This essay critiques the practice of childhood genital surgery for intersex/disorders of sex development. The essay draws on the sociology of perception and poststructuralist theory (in particular Jacques Lacan) to analyze the subject position offered by surgery as a function of the impersonal gaze that precedes subjectivity. Even though early surgery appears to be justified on the basis that children have an innate need to see sexual difference in order to identify as female or male, this argument in favor of surgery collapses when we recognize that sexual difference is not a thing that can be seen by any individual but a spacing between bodies that is apparent only to the gaze. The essay suggests additionally that intersex studies can collaborate with trans* studies to interrogate medicalization and consider sexual difference as multidimensional rather than binary.

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