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First do no harm: On conditional state recognition and intrusive state governance of trans and intersex lives in Sweden from 1970s to 2020s

Gendering in Research Network: Talk by Erika Alm, University of Gothenburg

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Wednesday 31 March 2021,  at 11:00 - 13:00




Erika Alm holds a PhD in History of Ideas and is Associate Professor in Gender Studies at the University of Gothenburg. Bringing together two of their recent publications, ‘What constitutes an in/significant organ?: The vicissitudes of juridical and medical decision-making regarding genital surgery for intersex and trans people in Sweden’, in Body, migration, (re)constructive surgeries (Routledge, 2019), and ‘A state affair: Notions of the State in Discourses on Trans Rights in Sweden’ in Pluralistic Struggles in Gender, Sexuality and Coloniality (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021), Alm will speak of the violent effects of conditional state recognition and intrusive state governance of trans and intersex lives, with a focus on the specificities of the Swedish context and the mobilization of counter narratives from trans and intersex activists and allies. Alm will detail some of the tensions and inconsistencies in the construction and implementation of the Gender Recognition Act (1972:119), scrutinizing not only the medico-juridical meaning making around sex as a sociocultural category of classification but also the injurious epistemic ignorance of a system that depends on so called expert knowledge in the negotiations between the interest of the state or the public and that of the individual. Departing from the fact that the state demands that gender variant people compromise with their right to reproductive sovereignty and bodily integrity in order to be bestowed with state recognition, the talk uncovers the historical continuity from the arguments for a sterilization demand in the early 1970s to the reference to evidence-based medicine and scientific objectivity in the raging debates on the pseudo diagnosis ‘rapid onset gender dysphoria’, and the lack of discussion about the rights of intersex children, in the early 2020s.