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Art Critique Essay History Humanities Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

The Violence of the Cut: Transsexual Homeopathy and Cinematic Aesthetics

By Eliza Steinbock, 2012

The medicalized image of the Transsexual, a sexological and psychological nomenclature, is frayed by a long history of conflicts erupting over the question whether teams of psychologists, surgeons and endocrinologists have a sound scientific basis to diagnose, intervene and treat the condition. Crucially, Transsexuality and its current moniker Gender Identity Disorder has been framed as a condition, one that, while treatable with hormone therapy and reconstructive surgeries, may not be cured. The figure of the Transsexual, the »victim« of a lifelong condition, emerged at the turn of the long century when great technological change was underway, giving rise to great anxiety as well as celebration expressed in the Western culture of the fin de siècle. The heady conjunction of sex science, surgical technique and new understandings of sexual embodiment as changeable, all potentially enabling and constraining discourses for those who want to be recognized within the domain of Transsexual, is articulated in the 1933 memoir of the European cause célèbre, Lili Elbe (1936 [1933]). Titled first in English as Man into Woman: A True and Authentic Record of a Change of Sex. The true story of the miraculous transformation of the Danish painter, Einar Wegener (Andreas Sparre), the 2004 English reprint stresses the historical importance of her »portrait« as in fact representing the technological prototype of sex-change: Man into Woman: The First Sex-Change. A Portrait of Lili Elbe, with the even longer subtitle The true and remarkable transformation of the painter Einar Wegener

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