Our project director, Dr Jana Funke, and Engaged Research Fellow, Dr Jen Grove, spoke at the conference Moving Trans* History Forward 2016 – Building Communities* Sharing Connections, University of Victoria, Canada, 17-20th March 2016. Their paper was on ‘Trans* History Meets the History of Sexology: Interrogating the Past, Engaging Communities’.
Sexology, the scientific study of sexuality, emerged in the nineteenth century and powerfully shaped modern trans* histories. Sexology is mainly remembered for its ‘medicalisation’ of trans* bodies, but early sexologists also studied gender diversity from broader historical, anthropological and literary perspectives. Drawing on our research on this cross-disciplinary dimension of sexology, our presentation asks how we can engage trans* communities to explore the overlapping histories of trans* and sexology. We examine recent exhibitions that have dealt with this relationship and reflect on our own engaged research, e.g. as part of Transvengers, a project that empowered young trans* adults to interrogate different historical sexological understandings of trans*. We will ask what can be gained by turning to the history of sexology and conclude by calling for innovative cross-disciplinary and collaborative methods that allow us to explore the past to think through gender and sexuality today.