Morgan Holmes

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

Morgan Holmes is a Canadian sociologist and a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario. She is also an intersex activist and writer, 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 with Max Beck and others 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.[4][5] The event is now commemorated internationally as Intersex Awareness Day.[6][7] She participated in the second International Intersex Forum in 2012.[8]


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.[9]


Holmes is widely published, including:

  • "Re-membering a Queer Body" (1994), which 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 be 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.)

  • "Rethinking the Meaning and Management of Intersexuality" (2002), which argues that the surgical normalization of intersex infants is neither enhancement nor treatment.
  • "Locating Third Sexes" (2004), in which 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".

  • "Distracted Attentions: Intersexuality and Human Rights Protections" (2005), discusses the conceptualization of an intersex birth as an emergency, the existence of which can negate a requirement for informed consent.
  • "Mind the Gaps: Intersex and (Re-productive) Spaces in Disability Studies and Bioethics" (June 2008), 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.
  • Intersex: A Perilous Difference (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'." 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."[10]
  • Holmes edited Critical Intersex (2009), a collection of essays on intersex issues, including theoretical and empirical research. The book has been described as "an important book" (Anne Fausto-Sterling), "the 'go to source' for a contemporary, international representation of intersex studies,"[8] 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).[11]
  • "The Intersex Enchiridion: Naming and Knowledge in the Clinic" (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."
  • "When Max Beck and Morgan Holmes went to Boston", an account of the participation by Holmes in the first public demonstration by intersex people, on October 26, 1996, an event that led to the establishment of Intersex Awareness Day[4]

Selected bibliography[edit]


Journals and articles[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Holmes, Morgan (May 1996). "Is Growing up in Silence Better Than Growing up Different?". Chrysalis Special Issue on Intersexuality. Intersex Society of North America. 
  2. ^ Kopun, Francine (April 30, 2010). "Neither male nor female: The secret life of intersex people". Toronto Star. 
  3. ^ Dreger, Alice Domurat (2009). Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex. Harvard University Press. p. 254. ISBN 9780674034334. 
  4. ^ a b Holmes, Morgan (17 October 2015). "When Max Beck and Morgan Holmes went to Boston". Intersex Day. Retrieved 2015-10-24. 
  5. ^ "Hermaphrodites with Attitude Take to the Streets". Intersex Society of North America. October 1996. 
  6. ^ Driver, Betsy (14 October 2015). "The origins of Intersex Awareness Day". Intersex Day. Retrieved 2015-10-24. 
  7. ^ "The 14 days of intersex". Star Observer. Retrieved 11 October 2012. 
  8. ^ a b "Argentinian Film XXY with guest speaker Morgan Holmes". Rainbow Health Ontario. 2013. 
  9. ^ Dr. Morgan Holmes, Laurier Faculty of Arts
  10. ^ Teixeira, Robert (October 25, 2009). "Book review: Intersex by Morgan Holmes". Daily Xtra. 
  11. ^ Connell, Raewyn (March 2011). "Critical Intersex, review". Contemporary Sociology. 40 (2): 194–195. doi:10.1177/0094306110396847dd. Retrieved 2014-12-27.