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Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the Myth of Two Sexes Hardcover – July 1, 2009

3.3 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Combining passion with current scientific information, Callahan, an immunologist/pathologist at Colorado State University, explains why our conception of two sexes is more a social than a biological construct. He argues that there are no simple, foolproof ways to determine sex. For example chromosomal structure, XX for females and XY for males, is not fully predictive because of various genetic disorders that can play a larger role. Similarly, genitalia can be quite varied and represent a continuum of difference rather than two discrete points. Callahan does a good job of exploring intersex individuals, who are neither male nor female, and argues that they need to be accepted for what they are and not viewed as defective. Further, he provides provocative evidence that surgical gender reconstruction is often unsuccessful. Although Callahan attempts to make the case that some non-Western societies have a less bipolar view of gender, his abbreviated presentation is not very convincing. He is, however, persuasive that better understanding of and respect for sex and gender variability would be far healthier for the 65,000-plus intersex people born each year and society in general. (July)
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Review

"Callahan does a good job of exploring intersex individuals, who are neither male nor female, and argues that they need to be accepted for what they are and not viewed as defective."  —Publishers Weekly



"Immunologist Callahan takes a fascinating look at the biology and human experience of intersexuality, a state in between male and female."  —Discover Magazine



"Callahan's writing style is both accessible and engaging; it reads more like creative non-fiction, a la Malcolm Gladwell."  —Ms. Magazine



"This is a fascinating, easily understandable journey into why we are born male or female and examines our age-old obsession with sex."  —Fort Collins Coloradoan



"There are lots of interesting nuggets here—for example, Callahan's description of biological sex as a spectrum, not a binary system."  —Double X



"The book is really beautifully written, highly accessible, and visionary in its own right."  —Feministing



"This book takes readers through an alphabet of gender and gender variations. Callahan shows readers that rather than either/or scenarios, there have always been variations; his book shatters our society's take on pink and blue."  —Advocate.com

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (July 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556527853
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556527852
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #393,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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 some more general stuff about the science of the differences between men and women and genetic variations that will tweak your concepts of "men" and "women", this book is very much worth your time.

Callahan was able to write a very readable book that didn't bore me or confuse me at all, even when he writes about chromosomes and karyotypes and stuff. In addition to good content about human sexuality, he devotes a good amount of time to writing about hermaphroditic animals, which is fascinating stuff and will further erode your notions of a two-sex model. The case studies of intersex people included in the book are also engaging, though also pretty heartbreaking.

If you are up for something heavier, more theory-laden and more advanced about the differences among the sexes (see what I did there? implying that there are more than two sexes with grammar?), check out Anne Fausto-Sterling's Myths of Gender: Biological Theories About Women and Men. That book was originally published in 1987, updated in 1992 - so some of the science is a little our of date, but it's a really great and challenging read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I chose this book because of its synopsis and the reviews of others, and am glad that I did. The author's style is very readable and he makes a very complex subject understandable. While its obvious that he has definite opinions on this subject, he does a good job of keeping them in check while he writes. Presenting the history of our understanding of sex along with the current state of knowledge brings an historical continuity to the book, which was helpful. Excellent footnoting and bibliography for those who wish to read further. All the different intersex variations become a bit difficult to keep separate after awhile, but I suspect that's more my unfamiliarity with the subject than his writing.

This is a good book if you want a primer on the subject of intersexuality, either for yourself or as a gift.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I suggest you have read some evo-devo before delving into this book. The premise is that gender is at least as malleable as eye color, body height and weight, and many other characteristics. Beyond that, there are many variations past XX and XY, and the current thinking is to place every child squarely into the XX/XY dichotomy. Additionally, recent medical practice has been to do so with or without consent of parents??? (no verification or sources of this) - a plea for acceptance of those that fall somewhere between these two endpoints - and an attempt at scientific explanation of how much diversity there is in between.

I recommend this book, even though I thought it could have been better written. The information is substantial and crucial to our understanding of gender.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The scripted play of conception, gestation, and birth is explored in this interesting, informative book. Sometimes all the things that should happen, when they are supposed to happen to produce a "boy" or a "girl", go array. These newborns may or may not appear to be out of the "ordinary" at birth, but later on in life they may have problems mostly brought on by the binary gendered society they live in.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am a hermaphrodite with Klinefelter syndrome and androgen insensitvity syndrome and I need to read every page of this book over and over, but I got to page one hundred and it went to page sixty-nine. Then the book goes to sixty-nine to one hundred and starts again on page 133. My medical records made by the U.S. Army found me to be a female hermaphrodite and I am trying to understand why I am now a female army officer. I will do what I can to help fix the problem and enrich the study of hermaphroditism which has three cases in my family. Jo XXY
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The amazing world of gender is expounded in considerable detail be a very knowledgeable researcher. Anyone who thinks gender is simply either male or female should read this book.
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