Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Jemma Tosh, Psychology and Gender Dysphoria. Feminist and Transgender Perspectives, Routledge, 2105


Psychiatry and psychology have a long and highly debated history in relation to gender. In particular, they have attracted criticism for policing the boundaries of ‘normal’ gender expression through gender identity diagnoses, such as transvestism, transsexualism, gender identity disorder and gender dysphoria.

Drawing on discursive psychology, this book traces the historical development of psychiatric constructions of ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ gender expression. It contextualizes the recent reconstruction of gender in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and its criteria for gender dysphoria. This latest diagnosis illustrates the continued disagreement and debate within the profession surrounding gender identity as ‘disordered’. It also provides an opportunity to reflect on the conflicted history between feminist and transgender communities in the changing context of a more trans-positive feminism, and the implications of these diagnoses for these distinct but linked communities.

Psychology and Gender Dysphoria examines debates and controversies surrounding psychiatric diagnoses and theories related to gender and gender nonconformity by exploring recent research, examples of collaborative perspectives, and existing feminist and trans texts. As such, the book is relevant for postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers of gender, feminism, and critical psychology as well as historical issues within psychiatry.

With this volatile context in mind, I will describe the role psychology and psychiatry have played in defining gender ‘normality’ and ‘abnormality’, as well as the responses and challenges posed by those more likely to be positioned in the latter category: women (cisgender and transgender) and those with gender identities and bodies that exist outside of the binaries of man/woman, male/female. I do this with an appreciation of the historical and changing contexts in which these perspectives occurred. I echo the aim of many who have positioned the ‘psy’ disciplines as the subject of study and analysis (Foucault, 1975; Rose, 1979). I provide a genealogical tracing as well as a critical questioning of present assumptions and misconceptions (Pilgrim, 1990). I show how long-standing problems within the psy professions impact on present discourses and experiences. (p.2)

With thanks to Diana Kuhl for this reference

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