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Critique Essay History Humanities Law/Legal Nonfiction

The Substance of Borders: Transgender Politics, Mobility, and US State Regulation of Testosterone

By Toby Beauchamp, 2013

Through the critical lens of transgender studies, this article examines the broader cultural framework of the US state’s classification of synthetic testosterone as a controlled substance. Although Chesemore’s concerns about physical abnormalities and secretive cross-border trafficking are framed as two separate points, this article contends that they are intertwined. I argue that state discourse on regulating synthetic testosterone turns on testosterone’s position as a substance discursively and materially linked to anxieties of mobility. This mobility occurs at several levels: sex hormones’ own status as transitory, fluctuating chemicals in the body; their ability to alter the body and thus overtly demonstrate the fluidity of sex and gender categories; the shifting medicolegal and cultural investments in linking hormones with normative sexual, racial, and national characteristics; and the flow of hormones across national borders during research, manufacturing, marketing, and sale. In particular, fears of illicit circulation and undetected use of testosterone parallel and work in tandem with cultural anxieties that position the figure of the gender-nonconforming person as dangerously, deceptively fluid. I suggest that the regulation of synthetic testosterone, and the fears and rhetoric used to maintain that regulation, draw heavily on this figure while never directly naming it.

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