“A Precious Resource”: Trans Surgery in Service to the State

Eric Plemons
Mon October 24th 2022, 3:30 - 5:00pm
Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 50-51A (Colloquium Room)

Email pdios54@stanford.edu for Zoom link

Abstract: Since their emergence into mainstream US consciousness in the 1950s, genital surgeries in service to transgender transition have been characterized as contrary to the interests of the state. But amidst ongoing hand wringing over trans people’s access to surgical care, biomedical researchers have begun expanding the impact of some trans women’s genital surgeries beyond her operated body. Penile tissues harvested during trans women’s genital operations are being used in research to achieve a seemingly incontrovertible good at the center of the state’s moral project: the restoration of American soldiers whose penises have been obliterated in war. By recasting her surgical transformation from a personal and individual project into one that creates a precious resource for the rehabilitation of the virile American soldier, the trans woman’s body project may not be antithetical to military might but prove essential to its enactment.

Bio: Eric Plemons is Associate Professor in the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona where he is also Co-Chair of the UA Transgender Studies Research Cluster. His research focuses on the politics and practice of transgender medicine and surgery, mostly in the United States. Plemons’s first book, The Look of a Woman: facial feminization surgery and the aims of trans medicine (Duke UP) was awarded the 2017 Ruth Benedict Prize by the Association for Queer Anthropology. He is currently a Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center and a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar.