Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Womens Studies

Major Professor

David A. Rubin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michelle Hughes Miller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kimberly Golombisky, Ph.D.


Critical Intersex, Medicalization, Activism, Discourse Analysis


How do members of the media represent intersex people? Do the voices of intersex activists find their way into mainstream media representations, or are they ignored? What types of discourses are produced by the presence (or lack thereof) of activist voices in news articles? The goal of this thesis is to interrogate the discourse surrounding intersex, or individuals who fall outside of the typical male/female binary for sex classification, and intersex activism in the media. The legal case M.C. vs. Aaronson, settled in 2017, was one of the first legal cases in the United States involving an intersex person. This thesis analyzes the media coverage of this case. As much of the public is still unaware of the issues facing intersex people today, media representations of intersex have the ability to make great strides in promoting awareness about the goals of intersex activism. Therefore, it is vital to investigate the way that media representations construct ideas about intersex and intersex activism. Utilizing feminist critical discourse analysis in conjunction with a “Media Guide” produced by a leading intersex organization called InterACT, I dissect seven articles written about the M.C. vs Aaronson case to study the way that their authors reproduce harmful ideas about intersex people. I focus on four specific aspects of these articles: the way they utilize photos of babies and children, the erasure of M.C.’s race, the way the articles discuss sex and gender, and who is quoted in each article. I also make the case that the InterACT “Media Guide”, while a step in the right direction, continues the perpetuation of dangerous intersex tropes.