermaphrodite". The New York Review of Books. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2010-05-07.
  15. Cabral, Mauro, ed. (February 2009). Interdicciones. Escrituras de la intersexualidad en castellano [Interdictions. Writings on intersex in Spanish] (PDF) (in Spanish). Mulabi, el Espacio Latinoamericano de Sexualidades y Derechos. ISBN 978-987-05-5898-9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-11-19.
  16. Davis, Georgiann (2015). Contesting Intersex: The Dubious Diagnosi. New York: NYU Press. ISBN 9781479887040. Archived from the original on 2016-09-29.
  17. Dreger, Alice Domurat (2015). Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science. New York: Penguin Press. p. 73. ISBN 9781594206085.
  18. Dobbs, David (April 17, 2015). "'Galileo's Middle Finger,' by Alice Dreger". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 21, 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-20.
  19. Ghattas, Dan Christian; Heinrich Böll Foundation (September 2013). "Human Rights Between the Sexes" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-09-23.
  20. "Dr. Dan Christian Ghattas". (in German). OII Germany. 8 January 2008. Archived from the original on 4 July 2015.
  21. "A preliminary study on the life situations of inter* individuals". OII Europe. 4 November 2013. Archived from the original on 4 July 2015.
  22. "Menschenrechte zwischen den Geschlechtern". (in German). Heinrich Böll Foundation. October 2013. Archived from the original on 2015-07-04.
  23. debi withers (2009-02-18). "Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word) – Reviews". The F-Word. Archived from the original on 2014-01-07. Retrieved 2013-07-05.
  24. Hillman, Thea (2008). Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word): Thea Hillman: 9781933149240: Books. ISBN 978-1933149240.
  25. Argentinian Film XXY with guest speaker Morgan Holmes Archived 2013-12-30 at the Wayback Machine, Rainbow Health Ontario, 2013.
  26. Critical Intersex Archived 2014-12-21 at the Wayback Machine, Ashgate Publishing, October 2009.
  27. Critical Intersex, review by Raewyn Connell Archived 2016-06-24 at the Wayback Machine, Contemporary Sociology, March 2011, vol 40, no. 2 194–195. DOI: 10.1177/0094306110396847dd.
  28. Katrina Karkazis, PhD, MPH Archived 2013-12-26 at the Wayback Machine, Stanford University School of Medicine Center for Biomedical Ethics, 2013
  29. Apps, Aaron (2015). Intersex: A Memoir. Tarpaulin Sky Press. ISBN 978-1-939460-04-2.
  30. "Intersex Initiative: News - Groundbreaking Japanese Comic Depicts Intersex". Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  31. Peeples, Jase (2012-11-16). "Week In Geek: DC Outs First Intersex Superhero, Minnie Mouse Works the Runway, and More". Archived from the original on 2013-05-12. Retrieved 2013-07-05.
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