Please join us Friday, May 25, at Interdisciplinary Approaches to Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia (REECA) for:

Transsexual Bodies: Normalizing Difference in the Era of Normalization




This paper explores the phenomenon of sex transitions in socialist Czechoslovakia. Analyzing expert literature and individual petitions for sex reassignment, the paper shows that the 1970s, often painted as a period of the Communist Party’s retrenchment and stagnation, represented a time of profound change for Czechoslovak transsexuals. Over the course of the decade, experts liberalized their attitude towards sex reassignment, which led the Party/state to implement a set of regulations about sex and legal status change. The paper argues that it was experts rather than the Party who were agents of disciplinary power. By requiring that the transsexual individual performs the role of the desired sex, experts strove to create governable and legible bodies, indirectly buttressing the stability of the gender order and the regime. At the same time, transsexual individuals were not victims of these disciplinary powers, and exerted enormous pressure on authorities. Situating this phenomenon in the Western trajectory of sex reassignment, the paper shows that Czechoslovak experts intimately knew and drew on Western (as well as East German) sexological discourse and practice, The paper offers tentative explanations for why the official statistics of the ratio of FtM: MfT sex changes in the East and the West is reversed.


Author: Michaela Appeltova, PhD Candidate in History (University of Chicago)


Discussant: Claire Roosien, PhD Candidate in NELC and History (University of Chicago)


May 25, 2018

12:00pm-1:20pm in Foster Hall, Room 103

University of Chicago


Light refreshments will be served. You are welcome to bring your lunch.


The paper is available on our website under the ‘Papers’ tab. Password: reeca18ma

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