2 August – Public Seminar: Joe Latham – Trans Men & the Politics of Medicine

The ‘First Fridays’ series of Gender and Sexuality Studies Public Seminars continues on Friday 2 August, at Deakin Downtown (727 Collins St, near Southern Cross Station). First Fridays seminars are free and open to people interested in the work, although bookings are required. Our guest speaker for August is Dr Joe Latham. Register here >

4–5pm, Trans Men and the Ontological Politics of Medicine

Public seminar by Joe Latham

How do practices of transgender medicine (re)produce cultural norms of gender, and to what effects? While people resist and exceed these controls in different ways, overwhelmingly, treatment guidelines and their application demand that trans patients adhere to stereotypical understandings of sex-gender through rigorous psychiatric scrutiny and medical surveillance. For trans men, this means narrating their life experiences and expectations in line with dominant understandings of maleness and masculinity, and aesthetically by using testosterone to appear to be sufficiently nontransgendered.

Through research on mastectomies (surgical breast removal), I examine how access to treatment differs between nontrans men, trans men taking testosterone, and those people designated female at birth who do not identify as men and/do not take testosterone. By drawing on notions of performative realities and ontological politics from science and technology studies (STS), I argue that these practices act in constituting sex, gender and ‘gender dysphoria’ as static, predetermined and independent of medical encounters. This paradigm also relies on and reproduces dubious forms of ‘evidence’ that gender dysphoria is a psychiatric disorder, erasing the necessarily complex ways trans people experience gender. I consider what is lost in the ongoing practices of transgender medicine that propel a trajectory of treatment that demands a package of pursuits which form a very narrow bridge of ‘changing sex’ from one stable sex category to the other. By mobilising philosophical insights from STS, I show how care for trans people could be improved by active engagement with individual interventions and patients.

About the speaker

Dr J.R. Latham is Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Deakin University, and Honorary Fellow in Cultural Studies at The University of Melbourne, Australia. He is an interdisciplinary researcher and feminist philosopher whose expertise combines critical concepts of ‘drugs’, ageing and narrative with bioethics, queer theory, and science and technology studies (STS) via a focus on gender, sexuality and medicine. He is an award-winning writer, recently receiving the Feminist Theory Essay Prize for best article of the year, the Australian Women’s and Gender Studies Association (AWGSA) Most Distinguished Paper Prize, and the Symonds Prize for excellence in critical inquiry from Studies in Gender and Sexuality.

Register here >

The Gender and Sexuality Studies Research Network blog contains registration details, recordings of past seminars and links to other events.