Surgery has had a vexed place in the politics and practice of trans- medicine. While surgery is at once a topic to be avoided (Being trans- isn’t about surgery!), at the same time, many, many trans- people desire surgical interventions related to their trans- identities, sometimes organizing major life decisions around how, when, and from whom to obtain them. Surgeons who specialize in trans- specific procedures are busy operating every day, changing bodies and futures. This talk will focus on the conflicts and tensions that have surrounded the trans- surgery question, and about how new developments in American trans- healthcare are creating demands to rethink the role of the surgical both in the practice of trans- medicine and in trans- political discourse.
I am a medical anthropologist focused on surgical practice and the production, circulation and application of expert knowledge on gendered bodies. My current book project, The Look of a Woman (forthcoming from Duke University Press), examines Facial Feminization Surgery, a series of bone and soft tissue reconstructive surgeries intended to feminize the faces of male-to-female trans- women. I am also working—through literature review and ethnographic research—to develop a history of the technical practices used in genital sex reassignment surgery. Focused on knowledge and how it moves in the form of embodied and institutional practices, my research has been problem- rather than place-based. Working out from the contemporary conditions of US trans- medicine, my ethnographic work in surgical clinics has taken me to Northern Europe and South America. My research engages theories of sex and gender, the critical study of science and medicine, political economies of medicine and medical innovation, trans- studies, anthropological theories of practice, and the studies of technology and technique. I am a core faculty member in the Transgender Studies Initiative here at Arizona.