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Title: Diagnosing sex : stories of intersex, relationships & identity
Author: Jones, Charlotte
ISNI:       0000 0004 6056 7391
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis provides necessary insight into the stories of people with atypical sex development or intersex characteristics. It is one of the first sociological studies of its kind to take the UK as its only geographical focus, and therefore makes a valuable contribution to exploring the social understandings of intersex and its medical care provisions in a local context. In light of the contested pathologisation of these sex traits, this thesis pursues a greater understanding of participants’ own accounts of the bodies, experiences and identities under question. The study uses a two-tiered qualitative process of solicited diaries followed by in-depth interviews with nine participants. Starting with the broad themes of social relationships and identities, this research places an original focus on how feelings of loneliness are experienced, anticipated and understood by participants, as well as the framing of (in)authenticity in participants’ approaches to sex classification, their engagement in and attitudes towards sexual activity, and their understandings of parenthood and experiences of infertility. My research indicates that participants’ understandings of their diagnoses are framed by notions of an idealised or ‘normal’ future. Normative expectations, including certain ways of being and life course milestones, are proffered as socially valuable at the expense of their alternatives. In some cases, this has led participants to feel an absence of control, and a sense that their lives or bodies are failing, unworthy or inconceivable. I show how the potential for stigmatisation and ostracism imposes a requirement to ‘pass’ as binary sex. Feelings of difference and deviance can lead people with atypical sex characteristics to feel like they do not ‘fit’ or ‘belong’; that – despite their relationships – they are alone. These conclusions offer insight into how social and medical support can be improved, and provide valuable contributions to intersex scholarship, reproduction studies and broader sociological debates on personal, political and institutional relationships.
Supervisor: Reed, Kate ; Jenkins, Richard Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available