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Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the Myth of Two Sexes

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  102 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
“On October 10, 1970, the day she was born, she was named Dorothy Maree Alaniz--a baby girl. Curiously, though, no one filled out a birth certificate that day. When the certificate was finally filed on November 5, the name on it was Rudolph Andrew Alaniz. Within less than one month after her birth, this girl became a boy.”



Every year in the United States, more than two thou
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Hardcover, 208 pages
Published July 1st 2009 by Chicago Review Press
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(showing 1-30 of 411)
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Audacia Ray
If you've never thought beyond the concept of "opposite sexes" this is a really great primer. If you're a gender and sexuality nerd like me, you won't learn a whole lot of brand new stuff from this book.

Callahan spends a lot of time debunking the myth of the two sexes - there's slightly more in the book about that than there is about disorders of sexual development or intersex. If you're looking for a really in-depth read that focuses on intersex, this isn't that book. But if you're looking for
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Bogi Takács
(Warning that I will discuss suicide, just like the book does)

In my experience, this is THE book on the shelves of American public libraries about intersex variations, so I finally gave in and read it - not because anything in it would be new to me, but to see what kind of conceptions are promulgated and what someone new to the topic might find. Can I give this book to people and save the effort of educating them?

It...... wasn't a very good experience, and I won't be giving this book to anyone.

T
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Liz
Sep 05, 2010 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"sex is not an either/or proposition, switching between two poles like an onn/off switch on a radio. rather, sex is like the bass & treble knobs on that radio."
Jukka
Sep 04, 2009 Jukka added it
Between XX and XY - Gerald Callahan

We read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides in book club. What defines a person's gender? This book details a range of 'intersex' gender that is far wider and more common than is usually understood.

The book is an interesting mix by turns of biology, history, human behavior, medical and surgical text, personal history, animal behavior, cultural anthropology, medical ethics and opinion, all in one compact package. This is a good reference source, clear as an introduct
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Myth
Nov 18, 2009 Myth rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, research
This is a short read and I did learn some new things from this book. For a long time I've had a sort of fascination with (and doubt about) "gender" and that's grown since I was a child.

I don't remember how long it's been, but at some point I also became fascinated with hermaphrodites. Even though I've learned of the reality of hermaphrodites, human and otherwise, I understood it more as a sort of symbolism that was free of the confines of man or woman. I know my fascination with hermaphrodites
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Shana
Sep 26, 2012 Shana rated it it was ok
As an aspiring sex therapist, it is really important for me to be aware of the many issues people face with their sexual identities and identifications. I immediately appreciated Callahan’s tone as he described this “myth” that we are all born either male or female. This is so obviously untrue, but as a society we have worked hard to maintain this image, and because of this, many people have suffered.

I honestly had no idea that intersexuality was as common as it is. I also never knew that there
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Mandrew
Feb 15, 2014 Mandrew rated it liked it
This book successfully accomplishes its desired goal, which is basically to convey the complexity of biological sex. It explains different genetic origins which lead to offspring of ambiguous sex, and the problems with how modern medicine/society acts in the face of this ambiguity. I previously felt that I had no knowledge about trans issues, but I now feel that I have enough knowledge to state my arguments with confidence. Definitely worthwhile to anyone who's curious on this topic.
Bryan
Aug 13, 2014 Bryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and well written. This should be required reading for all medical practitioners, and many people who know an intersex individual would do well to read this too. Written at a level that lay people should have no problem understanding, but with enough information to provide an excellent introduction for human biology and genetics students.
Ben Nash
This somewhat recent book gives a good overview of intersexuality, especially given its short length. Well, let me qualify that by saying I'm a cis-male who had nearly no prior knowledge of the topic.

Of course, it suffers in places. For example, most of the real life examples fall under the umbrella of the "tragic trans" narrative. Still, they provide understanding, hope, and sometimes horror at way some people can so completely dehumanize others.

An early chapter on human development struck me a
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Ann
Aug 20, 2009 Ann rated it liked it
I want to give this more stars - it is a very readable, very interesting introduction to many forms of intersex conditions. Unfortunately, some of the scientific information is incorrect and/or poorly written throughout. For someone who is interested in learning about intersex conditions, and won't likely remember every scientific detail, this would be a good book. I wanted it to be great, as I really wanted to use it in a class I teach. Unfortunately, the factual errors will prevent me from ass ...more
Flexanimous
Mar 25, 2014 Flexanimous rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Very interesting. I would have liked more information, more examples, but then I guess part of his point is that there just isn't as much information out there on intersex people as there should be.
Diane
Sep 21, 2009 Diane rated it it was amazing
This book really opened my eyes to the amazing genetic and physical diversity that exists in the human sexes . There were also interesting chapters on how other cultures perceive the sexes and how intersex people feel about their own situations. The book is very clearly written and not overly technical. I gave it five stars because this is an area I knew very little about and I came away from this book thinking, "Wow!" I don't think anyone could read this and not be amazed at how little is openl ...more
Bev Kangas
May 14, 2014 Bev Kangas rated it really liked it
Very interesting, extremely detailed. Not for the faint of heart to read, although there are some stories of people which are very insightful and often sad.
Amanda
Sep 16, 2009 Amanda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, science
I loved this book. It was very interesting to not only read about different variations of sex chromosomes in people, but to read first-hand accounts from people with these variations. Seeing how these people were affected by decisions made for them by surgeons and parents and how these decisions shaped their lives physically and mentally was very eye-opening.

I also enjoyed reading about other cultures and how they view intersex people compared to our culture. The sections on the role of sex in
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Peter Owens
Jul 28, 2014 Peter Owens rated it liked it
Somewhat dry, but the inclusion of personal stories brings to life the complex nature of gender and sexuality discussed.
Vzenari
May 18, 2016 Vzenari rated it liked it
This is a good, though middle-brow, overview of sex variation among humans.
NaomiRuth
Apr 03, 2015 NaomiRuth rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fict, art
Fascinating. So glad to know these stories.
Mel
Mar 30, 2016 Mel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: for-class
Students LOVED this book- everyone should read this...if you think that there are only 2 sexes out there and everyone fits into one or the other...
You'd be surprised to know that intersex conditions are more common than colorblindness, more common than cystic fibrosis...they're just talked about much less often. This book discusses both the biological and psychological factors involved in the 'making of gender' and addresses why our society has such a hard time with anomalies. Great read!
Jonathan Scotese
I have mixed feelings about this book.

At times the author acts like you've never had a single biology class in high school, and that you believe obvious metaphors and hyperbole about the sexes as literal truth. He plays along with what "you" believe before explaining why "you" are wrong.

Once it got to things I did not already know, the authors presumption of my total ignorance was nowhere near as grating and his information and explanations were interesting and informative.
Sally
Aug 02, 2009 Sally rated it liked it
An informative, positive primer on intersexuality. After a historical survey of Western ideas toward the two sexes since the ancient Greeks, it gives the causes, common responses to, and results of many conditions of ambiguous sexuality, drawing also of interviews which personalize the subject. As a pathologist, the author explains the medical and genetic material very clearly. There are also some examples of the ways different cultures have dealt with intersexual people.
Michelle
As an overview of intersex biological conditions and possible treatments/surveys, Between XX and XY does the job, but it's nothing that you couldn't otherwise glean from similar sources. The tone of the book really turned me off, though - it was a bit too sensational, and hammered the 'fluidity of the sexes' point too hard and amateurishly (even though he's clearly right that a binary sex system is an illusion).
Grace Borsoi
Jun 13, 2015 Grace Borsoi rated it it was ok
even though it was written in 2009, this book is a bit outdated. our understanding of the interplay between sex and gender has changed since then. this book equates gender with sex in many ways. it's also interesting in that while the book is making a case for sex as a continuum instead of a binary, it still somehow attempts to fit its subjects into the male/female binary.
Kim
Aug 06, 2013 Kim rated it really liked it
If you are interested in the science related to intersex individuals, this is a great book! Dr. Callahan explains it very clearly and helps make sense of the physical, psychological, and social aspects of the lives of those who are intersexed. I ended up ordering several other books he has written!
Mike
Nov 23, 2015 Mike rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Callahan at least tries to be compassionate with this book, and I agree with the argument he makes (I think). But the book is badly organized, and Callahan's understanding of gender identity is so skewed that I can't get behind it. Full review to come.
Tina.
Apr 18, 2010 Tina. rated it liked it
This is a highly readable and useful book; it would serve as a good primer for people interested in issues of intersexuality and gender/sex in general. I haven't learned much new from it, though, so that's why it's only getting three stars.
Maddy
Jul 18, 2012 Maddy marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I'm actually very excited to read this book because Dr. Callahan was a professor at my college and I took two of his classes. Although my classes were disease related, he touched on these subjects near the end and I was fascinated!
Kaethe
Jul 16, 2014 Kaethe marked it as stricken
From what Julie wrote in her review at Feministe, it takes an "us" versus "them" route, and is pretty basic. I'll give it a pass. I already know that sex and gender exist on a continuum, and are not binary.
Elaina
Jul 22, 2010 Elaina added it
Shelves: library
A highly readable book about how gender exists on a continuum and is not either/or. I learned a good bit about the genetic and physical diversity that exists in the human sexes.
Emily
Dec 31, 2011 Emily rated it really liked it
Very interesting, though I was kind of hoping that he would go more into the psychological and sociological aspects. Very informative though.
Alice Paterra
Nov 14, 2012 Alice Paterra rated it really liked it
Good book to help understand the way we are today. Tolerance, acceptance, biology. Highly recommended.
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