In 1979, New York endocrinologist Julianne Imperato-McGinley conducted research in two rural and remote villages in the Dominican Republic together with a research team. Imperato-McGinley shared Robert Stoller’s working hypothesis that a biological force influences gender identity. In the same year, she also published a paper together with Stoller on one of his cases, which he attributed to the influence of his postulated biological force (Imperato-McGinley et al., 1979b). To test this hypothesis, Imperato-McGinley constructed a human research laboratory in the Dominican Republic to study the influence of testosterone (a hormone constructed as ‘male’) on male gender identity, using people she identified as ‘male pseudo-hermaphrodites’ to investigate her theories. Her account on intersexuality reveals an underlying heteronormative impetus that constructs femininity as pathology. In order to prove the influence of testosterone on the development of male gender identity (Stoller’s coinage) in humans, she used male pseudo-hermaphrodites in a, what she calls, ‘laissez-faire environment.’ What emerges from her findings is yet another story of Western biomedicine imposing the figure of a pathological hermaphrodite onto a culture that had no such figuration prior to the interference of the researchers. Several years later, anthropologist Gilbert Herdt, whose prior collaborations with the psychoanalyst Robert Stoller are discussed in Chapter 4 in this volume, continued his own research in Papua New Guinea, this time with the endocrinologist Julian Davidson. Herdt ‘discovered’ a third sex amongst the Sambia in Papua New Guinea, and suggested that Sambian culture has a corresponding third social category for gender. Herdt invited Davidson to collect blood and urine samples from people he identified as belonging to a third sex_gender, what was referred to as kwolu-aatmwol. Herdt’s goal was to establish this third sex_ gender, not just on the basis of Stoller’s psychoanalytical investigation and his postulated hermaphroditic gender identity mentioned in Chapter 2 in this volume but this time also on the collected bio-medical data. Herdt and Davidson originally set out to prove their hypothesis of biological ‘male pseudohermaphroditism’ as being a third sex as well as a third gender and thus hoped to find in Papua New Guinea the data that will support this. Imperato-McGinley’s research team as well as Herdt and Davidson were interested in the diagnosis of 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, which falls under the nomenclature of male
pseudo-hermaphroditism. Individuals are usually assigned to the male sex and will sometimes during puberty develop male secondary sex characteristics such as facial hair growth, deepening of the voice and no breast development.