chapter  10
The rhetorics of gender identity clinics: Transsexuals and other boundary objects
Pages 24

This final chapter analyses the rhetorics of gender identity clinics in the light of a discursive interpretation of the notion of ‘boundary objects’. We suggest this notion can contribute to other relational understandings of the nets of psychology, including complex relationships between (sexual) bodies and technologies of gender. We borrow some conceptual developments from ethnographic studies and the sociology of scientific knowledge to textualize technologies of gender in the frame of discursive-analytical work. In the first part we examine regulatory practices within gender identity clinics: that is, clinics attended by people who wish to change sex. We discuss how different groups of practitioners are coordinated through constituting their ‘clients’ as boundary objects and how these objects, informed by wider social discourses, are regulated and constructed through stereotyped and binary sexual and gender divisions. By this process and ostensibly to facilitate transsexuals’ social adjustment, we show how ambiguities and doubts about gender and sexuality, multiple gender positions, biographies and desires are silenced. In the second half we outline a more progressive analysis of boundary objects in relation to the possibilities and tensions existing within the project of sex/gender change as performed within gender identity clinics. In this our narrative moves on to illustrate the mutual and reciprocal relationships between the dynamics of resistance and regulation. The chapter ends by commenting on other instances of sexually ambiguous positions (e.g. ‘Boys from Brazil’) and advertisements of sex transformation shops in the UK. These highlight questions of agency, class and new forms of gender and subjectivities possible within the late capitalist market, of which gender identity clinics are simply one site of regulation and/ or resistance.