Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Women's and Gender Studies

Committee Chair

Theriot, Nancy M.

Author's Keywords

Transsexual; Cartesian; Transgender; Subjectivity; Foucault; Ulane v. Eastern Airlines


Transsexualism--Social aspects; Transsexuals--Legal status, laws, etc.; Transsexualism--United States--History; Foucault, Michel, 1926-1984; Huffer, Lynne, 1960-


This project uses the work of Michel Foucault and Lynne Huffer to examine the creation of the transsexual subject in 1950s American sexology through the Cartesian subject. I argue that medical professionals utilized the Cartesian subject as a standard to create and classify transsexuality as deviant. Further, through their joining, medicine and psychology positioned the transsexual subject in both madness and abnormality. Such a position leaves transsexuals in a subject position that cannot speak for itself and requires medical qualification. I demonstrate how such a subject position, created through medicalized discursive practices, carries over into judicial discourse. I find that the judiciary demands transsexuality be spoken, but utilizes medical discourse to define and interpret transsexuality. Examining Ulane v. Eastern Airlines, I argue that the tropes of the transsexual act as techniques of Cartesianism that require transsexual subjects conform to a properly aligned interiority/exteriority and mind/body.