Classification: News

11 December 1997


Rolling Stone addresses intersex controversy

The current issue of Rolling Stone contains an extensive article on
"John/Joan" and its implications for the treatment of intersexuals. In
1967, doctors at Johns Hopkins turned "John/Joan," the victim of a

circumcision accident, into a girl. For 25 years, the case has been
cited as proof that gender identity could be manufactured by physicians,
and thus as justification for using surgical convenience as a criterion
for assigning sex in infants born with ambiguous genitalia.

In fact, the experiment was a dismal failure, and today medical specialists
finds themselves embroiled in controversy, with their theoretical foundations
undermined and under pressure from intersex activists demanding an end
to a model of treatment which views intersexuality as shameful.

The article "has already garnered from subscribers (who get early issues)
the best, and most gratifyingly outraged, email of any story the magazine
has ever published," notes author John Colapinto. The journalist plans
to produce a book length treatment of the strange saga of the twentieth
century's enthusiasm for medicalizing ambiguous sex.

Colapinto, John. 1997. The True Story of John/Joan. Rolling Stone,

December, 54-73 + 92-96. illustrated.