Vulnerability, bio-power and health

Vulnerability, bio-power and health are central areas for the analysis of the ways institutional frameworks impact on trans-lives.

In this train of thought, the TRANSRIGHTS project analyzes gender citizenship by focusing on welfare regimes and gender policies, healthcare systems and medical practices as well as legal systems in the five selected countries. Our aim is to assess the impact of such institutional dimensions on trans-lives, stressing the complex and multiple ways through which vulnerability is produced, reproduced and also challenged.

As site of political struggle, health is a fundamental terrain for this analysis. The entanglement between health, medicine and trans-lives is complex and multifaceted. On the one hand, trans-people’s specific health needs are most often neglected as trans-populations face strong barriers when trying to access healthcare. Beyond the fact that transsexuals struggle with difficulties regarding their transition processes (medical treatments, including surgeries), the overall access of trans-people to healthcare remains highly problematic and a source of social exclusion. Even more so, when trans-people (mainly those working in the sex industry) are a particularly vulnerable group to HIV/Aids, sexually transmitted diseases and other health problems, some of which are related to ‘risk behaviours’ (e.g. alcohol and drug consumption).

Secondly, notions of health relying on the normal/abnormal binary have been and are still biopolitical devices to regulate and manage gender variance. If medical forms of regulation have permitted access to technologies for “gender change”, medical knowledge has also channeled the possibilities for gender embodiment in a limited set of recognized patterns. The discussions around the pathologization of gender non-conformity (e.g. gender dysphoria) are therefore centre-stage to any analysis of the possibilities of trans-lives as viable.

The TRANSRIGHTS project will focus on a historical and documental research through the history of sexual rights and of the legal recognition of gendered personhoods in each of the five countries selected, as it is of great importance to describe how sexuality and gender were constructed, medically and legally. Only by mobilizing a historical perspective, a transnational approach and an analysis of institutional discourses and practices can we discuss the constitution of gendered subjects through mechanisms of control and recognition. Such an analysis will thus inform the identification of present-day forms of access to healthcare and legal recognition.