Sexuality Policy Watch

Operating logic

By Mauro Cabral*

For quite a long time I have wanted to write about this. But I never find the appropriate time and maybe I will never find it. So in the meantime:

When people write or talk about inter-sexuality, in general, they address the intrinsic connection between intersexuality and the biomedical production and incorporation of gender, in other words the medical management of intersexuality as an engendering device aimed at incarnate, and time and time again, (hetero)sexual bodies.  This procedure is denounced not simply because it is fully implicated with compulsory heterosexuality. But also because of its consequences: it is a mutilating procedure.

Mutilation can be described.  It is difficult, but not impossible. The difficulty does not originate solely from its ferocity, from its irreversibility, nor from its difference. It also originates in its ambiguous temporality.  It is never possible to delimitate when it starts, and much less, when it ends.

Mutilation is a game of mirrors.


My body was subject to intervention more than twenty years ago. The intervention had one sole purpose:  that this body, my own body could become sexually attractive to a man, whom I did not yet know, who I do not know even today. He was the man of the dreams of my surgeon, the man he dreamt up for me in his dreams, not in my dreams (and maybe one day I will also write about this strange homoerotic compact that was sealed with my entrails as its guarantee). Two surgeries and six years of dilatations have transformed this body in something quite distinctive. The medical analysis, the ultrasounds, the explorations, the surgeries and dilatations have converted it into an opportunity for mystery: internal scars from a path which is not easily recognizable, pain whose precedence is not explainable, lack of sensibility to touch, to heat, to cold, a sort of non governable magnetic field. The same intent that has widely and deeply opened my body up to make me desirable by the nature of being accessible has made my body what it is now: a terrain in which appetites and access very rarely coincide in the same site.


I would be really pleased to say that all this ends there. But it does not end.

My surgeon supposed that the man of his dreams could not deal with a body like mine: so it should be improved. “Improvments” have converted my body into something that I myself cannot deal with. Much less can it be managed by men, be they dreamt of or not.

It pains, it upsets, it gets dry, it retreats, it feels too much or too little, it resists, it trembles. It is not ready for pleasure now and it won’t be later either. It closes itself with obstination. It defends itself from everything without any need, it attacks preemptively, and it both takes care of and depreciates itself. It occults itself. It subtracts itself. It gets enraged, it gets scrambled. For more than 20 years, with and against my will, my body resists.


When I was an adolescent whose body could not be penetrated  I was condemned by the judgment of performance: without surgery no sexual performance would be possible. Today things are quite distinctive, while nevertheless being the same. The celebration of “non normative bodies” does not leave any space for the materiality of my body’s barking: non normative bodies are celebrated, but with the expectation that they would work properly “a la carte”. There is space for the scar and its beauty, but there is no space for the effects of its path. There is desire for what spills beyond the norms, but the norms of desire remain the same.

Medical biotechnologies of intersexuality are still fully exercised, and not simply because we have failed to contaminate them with our sexual strategies. More precisely, its seems to me today, we have failed to de-construct the functioning of the body as a an implacable sexual logic.

My body, for instance, experiences a short circuit. It does not function.


I know that what I write is not easy to read or to accept. I know because even though this is the first time I am writing about it I have been talking about it for many years. The truth is that those who contest this system by questioning the common sense of biotechnology end up offering the same systemic prescription: what does not function one way always can and should function another way. What matters is that it functions.

The logic of body functioning reproduces itself through the unending production of examples: here you get the story of a female who had a part cut off but who can get pleasure elsewhere; there is also the story of the one who dos not feel anything but compensates that void with a rehabilitating empowerment; everywhere you will find those who, despite having been massacred, have learned to be attractive. Many times we don’t know where these  pristine moral tales come from. A few of them could have been written or narrated by my surgeon. All of them say the same thing: the crux of the matter is that the body works, because outside there is nobody, really nobody, who is able to cope with what does not work. We throw away computers, televisions, blenders, battery powered toys, fridges, ovens … everything that breaks. Therefore bodies must function properly, otherwise they will be thrown away and the people who live in those bodies will  be thrown into the garbage also.


(This article was originally published in Mauro Cabral’ Facebook page.)

* Trans and intersex activist. For more information, email to .

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