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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal WerkstattGeschichte
Volume (Issue) 29(84)
Page(s) 83 - 98
Title of proceedings WerkstattGeschichte
DOI 10.14361/zwg-2021-840207


AbstractIn the second half of the twentieth century, the Zurich Children’s Hospital (Kispi) developed into an internationally renowned treatment center for »intersexuality.« Children with ambiguous body-sexual characteristics were given there a clearly male or female identification by means of surgical interventions and/or hormone therapies. This study examines the question of how medical and family communication shaped the (narrated) experience of »intersex« treatments. Our analysis is based on nine oral history interviews with former Kispi patients. We show that communication in connection with the treatments was semi-tabooing and directive. We discuss the mode of communication in its social and medical-historical conditions (tabooing of the clitoris and »intersex,« paternalistic relationship between doctors and patients, concealment of »intersex« diagnoses as a doctrine), examine its biographical effects (ignorance of one’s own body, feelings of shame, stigmatization) and address individual processing strategies (breaking taboos, acquisition of knowledge).