Passing as Experts in Transgender Medicine

Chapter 6 of The Unfinished Queer Agenda After Marriage Equality is a special one. In this chapter, sociologist stef shuster uses their observations from a trans medicine conference to analyze the ways health care providers try to “pass as experts” in transgender medicine.

Trans medicine still lacks many clinical trials, and many providers don’t have much experience working with trans people. This creates a lot of uncertainty that shuster argues they try to hide by performing the role of “Expert.” They also try to offload this to trans clients by demanding “certainty” from trans people about their gender expression in ways that don’t fit everyone, especially non-binary people.

stef describes how the conference had a medical side for the health providers and a non-medical side for trans activists and allies. The two sides were like two different worlds, with different sights, sounds, even smells. stef quotes some of the talks they heard from health providers, which contrasted non-binary clients with people who are “really” transitioning. stef’s research paints a striking picture of health providers’ detached and even arrogant stance toward their trans patients.
It’s a brilliant and insightful argument, and shuster’s autoethnography from the conference is vivid and engrossing. This is the kind of reading students would still remember at the end of the semester.