Transgender citizenship in Lebanon: Navigating socio-legal and medical constructions of gender in Lebanon's judicial order and healthcare system

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Arab and Islamic Studies


This doctoral project will ethnographically and historically investigate the influence of legal-administrative, medical and socio-religious constructions of gender upon the legal and medical policy landscapes traversed by Lebanese transgender individuals in pursuit of medical treatment and legal gender emendation. The impact of navigating these administrative processes on transgender self-cognition will be considered, as well as the agency of transgender individuals in influencing policy through interactions with the judicial and healthcare systems. A particular focus of this project will be an analysis of the context surrounding recent shifts in the interpretation of personal status law by Court of Appeal judges to affirm the right of transgender individuals to self-identity, removing a previous surgical prerequisite to gender identity recognition.

Research Questions:
- How do legal-administrative, medical and socio-religious constructions of gender in Lebanon shape legal and medical policy affecting transgender individuals?
- How do the interactions of transgender individuals with the Lebanese judicial order affect the netgotiation of bioethical consensus on gender dysphoria? How do these interactions affect self-cognition?

The methodological approach of this study is informed by the anthropology of policy, which takes policy as a means to understand state-citizen relationships. Following Shore and Wright, this project will
approach policy as a 'cultural text', understanding that policy design may elucidate broader societal questions due to the mutually-constitutive relationship of policy with social 'domains of meaning'. Thus, Lebanese legal and healthcare policy will be taken as a starting point to consider socio-religious understandings of gender, and gender-affirming legal and medical procedures.

This study will also draw upon the methods of the anthropology of law to consider the 'disputing process' by which transgender individuals negotiate amendments to their personal status records through the judicial system. I will adopt Nader's user theory of law, embarking from the assumption that 'the direction of law depends mainly on what people are enabled and motivated to use the law to do,' thus centring the agency of transgender petitioners in influencing the direction of law- and policymaking through their interactions with the state.

In considering the effect of engagement with discriminatory state administrative procedures on transgender self-cognition, some aspects of methodology will be drawn from the social psychology of prejudice, as described by Barreto and Ellemers.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2592432 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2021 30/09/2025 Hannah Cowdell