Morgan Holmes

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Morgan Holmes
Nationality Canadian
Occupation Professor of sociology
Known for Intersex activist, author, educator

Morgan Holmes is a professor of sociology at Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario. She is also an intersex activist and author, and former member of Intersex Society of North America.

Early life[edit]

Holmes underwent a clitorectomy, described as a "clitoral recession", at age 7, at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. This surgery was undertaken because her clitoris "could become erect", and the surgery has affected her life ever since, including repeated pelvic exams, adolescent sexual experiences, fear of intimacy, and feelings of difference and embarrassment. Holmes describes how clinician "promises of sexual normalcy are not being met" by surgical intervention.[1][2]

Holmes refers to herself as "still intersexual" after medical intervention.[3]


A member of the (now defunct) Intersex Society of North America, Holmes participated in the first North American demonstration about intersex issues, a 1996 demonstration as Hermaphrodites with Attitude outside the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Boston. The event is now commemorated internationally as Intersex Awareness Day.[4][5] She participated in the second International Intersex Forum in 2012.[6]


Holmes is widely published, including:

"Re-membering a Queer Body", in UnderCurrents, May 1994, describes how surgery on intersex infants is undertaken to make bodies conform to heterosexual norms: "when a genetically male child (XY) is considered incapable of achieving 'normal' heterosexual activity as a male, he will be reassigned as female even though the micropenis would be functional ... if one is born with a vagina, the appropriate sexual activity will he as receptor and not penetrator. Thus, when a body which has been designated female (either through chromosome testing or anatomical standards) possesses a phallus, the surgical procedure remains roughly the same as that for treating the micropenis: remove the phalloclit in a process of either partial or total clitorectomy."[7]

"Rethinking the Meaning and Management of Intersexuality" in the journal Sexualities, in 2002, which argues that the surgical normalization of intersex infants is neither "enhancement" nor "treatment".[8]

"Locating Third Sexes" in Transformations journal, 2004. Holmes "argues that much of the existing work on cultural systems that incorporate a 'third sex' portray simplistic visions in which societies with more than two sex/gender categories are cast as superior to those that divide the world into just two. I argue that to understand whether a system is more or less oppressive than another we have to understand how it treats its various members, not only its 'thirds'."[9]

"Distracted Attentions: Intersexuality and Human Rights Protections" (2005) in the Cardozo Journal of Law & Gender, discusses the conceptualization of an intersex birth as an emergency, the existence of which can negate a requirement for informed consent.[10]

"Mind the Gaps: Intersex and (Re-productive) Spaces in Disability Studies and Bioethics" in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry argues that, while clinicians presume that "intersex characteristics are inherently disabling to social viability", recognition of the personhood of the intersex child necessitates refraining from "aggressive interference". The research notes trends to selectively terminate intersex fetuses.[11]

Intersex: A Perilous Difference, published by Susquehanna University Press in 2008. The "book argues that we have a duty to understand the stakes in volved in the conflation of what is supposedly "natural" with what is statistically "normal", and of what is "normal" with what is "healthy".[12] Holmes reviews medical literature and popular culture to examine how society constructs monstrosity. She "singles out" the novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, "and episodes of The X-Files for constructing intersex characters whose lives essentially reproduce the social fascination with the monstrous and the deviant."[13]

Holmes edited Critical Intersex, a collection of essays on intersex issues, including theoretical and empirical research published in 2009. Critical Intersex has been described as "an important book" (Anne Fausto-Sterling), "the "go to source" for a contemporary, international representation of intersex studies,"[6] 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).[14][15]

"The Intersex Enchiridion: Naming and Knowledge in the Clinic" in Somatechnics, Vol. 1(2): 87-114 (2011) argues that the replacement of the word 'intersex' with Disorders of sex development in clinical settings "reinstitutionalises clinical power to delineate and silence those marked by the diagnosis" and "that this silencing is precisely the point of the new terminology."[16]

Academic interests[edit]

Holmes is a professor of sociology at Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario, where she describes her academic interests as sexuality and queer theory, feminist thought; qualitative health research and law related to sexuality and health. Holmes has also extended her interest in intersex issues to other forms of bodily diversity, including disability.[17]


  1. ^ Is Growing up in Silence Better Than Growing up Different?, Intersex Society of North America, May 1996
  2. ^ Neither male nor female: The secret life of intersex people, Toronto Star, April 30, 2010.
  3. ^ Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, Alice Dreger, Harvard University Press, March 2000.
  4. ^ Hermaphrodites with Attitude Take to the Streets, Intersex Society of North America, October 1996
  5. ^ "The 14 days of intersex". Star Observer. Retrieved 11 October 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Argentinian Film XXY with guest speaker Morgan Holmes, Rainbow Health Ontario, 2013.
  7. ^ Holmes, Morgan (May 1994). "Re-membering a Queer Body". Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Ontario. pp. 11–130. 
  8. ^ Holmes, Morgan (2002-05-01). "Rethinking the Meaning and Management of Intersexuality". Sexualities 5 (2): 159–180. doi:10.1177/1363460702005002002. ISSN 1363-4607. Retrieved 2014-10-22. 
  9. ^ Holmes, Morgan (July 2004). "Locating Third Sexes". Transformations Journal. Regions of Sexuality (8). ISSN 1444-3775. 
  10. ^ Holmes, Morgan (2005). "Distracted Attentions: Intersexuality and Human Rights Protections". Cardozo Journal of Law & Gender 12: 127–133. 
  11. ^ Holmes, Morgan (June 2008). "Mind the Gaps: Intersex and (Re-productive) Spaces in Disability Studies and Bioethics". Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 5 (2-3): 169–181. doi:10.1007/s11673-007-9073-2. ISSN 1176-7529. Retrieved 2014-10-22. 
  12. ^ Holmes, Morgan (2008). Intersex: A Perilous Difference. Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania: Susquehanna University Press. ISBN 978-1575911175. 
  13. ^ Book review: Intersex by Morgan Holmes, Robert Teixeira in Daily Xtra, October 25, 2009.
  14. ^ Holmes, Morgan, ed. (October 2009). Critical Intersex. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 9780754673118. Retrieved 2014-12-27. 
  15. ^ Connell, Raewyn (March 2011). "Critical Intersex, review". Contemporary Sociology 40 (2): 194–195. doi:10.1177/0094306110396847dd. Retrieved 2014-12-27. 
  16. ^ Holmes, Morgan (September 2011). "The Intersex Enchiridion: Naming and Knowledge". Somatechnics 1 (2): 388–411. doi:10.3366/soma.2011.0026. ISSN 2044-0138. Retrieved 2014-10-22. 
  17. ^ Dr. Morgan Holmes, Laurier Faculty of Arts