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Resisting the Demand to Stand

Boys, Bathrooms, Hypospadias, and Interphobic Violence

Celeste E. Orr

How sex-segregated bathrooms negatively impact trans, genderqueer, nonbinary, queer, and gender-nonconforming people has been extensively studied, yet few have considered how intersex people are subjected to bathroom violence. To begin broadening this conversation, I focus on the medical management of boys with the intersex variation hypospadias and demonstrate that anxieties around bathrooms extend beyond the bathroom walls—into surgical theaters—and are not simply a trans or queer issue. Anxieties about bathrooms and hegemonic urinary masculine behavior inform the violent medical maltreatment of intersex boys with hypospadias; they are subjected to shaming, disabling, and invasive procedures in the hope they will reinforce compulsory dyadism and able-bodiedness, as well as exhibit hegemonic heteromasculine behaviors, namely standing to urinate. Because of discriminatory, gratuitous surgical interventions, the bathroom and urination become sites of pain and trauma for these boys. In turn, these boys’ sense of masculine belonging are undermined or destroyed.