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Rad Ed review: The Biopolitics of Sex

In order to be liberated, it is important to destabilise the binary notions of sex and gender, thus changing transphobic systems.

As part of Radical Education Week, Oscar Chaffey and Tia Ramsey of the Queer Action Collective hosted a forum on the biopolitics of sex. The forum debunked myths of human sex, discussed transgender healthcare and showed practical applications to destabilise notions behind sex and gender. 

Chaffey mentioned their inspiration was to combat ‘the culture war of gender vs sex.’  While biological sex is often perceived as a binary, the concept is ‘just as unstable as the gender binary’ from a scientific perspective.

Chaffey also debunked the theory of chromosomal and hormonal justification for transphobic claims.  From a chromosomal point of view, males are perceived to have XY chromosomes whilst females are perceived to have XX chromosomes. However, there are individuals who fall outside of this chromosomal binary. They also noted that individuals with both XX and XY chromosomes can possess naturally high testosterone levels, debunking the myth that one’s hormones strictly determine one’s sex. 

Tia Ramsey spoke to attendees about trans health care and its systemic inaccessibility within Australia. There is virtually little to no nationally mandated care for transgender people in Australia, and medical training for professionals is severely lacking, if not non-existent. 

For Ramsey, it is important for trans folks to ‘take control over your own healthcare.’ Due to a lack of research, the system fails to even provide appropriate information about the positives and long-term risks of transitioning, as you would expect with any medical procedure. As a result, there are health disparities between transgender folks and the general population, resulting in poorer health outcomes for people who already face discrimination.

‘I would love to see a more long term study that comes from a more empathetic perspective of trans people and establish risk factors, so we can understand the high quality health care that trans people need,’ said Ramsey.

Ramsey also discussed controversial issues that people use ‘to debase trans issues,’ highlighting transphobic commentaries. Trans children and adolescents are commonly ‘being weaponised to debase trans health care’ due to misrepresentation, as a result of biased studies. The ethical dilemmas surrounding transitioning for younger people highlights how ‘transphobia has prevented there being more research about [trans health care] in a non-judgemental way.’ 

From an Australian perspective, Ramsey felt that she was isolated by the Australian medical system during her own transition. Like many trans people, she was forced to do her own research and to navigate the medical system without guidance. The lack of support from specialists and GPs affirms the transphobic nature of the national medical system and the need for research and training. 

The forum closed with Oscar Chaffey discussing how to practically move forward. In order to be liberated, it is important to destabilise the binary notions of sex and gender, thus changing transphobic systems. We must continually be critical of the relationship that institutional medicine has with trans bodies, and ‘[to regulate] systems of access to medicine so they are safe and trustworthy.’