Accepted Paper:

Role of Medical Specialists in Negotiating "Normalization" of Transgender People in Kazakhstan  


Zhanar Sekerbayeva (University of Tsukuba)

Paper long abstract:

Role of Medical Specialists in Negotiating "Normalization" of Transgender People in


Zhanar Sekerbayeva

The paper is interested in studying how the gatekeeping practices of healthcare professionals in Kazakhstan are shaping the gender identities of Kazakhstani transgender individuals as they seek legal affirmation. As such the research is interested in negotiating "normalization" by medical professionals who are taking the role of "judges" deciding who fits prescriptions as a woman or as a man.

The situation regarding access of transgender people in Kazakhstan can be described as dependence on the authorities to receive permission for recognition of transgressive existence. The legal gender recognition procedure requires humiliating, invasive, and abusive procedures in order to change gender on official documents, which includes extensive physical and psychiatric medical examinations, hormone therapy, sterilization, and gender reassignment genital surgery.

Majority of researches available that study medical specialists in the binary construction of doctor-transgender patient interaction mostly focus on transgender people as 'victims' of the gatekeeping power abuse by the former, who are able to pronounce whether a transgender patient is "fit" for a gender marker change in their legal documents. Some researcher even go as far as to say that transsexualism is a socially constructed reality only existing "in and through medical practice" (Billings and Urban, 1982), which serves a moral function rather than a healing one. Even the term "gatekeepers" can be understood as a form of negative power on the part of psychiatrists and physicians, whose diagnostic practices are demonized as abusive.

The proposed doctoral research aims to look at this issue from a different point of view, by which it hopes to fill the gaps in theory and practice of negotiating transgender identities. In this paper the main focus will be on the medical specialists and their experience of participating in the "normalization" of transgender identities, while also cross-referencing this with experience of the same process by transgender people. The research will focus on the personal stories of medical specialists, their self-perception and experience of their own gatekeeper position in relevance to transgender patients that apply for their assistance.

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Health and Welfare