Dividing The Sexes


2015032420150329 (RS)

When a new baby is born, one of the first things we ask is "Is it a boy or a girl?" but not everybody has the standard type of male or female anatomy. Some people are born with intersex conditions: variations in terms of their sex anatomy, that can mean that they have mixes of organs of male and female or subtle genetic differences in sex chromosomes. It can cover a range of different conditions. In the past when gender roles were so strict, being a man or a woman could determine so much - your rights, what you could inherit, whether you could vote, what professions were open to you, so the birth of a baby for whom that crucial question couldn't be answered immediately caused great anxiety, and determined efforts to tick the right box. This wasn't always so great for the baby when they reached puberty and grew into a young person - because sometimes mistakes were made which needed to be corrected. Novelist Louise Welsh looks at how Scots law and medicine tried to answer the question 'What makes a man, a man or makes a woman, a woman?' and uncovers the stories of the people who were caught in society's obsession for dividing the sexes.