Medicalization of Gender and Sexuality

The concept of “health” played an important role in the construction of “normal” sexuality throughout the 20th century.   This research traces the shifts in the medical discourse in Canada from one of “fixing” sexual ambiguity, often constructed as deviancy, to one of “enhancing” bodies for cosmetic purposes.  These discourses point to a need to explore in more detail the ways in which cosmetic surgery represents conformism to societal norms and how those norms shift and change over time. The convergence of medical discourse with other discourses in different periods points to the intersections between medical science/technology and cultural views of gender and sexuality.  I explore how the medical/scientific discourse converges with that of popular/cultural discourse in different periods to shape our understanding of what represents a “healthy” body, how this understanding is normalized by medicine, and the role of cosmetic surgery in helping those who are “different” to fit the norm.  This project is part of an interdisciplinary study of medical tampering.


Some initial work in this area appears in Bodily Subjects: Essays on Gender and Health, 1800-2000 that I co-edited with Wendy Mitchinson and Barbara Brookes.