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social sciences

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Chase, Cheryl (b. 1956)  
page: 1  2  3  

In 1996 Chase attempted to persuade a group of doctors holding a symposium on pediatric genital surgery to include a panel of patients in their program. When the physicians declined to do so, ISNA organized their own workshop. Some doctors attended but were not receptive to the idea that the surgeries performed on the people when they were children had been harmful.

Frustrated by the response of the medical community, Chase and ISNA drew public attention to the cause of the intersexed by demonstrating outside the convention of the American Association of Pediatrics in Boston.

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Also in 1996, Chase hosted a retreat for intersexed people at her farm in Sonoma, California. Eleven ISNA members attended and held frank discussions, which Chase recorded and edited in a 34-minute film entitled Hermaphrodites Speak! (1996).

The participants described the emotional and physical toll of their surgeries--a profound sense of isolation growing up not knowing anyone else like them, a feeling of empowerment when they met others and began to speak out, and anger toward the surgeons whose actions had put them through such ordeals and left them with impaired sexual function.

Reviewers B. J. Rye and Richard Humpartzoomian hailed the film as "an important educational experience in the context of learning about variations in human sexuality. . . . Hermaphrodites Speak! is a critical, empathetic learning experience," especially for students who will become healthcare providers and policy makers.

Chase has been an advocate for the intersexed not just in the United States but also internationally. In 1998 she submitted a 10,000-word amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court of Colombia, which was considering the case of a six-year-old intersexed boy on whom doctors were proposing to perform an operation to turn him into a girl. The following year the court, relying heavily on Chase's brief, issued a landmark ruling creating human rights protection for the intersexed.

Because of her writing and speaking, Chase gained both attention and, ultimately, respect from the medical community. In May 2000 the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society, an organization for specialists in children's hormones, invited her to give a speech at their symposium. Her forums have also included radio and television shows, such as Fresh Air on NPR and Dateline on NBC.

To help educate medical and mental health professionals as well as families with intersexed children, Chase made the film The Child with an Intersex Condition: Total Patient Care in 2003. The twenty-minute video "outlines the problems with many current practices and provides guidelines for a new standard of care that is more advanced scientifically and ethically."

ISNA calls for lifelong care for the physical, mental health, and social needs of the intersexed patient, who, the organization stresses, is the child, not the parents. Gender assignment of an infant is both a legal and a social necessity, and parents should make the decision using their best judgment and taking into account the outcomes of patients with a similar presentation, but they should not have surgery performed. The choice of what, if any, surgery to have should be left to the patient when he or she is of an age and has sufficient accurate information to decide what is in his or her own best interests.

ISNA recommends counseling for both the patient and the family for the good emotional and mental health of all concerned. Peer support is likewise extremely valuable.

ISNA believes that honesty and openness are essential to the entire process. Children should be given information in an age-appropriate fashion, and facts should not be withheld or misrepresented. Medical practitioners and parents should let the child-patient know that he or she is somewhat different physically from most other people but should not treat the difference as a cause for feeling shame. Raising the awareness of both medical professionals and the public at large about intersexuality is an important goal for ISNA as the organization works to counter myths and social stigma that have been attached to the intersexed condition.

Articles by Chase have appeared in numerous journals, and she also contributed to the collection of essays edited by Stanlie M. James and Claire C. Robertson, Genital Cutting and Transnational Sisterhood: Disputing U.S. Polemics (2002). J. Steven Svoboda declares that "Chase's closing essay is the book's standout piece."

In it, Chase observes that it has been difficult to enlist the support of feminists to her cause "because intersexuality undermines the stability of the category 'woman' that undergirds much first-world feminist discourse." She also reiterates the need for protection of the rights of intersexed children so that they may eventually make their own decisions regarding their sexual identity and expression: "Cutting intersex genitals becomes yet another hidden mechanism for imposing normalcy upon unruly flesh, a means of containing the potential anarchy of desires and identifications within oppressive structures."

As the Executive Director of ISNA, Chase is a tireless advocate for the rights of the interesexed to have appropriate medical treatment and to enjoy dignity as members of society.

Since 2001 Chase has been the life partner of Robin Mathias, a healthcare industry analyst who specializes in the detection of fraud and abuse. The couple wed in San Francisco in 2004 during the brief period when same-sex marriage was declared legal there. They reside on a farm in Sonoma.

Linda Rapp

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social sciences >> Overview:  Intersexuality

Intersexuality (formerly referred to as hermaphroditism) is a congenital anomaly in which an individual's external genitalia or internal reproductive systems fall outside the norms for either male or female bodies.

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The concept of sexual citizenship draws attention to the political aspects of erotics and the sexual component of politics.

arts >> Overview:  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Hermaphrodites

Hermaphrodites are a common subject in ancient art, but disappear from art history until the Renaissance, when they are most often employed as non-erotic symbols of the union of opposites.

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social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender Activism

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literature >> Walker, Alice

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Chase, Cheryl. "'Cultural Practice' or 'Reconstructive Surgery'?: U.S. Genital Cutting, the Intersex Movementt, and Medical Double Standards." Genital Cutting and Transnational Sisterhood: Disputing U.S. Polemics. Stanlie M. James and Claire C. Robertson, eds. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002. 126-152.

______. "Rethinking Treatment for Ambiguous Genitalia." Pediatric Nursing 25.4 (July-August 1999): 451-455.

Coventry, Martha. "Making the Cut." Ms. 10.6 (October-November 2000): 52-61.

Hegarty, Peter. "Intersex Activism, Feminism and Psychology: Opening a Dialogue on Theory, Research and Clinical Practice." Feminism & Psychology 10.1 (February 2000): 117-132.

Intersex Society of North America.

Rye, B. J., and Richard Humpartzoomian. "Teaching about Intersexuality." Journal of Sex Research 37.3 (August 2000): 295-298.

Svoboda, J. Steven. "Genital Cutting and Transnational Sisterhood: Disputing U.S. Polemics." Attorneys for the Rights of the Child Newsletter 4.1 (Winter 2004): 2-4.

Weil, Elizabeth. "What If It's (Sort of ) a Boy and (Sort of) a Girl?" New York Times Magazine (September 24, 2006): 48.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Chase, Cheryl  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2007  
    Date Last Updated August 9, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2007 glbtq, Inc.  


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