Histories and futures of sex, gender and sexuality
I have a PhD in Critical and Cultural Theory from the English Department at Cardiff University. I am currently writing a social and medical history on intersex in Britain from the early 20th century in the Department of Sociology, working closely with colleagues in Psychology, here at the University of Surrey.
I'm interested in interdisciplinary sexualities research, particularly in historicising and contextualising scientific and medical ways of understanding bodies and practices related to sex, gender and sexuality.
I also run (with a little help from my friends) the FUTURESEX project. Find out more here.
Areas of specialism
University roles and responsibilities
- Chair of the University LGBTQI+ Staff Network
My research interests are varied, but centre around sex, gender and sexuality. In particular, I bring a number of different disciplines (including queer theory and feminist science studies) together to place medical and scientific conceptions of non-normative bodies and practices, in historical and cultural context. This has led me to research on: gay genes; sociobiology and evolutionary psychology; lichens, symbioses and ecologies; viruses and biopolitics; surgical and hormonal interventions on bodies (particularly those related to intersex/variations of sex characteristics); and medicine and temporality.
Currently, I am undertaking a Wellcome Trust University Award Research Fellowship on the history of intersex in the UK. I am working closely with Prof Peter Hegarty in the department of Psychology on this project.
Postgraduate research supervision
I would be happy to talk to potential PhD students about any of the following areas (and this is not an exhaustive list):
- Queer theory
- Feminist Science Studies
- Intersex Studies
- LGBTIQ+ Histories and Futures
- Medicalisation of the Body
- Entanglements of Sex, Gender, and Sexualities
I'm particularly interested in projects that engage with theoretical, archival and historical methodologies.
I teach in the Department of Sociology.
Current modules are:
- Internet and Society
- Media, Power and Control
- Communicating Difference in Visual Media
- Dimensions of Social Change
The medical ‘management’ of individuals with atypical sex characteristics, or intersex variations, has been under scrutiny since the beginnings of intersex activism in the 1990s. This article explores a history of intersex surgeries in Britain and the interaction with medical and popular discourses around ‘sex-change’ between 1930 and 1955. A focus on this period in Britain helps to critically elaborate on debates in intersex scholarship; provides historical context for the introduction of approaches and protocols based on John Money and colleagues’ work in the USA in the mid-century; and analyses a long history of tension and intersection between trans and intersex experiences, treatments, politics and popular representations that continue into the present.
This article charts the historical period from the 1950s to the 1990s, focusing on the role of Psychology in the lives of LGBTIQ people in Britain. Psychology has been, and is, central to the social, legal and medical understandings of biological sex and how best to understand diversity in gender and sexuality. Likewise, gay liberation and liberationist politics also had an effect on Psychology. For the 1950s-1960s, we outline how Psychologists influenced the Law in relation to the Wolfenden Report (1957) and how expertise was centrally located within the Psy disciplines. Following this, in the 1960s-1970s, activists began to challenge this expertise and became increasingly critical of pathologisation and of ‘treatments’ for homosexuality. They did not reject Psychology wholesale, however, and some groups engaged with queer affirmative psychologists who had similar liberatory aims. Finally, for the 1980s-1998 we highlight the establishment of the Lesbian and Gay Section of the British Psychological Society which signalled institutional recognition of lesbian and gay psychologists. This is explored against a backdrop of a specific British history of HIV/AIDS and Section 28. The past fifty years have been a battleground of categories in which LGBTIQ people were conflated, compared, and confused. We demonstrate that psychologists (not all of whom adopted a pathologising perspective) alongside politicians, lawyers, doctors, journalists and activists all played a role in the boundary-making practices of this period. Across this entangled history we demonstrate varied and significant shifts in the legitimacy of professional and personal expertise. Public Significance Statement: This article presents a British history of LGBTIQ Psychology from 1954-1998. Within a complex landscape of law, social change, medicine and activism, it recognises the influence Psychology has had on the lives of LGBTIQ people and vice versa. This history is important for contemporary Psychology as LGBTIQ issues continue to be contested in Britain and further afield.
What are ‘gay genes’ and are they real? This article looks at key research into these hypothesized gay genes, made possible, in part, by the Human Genome Project. I argue that the complexity of both genetics and human sexuality demands a truly critical approach: one that takes into account feminist epistemologies of science and queer approaches to the body, while putting into conversation resources from agential realism and critical realism. This approach is able to maintain the agential complexity of genetic materiality, while also critically challenging the seemingly stable relationships between sex, gender and sexuality.
The 2006 ‘Consensus statement on management of intersex disorders’ recommended moving to a new classification of intersex variations, framed in terms of ‘disorders of sex development’ or DSD. Part of the rationale for this change was to move away from associations with gender, and to increase clarity by grounding the classification system in genetics. While the medical community has largely accepted the move, some individuals from intersex activist communities have condemned it. In addition, people both inside and outside the medical community have disagreed about what should be covered by the classification system, in particular whether sex chromosome variations and the related diagnoses of Turner and Klinefelter’s syndromes should be included. This article explores initial descriptions of Turner and Klinefelter’s syndromes and their subsequent inclusion in intersex classifications, which were increasingly grounded in scientific understandings of sex chromosomes that emerged in the 1950s. The article questions the current drive to stabilize and ‘sort out’ intersex classifications through a grounding in genetics. Alternative social and historical definitions of intersex – such as those proposed by the intersex activists – have the potential to do more justice to the lived experience of those affected by such classifications and their consequences.