Medicine as Objective?

The assumed objectivity of medicine as not only a practice, science, and academy, but as a community cornerstone for health and happiness is quite troubling and a bit disconcerting. To think many cultures in North America and Western Europe engage in such practices of reliance on the medico-scientific community without much thought or protest is quite astonishing. And when I discuss “health and happiness” I mean the smallest of things: trusting your doctor to provide the correct daily regimine of vitamins, skincare, and cures for common (annoying, yet not life threatening) ailments.

Moving past this thought and into Dean Spades Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender, I can’t help but find his testimony regarding dependence of trans* individuals on, not only the medico-scientific field, but the law as well to be a sad, disheartening truth and in a sense, quite absurd.

To quote:

 “Try to get your birth certificate amended to change your sex designation, and you will be asked to show evidence of the surgical procedures you have undergone to change your sex. Try to change your name to a name typically associated with the “other gender,” and in many places you will be told to resubmit your petition with evidence of the medical procedures you have completed drivers’ license sex designation changed, and again you will be required to present medical evidence. If you are trans or gender transgressive, even your ability to use a gendered bathroom without getting harassed or arrested may be dependent on your ability to produce identification of your gender, which will only indicate your new gender if you have successfully submitted medical evidence to the right authorities” (Spade, 16-17).

Spade is not only declaring here how important the medico-scientific community is in some, if not most, trans* peoples embodied realities, but how seemingly pervasive medicine tends to be in the realm of the law concerning trans* people and their desired identities.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Doctors save lives everyday (blablabla). But it’s quite hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that any one individual has the right to declare the lived experiences of a another individual as lacking the “requirements” necessary for them to embody what ever body they choose. Or to require permission to make certain decisions based on one’s own, personal, bodily property.

However, completely dismissing the medico-scientific community’s importance in the trajectory of trans* peoples lives, historically and currently, would be to completely deny the necessity of that community. Without science and medicine, some trans* people would, not only, not be able to modify their bodies in the ways they choose but would be denied a form of embodied agency.

In my eyes there is a fine, and contested line, along which the medico-scientific community is and has been straddled. On the one hand, some of their services are necessary. On the other, their pervasiveness and ability to oversimplify, overgeneralize, and overpathologize trans* people seems backwards in a society with a seemingly liberal trajectory.

-Sally Stempler


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