Trans rights beyond pathologisation

Lead Research Organisation: University of Essex
Department Name: Law


Although trans people are subjected to systematic discrimination and violence, throughout the
past thirty years, human rights bodies have failed to address the ensuing violations. When
addressing trans people's rights, human rights bodies have endorsed pathologising models.
Pathologisation consists in the identification of trans people's gender identities as a disorder.
The endorsement of these models has prevented the full recognition of trans rights as human
rights, and the continued imposition of coercive medical treatments by states. The objectives
of this project are to research how trans people are pathologised, critically analyse the causes
and effects of human rights bodies' endorsement of pathologisation, and reframe trans rights
under international human rights law to improve their recognition. This research project will
begin by exploring how states use medico-legal policies to regulate, control and pathologise
trans people's bodies and lives. To conduct this research, a biopolitical framework and queer
theory will be applied to analyse medico-legal policies and practices regulating trans people's
access to transition, to legal gender recognition and the consequential limitation of rights.
Following this analysis, the research project aims to determine how pathologising approaches
to gender nonconformity are maintained and reinforced by human rights law. Due to a major
gap in the literature, the project will include an empirical research component. This section will
first include a review of judgements and human rights instruments by regional and
international institutions as well as domestic institutions from a selected number of countries.
Secondly, to fill the research gap, the project will include interviews with representatives of
trans organisations and experts on legal gender recognition, focusing on the influence of
pathologisation on the recognition of the harm perpetrated. The empirical research will focus
both on countries that have recently introduced models of gender self-determination and
countries currently pathologising trans people. The final objective of this research project is to
identify how trans people's rights can be better recognised through a re-classification of rights.
The research will seek to identify a model of reclassification that prescinds pathologisation and
medico-legal hyper-regulation, through the transformative equality framework, which will be
adopted alongside and as part of the research's queer and biopolitical frameworks.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00072X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2747446 Studentship ES/P00072X/1 01/10/2022 30/09/2025 Matteo Bassetti