The term “intersex” refers to people who have certain biological variations that do not fit into the traditional male and female classification. The list of variations that constitute intersex varies greatly, and there are no set criteria for identifying a person as intersex. In this way, the concept of sex can be seen as similar to the idea of race. As explained in the publication by Omi and Winant, race is a socio-historical construct, and the classification of people into different races varied considerably at different points in time. This allows applying the theory of race formation to intersex individuals to better understand the concept of intersex and the experiences of intersex people.
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Race and sex biological variations
First of all, it is essential to note that both race and sex are biological variations that are associated with how people perceive one another. People heavily rely on sex to predict people’s behaviors, attitudes, and values in a similar way that they see race as a factor impacting personality. For example, women are seen as more caring and sensitive, whereas men are usually believed to be strong-willed and independent. In a similar way, there are many stereotypes associated with people from various racial backgrounds, particularly when it comes to minority races.
Although people who are aware of their biases can control the degree to which the stereotypes affect their expectations, views, and communication, sex and race stereotypes impact the way in which people interact with one another in society. When people meet those who do not fit the rigid classification of race and sex, they often experience confusion as they struggle to navigate the race or sex relations. This affects the experience of intersex people since they can become the subject of intrusive questions or be misclassified as male or female, depending on their appearance. In this way, applying the theory of race formation to intersex people can provide insight into their experiences and potential challenges that they face in social interaction.
Definition of race
Another meaningful way in which the theory of racial formation can be applied in this case is to explore the concepts of sex further. In their article, the authors explain that race is both a social and historical phenomenon. This means that the definition of race and the classification applied to people from various backgrounds varied significantly over time. For example, in the past, people who had distant black ancestors were considered black despite variations in appearance. Once the concept of mixed race became accepted, the task of classifying people became more difficult. The essence of the argument put forth by the authors suggests that race classification is futile because it leads to social challenges and identity struggles, and that race is a spectrum rather than a collection of labels to be assigned to people.
Concept of gender
The experience of intersex people, who vary significantly in terms of their appearance and anatomical features, might suggest the same about sex, thus contesting the view that sex is a rigid, biologically determined notion. This idea can be extended to the concept of gender, which is now perceived to be distinct from sex. Viewing both gender and sex as a spectrum creates opportunities for us to explore the experiences of other people in greater depth while also studying the historical and social formation of both concepts.
Overall, the theory of race formation can be applied to the experience of intersex people in two ways. On the one hand, it can be used to understand the challenges and problems that intersex people face because it provides insight into how stereotypes about sex shape their interactions. On the other hand, it can also be used to contest the notion of sex classification itself based on the experiences of various intersex people. Because people from this group vary significantly in terms of their features, viewing intersex through the lens of race formation suggests that sex is a spectrum rather than a strict classification. This change in perception can help to address stereotypes that exist in society and improve the ways in which we address gender inequality.