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Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word)

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  354 ratings  ·  45 reviews
“In Hillman’s world, the surer you become about who you are, the more vulnerable you get.”—The San Francisco Bay Guardian

“Hillman’s writing is sexy because it’s smart and refuses to simplify things.”—Fabula Magazine

"Hillman's utterly unabashed memoir...showcases both the personal, embodied realities of intersex, and the social and political milieus that shape them... Inter
Paperback, 160 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Manic D Press, Inc. (first published May 5th 2007)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  354 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
You made me cry on the bus, Thea Hillman, for which you are in trouble. I've never been to a performance of the Vagina Monologues because I kind of just assume it will trigger the shit out of me, but your response to your own issues with a performance you saw was absolutely fuckin gorgeous.

Anyway, yeah. Wow. This was an intense book that it was hard to pick up sometimes, not because the specifics of Ms. Hillman's experience are similar to my own, but the feelings that come with a lot of what sh
Feb 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
this is a fantastically beautiful book and you should read it, partly because it's fantastically beautiful (i love it when poets write memoirs), partly because every other sentence is quotable and you will carry them around with you for a long time, partly because it really draws you into the world of intersex and, while entirely demystifying the status of intersex people (who are just like everyone else -- in the limited sense in which anyone is like anyone else -- and way more frequent than yo ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
2.5 stars

I picked this up because I’m confused by the whole concept of nonbinary gender identities (don’t most people vary in some way from the stereotypes of their gender?), and so I’m trying to read about it. This book taught me something about intersex, though nobody in it uses non-standard pronouns, but more than that it’s about the author’s sexcapades, a bit about her childhood, and a platform for half-developed arguments.

This short book is a collection of very short (typically 2-3 pages) p
Valyssia Leigh
This book lays some of our strongest social taboos to bare in a truly beautiful, artful way. I was stunned by how frank it was. If you're at all open to discussions of gender as more than a static binary value, this is a must read that'll probably change how you think.
Nov 18, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
*2012: I've been meaning to come back and re-examine this book. I went to reading it with assumptions and expectations that were very amateur as far as a reviewer. Since part of my studies revolve around literature, I'm kind of embarrassed I didn't read this book properly, understanding it's genre, author and it's primary focus. After this book I found that I don't tend to like memoir.

I don't know that this matters, but I idealize polyamory and the ability of people to be open and consensual. I
Apr 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs, nonfiction, women
It's easy to tell that Hillman is a poet (she's a San Francisco Poetry Slam champion) and performance artist. I can imagine her reading each of the essays in this book in front of an audience.

Hillman writes of the ache, exclusion, and incredible confusion associated with growing up intersex. I agree with another reviewer who did not like the use of the second person in some of the essays (I too prefer first or third person); however, it raises the constant conundrum of gender pronouns when it co
Jul 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer, non-fiction
So fantastic. I recommend this book to everyone. It's so beautiful and intimate. Normalizes "intersex" in a way that hasn't been done before.
This is a beautifully written memoir and I think people should read it.

However, I am so tired of casual, ~*progressive*~ homophobia.

‘Gay’ is women loving women and men loving men who want to be recognized as couples and be able to get the same rights and privileges as straight couples. Gays read Out magazine, cry at Gay Pride marches, watch Queer as Folk, and think that bisexual and transgender people are ruining everyone’s chances to be perceived as normal. They believe that if we could all jus
Julie Bozza
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, and I love the author. Which seems the only reasonable response to such a calm, considered and candid tale of the author's life, and to her plea that we should love ourselves the way we are. Hillman - or, if I may, Thea finds herself to be a part of the intersex community, and yet she is also very much part of a global community that includes us all.

Thea recounts her life story in short chapters with single-word titles, unfolding and reflecting on a growth that wasn't linear.
This is a series of mostly short essays, with the occasional poem, or journal entry thrown in. The pieces are likely mostly those she wrote for and published elsewhere, and they seem included here without editing, so sometimes the reader is subjected to the same musings or explanations multiple times. There isn't really a coherent, linear narrative but you get a good sense of the author's life and lived experience. It's interesting to get to peek inside the head of an intersex person, to read he ...more
Dec 17, 2008 marked it as to-read
I am pretty sure this is exactly what i was looking to read next
Jun 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gender
some of the stories were ok, and some were absolutely amazing.
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Set out much like Roxane Gay’s ‘Hunger’, this book is split into 47 chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of Thea Hillman’s life, to a greater or lesser degree.

Much is given over to Hillman’s sex life and the subsequent relationships, but there is much more to it; the growing intersex activism; the rejection of surgery for the sake of making people ‘normal’; the hurt and pain caused to individuals through no fault of their own.

She moves in and out and between different communities and
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, queer, poetry
Thought provoking memoir, on a variety of experiences that also pull together into a larger whole. Many are on intersex (or something that word is used to cover). But it explores more than that, including gender and society's relationship with it.

As a note, there are repeated graphic descriptions of sex. These are not erotic/pornographic but are used to explore, to make points, etc as part of the memoir. There are many serious issues addressed, including consent, medical procedures (and those d
Virgowriter (Brad Windhauser)
3.5 stars. There a lot of great insight here, especially from a member of community we so often here little from (or about). And although these often short chapters start strong, they feel unfinished, like the author just stopped when they should have really proved these situations—a few are there.
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this book for school and it brought great insight about the Intersex community. I appreciated how honest Hillman was in the book about her insecurities about not only who she is but what she can say. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about gender and sex.
Jenny Wren
Mar 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book. It will challenge some people, but that is as it should be. Thea Hillman is a gifted writer.
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars
David Hillman
Sep 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I had to read this wondering if the author was a relative, and to understand people I met. Moderately engaging.
Lisa M.
May 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I first heard about this book when I was researching "Manic D press." When Gottlieb mentioned Hillman in an interview, I knew I had to read this book.

I knew what "intersex" was before reading this book, but I didn't know a lot about it. I would not suggest this book for people who do not know what intersex is. Instead, this is an exercise in the nuances of the identity, explored in one woman's very personal reflection. I found that the most rewarding reflections on the intersex experience were n
Hillman is a queer intersex woman with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), which can lead to ambiguous genitalia and secondary sex characteristics - but not for Hillman, whose CAH was caught and medicated early on. _Intersex_ is a collection of intimate, evocative essays looking at her own and her family's struggles to come to terms with intersex, and her identity and experiences in intersecting queer, trans, and intersex communities. The most successful essays reflect on the complexities and ...more
Audacia Ray
Mar 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Thea Hillman's book is thoroughly beautiful, written in a way that makes you feel like you're her one and only confidant, not just a reader. The book is structured as a series of short essays, some of which are obviously based on talks she has given in her career as an activist, performer, public speaker, and educator.

I think a bigger, more mainstream publisher (the book is published by Manic D Press) would have really pushed Thea to stick more strictly to the theme of growing up and coping as i
Larry-bob Roberts
Nov 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer
Thea Hillman explores her history with the medicalization of her body in receiving a diagnosis of Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, and her eventual discovery of a community of people who identify as Intersex. There are also some interesting think-pieces comparing Intersex conditions with being Transgender.

The genesis of several of these pieces in the spoken word realm is clear, and I can imagine Thea's diction in reading them.

I'm knocking off a star because I have a problem with stuff written in
Lance Eaton
Hillman's exploration of her own challenges and sense-making as an intersex person is an excellent work for anyone better trying to understand intersex. Filled with memoiric chapters, poetry, and other personal writing, the book crafts a nuance understanding of the battles one faces when the dominant culture has denied you space and personhood.

If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other reviews and writings at By Any Other Nerd /
Marcelle Warren
Sep 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What Thea lacks in flare or substantial writing style, she makes up for with intimacy and boldness of description. Her tales are certainly not conservative in taste, nor are they meant to appeal to Tory sensibilities, but one is given a genuine sense of adventure when following the narrator into seedy sex clubs and scenes of exhibitionism. When she directs her monologue to specific people, namely past lovers or her mother, she brings to the table a genuine sense of closeness and sometimes tragic ...more
Angélique (Angel)
This book was intimate, poetic, honest, revelatory, and ultimately beautiful in the most realistic way. The book structure felt somewhat blog-like which made it easier for me to process. When I finished, I felt like I knew Hillman in the same way I have known bloggers I've followed for months. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in gender studies, the intersex community, queer life and politics, or vulnerable storytelling, but I must warn that this book is full of candid descriptio ...more
May 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Hillman's memoir is poetic, honest, real, and educational. She talks about what it means and what it's like to be a queer person- she hit the points about why I like using this word in a reclaimed sense. I picked it up in the bookstore because it looked interesting, but I read it cover to cover in less than 24 hours. Before reading this book, I didn't know that Intersex used to be considered under the Trans umbrella. Hillman was one of the people who fought to make Intersex its own category. I w ...more
Sep 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Intersex Awareness Day is in a couple of days. For more info on intersex issues go to -

I liked this book, it's a personal history of not just the author's intersex identity, but of some of the recent activism in california for intersex awareness and rights.

The only thing is that I don't like books that are really a series of short short essays/stories/ramblings/blurbs, that are disconnected.
Jul 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Oh, the queer collection of personal essays. You were a genre I couldn't live without in my late teens and early twenties. And now, it feels like you have nothing new to say to me, and yet I persist in reading you. There are a few standout essays in here, but the collection is uneven, and mostly not very groundbreaking. If you've ever read an essay by a queer person from the Bay Area (and what queer person hasn't, these days?), you won't find anything new here.
Anne Hayes
May 14, 2014 rated it liked it
This book wasn't what I was expecting. The story focused on the author's confusion about whether she was 'intersex' or not. It raised questions about gender and identity and our need to belong, ie fit into a box that others (and science) will understand. Why she couldn't just be? A bit bogged down in parts but an interesting read. It broadened my understanding of what intersex people experience as they try to make sense of the world and how to fit into it.
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