Changing Sex

Transsexualism, Technology, and the Idea of Gender

Changing Sex

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 17 b&w photographs Published: November 1995

Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Trans Studies, Medicine and Health > Medical Humanities

Changing Sex takes a bold new approach to the study of transsexualism in the twentieth century. By addressing the significance of medical technology to the phenomenon of transsexualism, Bernice L. Hausman transforms current conceptions of transsexuality as a disorder of gender identity by showing how developments in medical knowledge and technology make possible the emergence of new subjectivities.
Hausman’s inquiry into the development of endocrinology and plastic surgery shows how advances in medical knowledge were central to the establishment of the material and discursive conditions necessary to produce the demand for sex change—that is, to both "make" and "think" the transsexual. She also retraces the hidden history of the concept of gender, demonstrating that the semantic distinction between "natural" sex and "social" gender has its roots in the development of medical treatment practices for intersexuality—the condition of having physical characteristics of both sexes— in the 1950s. Her research reveals the medical institution’s desire to make heterosexual subjects out of intersexuals and indicates how gender operates semiotically to maintain heterosexuality as the norm of the human body. In critically examining medical discourses, popularizations of medical theories, and transsexual autobiographies, Hausman details the elaboration of "gender narratives" that not only support the emergence of transsexualism, but also regulate the lives of all contemporary Western subjects. Changing Sex will change the ways we think about the relation between sex and gender, the body and sexual identity, and medical technology and the idea of the human.


“[P]rovides a valuable account of the modern history of transsexuality and the concept of gender. . . . Hausman raises many serious questions and caveats. . . . Congratulations to Hausman for providing this accessible and fascinating insight on a complex and generally misunderstood aspect of human nature. [H]ighly recommend[ed] to students and gender theorists alike.” — C. Todd White , International Gay and Lesbian Review

“Bernice L. Hauseman brings meticulous research and close, scholarly argument to an investigation of transsexuality. The book focuses on the twentieth century’s medical fashioning of ‘male’ and (especially) ‘female’ bodies through endocrinology and cosmetic surgery, and the psychological theorizing that has accompanied it.” — Dianne Dugaw , Women's Review of Books

"Changing Sex makes a landmark contribution to gender studies and the understanding of transsexualism. It is thorough and accessible in its combination of medical analysis, social criticism, and application of critical theory. It is original and provocative, and will be controversial in the best sense." — Julia Epstein, Haverford College

"Building upon earlier critiques of the medical management of gender, Hausman provides a rich analysis of the significance of technology on this century’s shift from looking for the "true" sex to the "best" one. Having tracked down valuable and fascinating sources, she gives a previously neglected historical perspective on transsexualism and intersexuality. Gender scholars from every discipline will find this book important." — Suzanne Kessler, Purchase College, State University of New York


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Price: $26.95

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