Ellen Herman

Department of History, University of Oregon


HIST 460/560, Winter 2007
Reading and Discussion Questions, Week 9

Joanne Meyerowitz, How Sex Changed (pp. 130-286)

1. What historical role does Meyerowitz give to transsexuals themselves?

2. How does Meyerowitz explain the difference between the numbers of MTF and FTM transsexuals? What consequences did this difference have for their experiences in life and their encounters with medicine?

3. How would you characterize the relationship between transsexual patients and their doctors? Explain the case of A (pp. 159-162) from the point of view of 1) transsexuals, and 2) doctors.

4. According to the author, what two sexual revolutions reshaped transsexualism after the Christine Jorgensen case? How were they different?

5. What significance does Meyerowitz attach to both doctors’ and transsexuals efforts to refine the classifications for people seeking sex change during the 1960s?

6. What was “liberal” about the liberal moment described in chapter 6?

7. What developments altered the medical landscape of sex change in the 1960s? What difference did these make culturally and to individuals seeking sex reassignment surgery?

8. By 1970, what criteria were used to assess the appropriateness of surgery for individuals who wanted it? What did these criteria indicate about both change and continuity in views of the body, gender identity, and sexual orientation?

9. When and where did self-defined transsexuals begin to form organizations of their own? What kind of organizations were they? What were their goals?

10. What happened when transsexuals began presenting legal challenges to courts and judges in the mid-1960s? Why does Meyerowitz believe that a handful of cases about birth certificates, name changes, marriage licenses, and passports had broad social significance for all American men and women? Do you agree?

11. “The liberal position accommodated the requests of the transsexual petitioner but tried to preserve intact the rest of the legal apparatus concerning sex differences, gender, and sexuality” (252). Explain.

12. What happened to transsexuality during the 1980s? What changed with the emergence of a transgender movement in the 1990s? What did the members of this “next generation” share with Christine Jorgensen? How did they differ from her?

John Colapinto, “What were the real reasons behind David Reimer's suicide?”

1. When and why did David Reimer become a famous case in medical and social debates about the nature and nurture of sex?

2. When and why did John Money and Milton Diamond get involved with David’s case? What lessons did they extract from it?

3. What does David Reimer’s suicide in 2004 suggest to you about the history of sex change?