The Intersexes: A History of Similisexualism as a Problem in Social Life/Chapter I



Old Ignorances and New Psychology.

A special trait of the last quarter of the century lately ended was the subtle but general, decided change in what one may call psychologic perspectives. The thoughtful classes have studied their fellow men of late, from the standpoints of practical psychiatrics and of moral responsibility, with a clearness of insight and from a variety of angles not before our time so considered or attained. The changes in currents of religious belief, by which dogmas have been displaced in favour of more natural spiritual conclusions, changes through which the understructure of ethical systems have been questioned and often rebuilt, have served humanity profoundly. Social science, applied to the individual, has also wrought similar healthful details in everyday life.

The Medical

Perhaps no process in the category has been more valuable than the leverage of the medical psychologist. His studies of phases of human nature, and his conclusions as to its expressions, exercise now-a-days upon the social attitudes an influence for which we have no parallel unless we revert to the Middle-Ages and to the best aspects (troublesomely blended, as they were, with mischievous errors) of Ecclesiasticism as a factor in mediaeval society.

The Psychologic
Physician as a
Juryman to the

To-day this pratical application of the psychologist to social science puts the physician, especially, in the place and responsability of being a sort of juryman to the whole world. He is brought into the court-room, the State-Commission, the Parliament. In all our dealings with psychologic analisys, sooner or later, we are likely to revert to him. The medico-psychologist has now not only the ancient or new fields of experimental research; for, along with them, he possesses the advantage of largest freedom of speech in giving out his theories and practices to any intelligent outsiders. His sounder conclusions are even "popularized" almost as swiftly as accepted by members of his profession. In fact, so soon do they become common property that one or another school of charlatanism, ever-ready with perilous tendences of argument, often injures the more conservative and riper convictions of responsible thinkers. But however much is the mischief of superficial medical psychology, here or there, the physician who is a true psychiater constantly effects admirable rapports between law and the individual; relationships which are not credited always rightly to the distinctly psycho-medical judgment.

Old Notions
and Theories
Dismissed by
Modern Science.

Directly or indirectly, to the higher scope of medical psychology do we owe the fact, for instance, that nervous ailments of men and women are no longer ascribed to devils and to witchcraft. The days of burning helpless human creatures for sorcery are past; even the most persistent confession that some wretched "accused" could shriek forth would now be nothing to a judge or a churchman. The students of alienism have changed ancient ideas about insanity, and have corrected forever the hideous ignorances of Bedlam treatments. We are no longer instructed that mad people are so depraved that God has visited a special judgment on them, and that starvation and beatings are the fittest methods of restoring the lost reason. The drunkard is regarded in the light of a victim of alcoholism, often, rather than as a responsible member of the community.

The Criminal
as a Scientific

To criminal classes the medical psychologist lately has been particularly attentive. We have learned from this devotion that there exists a profound and demonstrable connection of mystery between the Will and a nervous organism, rapports between heredity and tendency to crime. We are willing to believe that felony may be a process of disease; even to our perceiving murder, arson, theft as involuntary acts. We have grown into pitying the suicide as a creature who is far less a moral sinner than an unhappy monomaniac; his psychologic equilibrium is so impaired that there is merely a fraction of moral responsability in his hanging himself in a wood, or putting a bullet through his heart. The world no longer regards epidemics as having theological mysteries in their origins; as expressing any immediate visitation of divine wrath. Scientific plumbing, the sanitary care of water-supplies, the bacteriologist with his microscope, the antiseptic treatment of surgical operations; more than for these relatively outward results is the doctor, as a practical scientist, to be thanked. Taking such a school of medical thought at its best, we realize how vigorous, not to say supreme, a factor the psychologic doctor can be, and also that his higher and most modern influence is hardly more than begun as to many further processes affecting public opinion and intelligence. The just concepts of human nature, the traits of man as the psychical and temperamental product which he is, the analysis of his responsibility to himself and to his fellows, present topics immediate to our day, to be viewed with a clarity not hitherto achieved. The process is dual. It brings destruction of many of the old fabrics, and a building-up of entirely new ones, through materials not earlilier in the hands of the social architect.

The Question
of Intersexes.

Advanced theories and conclusions of medical psychologists have an important share in the following pages: therefore I have laid preliminary stress on such psychology in relation to general social-scientific progress. And with respect to the particular subject of the ensuing chapters, the existence of Intersexes in the human race, their various minor gradations as part of a series of fixed psychologic facts, the attributes of these Intersexes, and the social, moral and legal standpoints that are maintainable toward them, ideas of justice or injustice to them-in such considerations I shall be obliged to refer constantly to researches of distinguished medico-psychologists of our time. Hence what I shall write will be not much more than a summary of their decisions; apart from what is the share of personal exploration, in the lighter paths. As will be seen, the profound attention and discussions of psychiaters have been concentrating themselves more and more during many years, in spite of constant embasassments and perplexities, upon one of the most startling and obscure facts in human existence yet under scientific investigation. But of scientific theories of Intersexual life, and of what belongs to it by inalienable rights or is foreign to it, the intelligent lay-world is still far too ignorant, in spite of the vivid relation of the matter to millions of individuals. An enormous literature bearing upon it already exists: but not for the average lay-reader, and sparsely in English. The studies in print are chiefly in German, French, Italian and Russian. Their tone is not popular enough for ordinary readers. No adequate English work setting forth the topic exists in English at all, with easy accessibility. Indeed, such delicate and recondite chapters of human existence are opened, so many painful moral questions recur, that one does not wonder at the reserved attitude of authours, editors and publishers.

Undercurrents of
Personal Interest
in Understanding
Sexual Impulses.

I can offer myself on this occasion only as a finger-post to guide the reader along a road where shapes that will be startling mystic, beautiful, repulsive, tragic, commonplace, are continually to be seen. It is a highway of human-nature hourly traversed by millions, of all ranks; a road foot-worn, day by day, since humanity began. But the procession upon it is one extraordinarily, sternly reticent. Perhaps the very reader of these lines may long have been marching, or staggering, with the cortège, half-conscious of his companions far behind him, or at hand on the right or the left, or beyond him. Those who could unriddle the march to him are not likely to speak a word to him. Those who are willing to speak of one or another social or moral phase of the matter, particularly of the more obvious and vulgar aspects, are as a general rule, either insincere or wholly ignorant of the real psychology in what they discuss. And the reader may be the last person in his whole circle of friends to confess that he has a profound personal interest in the topic. Like the Spartan lad, with the gnawing fox hidden under his garment, he may have done nothing more instinctively and carefully, all his life long, than to try to hide from all interlocutors the anguish that is destroying his peace of mind and life.