Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Sex signs: transsexuality, autobiography, and the languages of sexual difference in the United Kingdom and United States of America, 1950-2000

By Daniel J. O'Connor


This dissertation explores the relationship between transsexuality, autobiography and ideas of sexual difference in the United Kingdom and the United States of America between the years 1950 and 2000. This dissertation argues that rather than viewing sex and gender in hierarchic fashion, transsexual autobiography allows us to see their relationship as mutually legitimating. Both biological sex and psychological gender acted as historically contingent ‘sex signs’ which worked to show the autobiographer as man or woman, despite having been born in the opposite sex.\ud \ud I argue that far from biology dictating gender, or gender defining sex, both were used equally and strategically by transsexuals in order to fluently speak a language of sexual difference which their ‘audiences’ – be they medical professionals, legal scholars, newspaper journalists, or close friends and family members – could understand. This fluency permitted belief in them as the men or women they knew themselves to be. At some times, and in some company, genital sex signs were the most appropriate way of signifying sexual difference, whist in a different place and with different people, certain gender traits were more useful. Always, though, was the transsexual’s signification of him- or her-self as man or woman delimited by public discourses of sexual difference which impacted upon ‘non-transsexuals’ also. In closely reading transsexual autobiographies we are better able to see the construction, and naturalisation, of sexual difference in the second half of the twentieth century.\ud \ud By looking both at the strategic uses of transsexual autobiographies and the wider public reactions to such life stories (and the individuals who tell them), this dissertation shows how the languages of sexual difference, of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ were in a constant state of flux during the period in question

Topics: HQ
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1976). A Gender Problem at Forest Hills - Chromosome Tests May Be Required',
  2. (1995). A Self Made Man: The Diary of a Man Bom in a Woman's Body (London,
  3. (1977). A Successful Loss',
  4. (1976). A Transsexual Speaks: Muscles WiII Change',
  5. (1976). A Woman Swimmer Returns With Medals,
  6. (1992). Accounting for Transsexualism and Trans-homosexuality
  7. (2002). Alien Bodies: Bodybuilding, Abjection, and the Ideal of the Modern Body', Unpublished MA Thesis,
  8. (1993). American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modem Era doi
  9. (1993). An Ethics of Sexual Difference (trans. doi
  10. (1978). An Ethnomethodological Approach doi
  11. (1900). Anxieties: Men's Sexuality, doi
  12. (1970). April Ashley "left in a sort of limbo",
  13. (1970). April Ashley Is still a man, says divorce judge',
  14. (1970). April Ashley: Husband in a Coma',
  15. (2000). As Nature Made Him: The True Story of the Boy Who Was Raised as a Girt doi
  16. Ashley's Odyssey
  17. (1970). Ashley's Own Story: The Next Man I Marry',
  18. (1994). Aspects of Aristocracy: Grandeur and Decline in Modem doi
  19. (1994). Beyond the Natural Body: An Archaeology of Sex Hormones doi
  20. (1991). Body Guards: The Cultural Politics of Gender Ambiguity
  21. (2001). Book Reviews: The Vices of Economists - The Virtues of the Bourgeoisie and How to be Human - Though and Economist, both by Deirdre N. McCloskey' doi
  22. (1976). Bows to Foe, 17',
  23. (1945). British Society Since doi
  24. (2003). Butch Blues (reprint with Afterword by Feinberg,
  25. (1994). By the Bomb's Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (Chapel Hill, doi
  26. (1995). Changing Sex: Transsexualism, Technology, and the Idea of Gender doi
  27. (1995). Christine Jorgensen and the Cold War Closet', doi
  28. (1992). City of Dreadful Delight: doi
  29. (1992). Clap's Molly House: The Gay Subculture in England, doi
  30. (1994). Coming on Strong: Gender and Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Women's Sport doi
  31. (1976). Communist Athletes',
  32. (1976). Controversy Over Renee Richards Adds Dimension to Sex Role in Sports',
  33. (2002). Conundrum (reprint, with introduction by Morris,
  34. (1990). Cossey v UK,
  35. (1977). Court must face facts on transsexual', Chicago Tribune,
  36. (1975). Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women
  37. (1999). Crossing: A Memoir(Chicago, doi
  38. (1988). Culture and the Cold War (London, doi
  39. (1996). Cultures of Consumption: Masculinities and Social Spaces in Late Twentieth-Century doi
  40. (2000). Dangerous Sexualities: Medico-Moral Politics in England Since 1830 (2nd edn., doi
  41. (1996). Dear Sir or Madam? The Autobiography of a Female-to-Male (London,
  42. (1997). Dismembering the Male: Men's Bodies, Britain, and the Great War doi
  43. (1980). Divided Sisterhood: A Critical Review of Janice Raymond's The Transsexual Empire"
  44. (1990). Double Fault: Renee Richards and the Construction and Naturalization of Difference', Sociology of Sport Journal? doi
  45. (1972). Embryonic and Fetal Development: Reproduction in Mammals, doi
  46. (1997). Envy: A History of Cosmetic Surgery doi
  47. (2005). Exploring Transsexualism (London, doi
  48. (1970). Fashions from Paris: So girls can wear trousers - even at their wedding! ',
  49. (1983). Female-to-Male Transsexualism: Historical, Clinical, and Theoretical Issues (London,
  50. (1970). Femininity or Prowess: US Women Must Chose',
  51. (2000). Feminism and the Biological Body
  52. (1987). Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law doi
  53. (1983). Feminist Politics and Human Nature doi
  54. (1998). Flesh: A Philosophical Reader
  55. (2000). Gender and Social Change in Britain Since 1880 doi
  56. (1988). Gender and the Politics of History doi
  57. (1994). Gender Dysphoria: A Guide to Research
  58. (2005). Generation: How Social Liberalism is Corrupting Our Future (Lanham,
  59. (1976). German Women's Success Stirs Up US Anger',
  60. (2002). Goodwin v UK,
  61. (2001). Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism doi
  62. (1999). Hair-Razing. Female Body Hair: Threat, Transgression and Taboo', Unpublished MA Thesis,
  63. (1961). Her" Secret is Out', Sunday People,
  64. (1970). Here comes the bride - or is it the blooming groom? ',
  65. (2004). Heroes, Princesses and Wicked Wives: The Fairy Tale Lives of Men',
  66. (1999). Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (2nd edn., doi
  67. (2002). How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States (Camb(dge, doi
  68. (1966). Human Sexual Response doi
  69. (1970). I am not a Monster, I am a Woman',
  70. (1967). If Her Chromosomes Add Up, She's Sure to be a Woman',
  71. (2001). Illness Narratives: Fact or Fiction? ', doi
  72. (1962). in a Crowded Pub, Arthur Told Me He Loved Me',
  73. (1970). In a Glass Cage" With Renee',
  74. (2005). In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives doi
  75. (2003). In the Flesh: The Cultural Politics of Body Modification doi
  76. (1970). Is this really what you want? ',
  77. (1970). Judge ends 'sex change' marriage',
  78. (1970). Judgement on April',
  79. (1967). Kiev Ban on Top Woman Sprinter, The Times,
  80. (1982). King: The Story of a Great Tennis Player (London,
  81. (1998). Lessons From the Intersexed doi
  82. (2005). Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People doi
  83. (2000). Make Love Not War. The Sexual Revolution, An Unfettered History doi
  84. (1991). Making Sex: Body and Gender From the Greeks to Freud doi
  85. (1999). Making the Body Beautiful: A Cultural History of Aesthetic Surgery doi
  86. (1974). Male and Female He Made Them',
  87. (1994). Masculinity and Its Discontents', doi
  88. (1999). Me: The Double Life of Billy doi
  89. (2005). Medical History From the Viewpoint of the Patient', doi
  90. (1966). Medical Tests for Female Athletes', The Times,
  91. (1973). Metahistory:: The Historical Imagination doi
  92. (1976). Miss Anthony uses psychological edge',
  93. (2004). Modem Love: An
  94. (1997). Monsieur d'Eon is a Woman: A Tale doi
  95. Mountains: the Performative Consciousness of Modernity
  96. (1977). Mrs King on the Path to Youth',
  97. (1991). Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder (London,
  98. (1962). My Strange Life - by April Ashley',
  99. (1994). New York: The Making of the Gay Male World, doi
  100. (2004). Nudity: A Cultural Anatomy doi
  101. (1976). Olympics: US's Lesson in Humility',
  102. (2004). On Sexuality and Power
  103. (1993). On the Discursive Limits of Sex doi
  104. (2006). On the recent poverty of Nora Ephron's cinematic output: www. bbc. co. uk/films/2005/08/03/bewitched 2005 review. shtml (viewed 16
  105. (2003). One David Beckham": Celebrity, Masculinity and the Socceratti',
  106. (1977). Open Won't Recognise Test Taken by, Dr Richards',
  107. (1999). Operations of Legal Rhetoric: Examining Transsexual and Judicial Identity', Harvard Civil Rights - Civil Liberties Law Review,
  108. (1999). Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution doi
  109. (2005). Parts: Critical Engagements With Corporeality (Lanham, doi
  110. (1977). People in Sports: USTA to review tests on Dr Richards',
  111. (1970). Plastic Surgery: Beauty You Can
  112. (1989). Pleasures of a Tangled Life
  113. (1967). Polish Decision Criticised', The Times,
  114. (2004). Politics and Culture in Postwar doi
  115. (1995). Politics: Regulating the Female Body doi
  116. (1976). Pool Where Britain Can Only Go Panning',
  117. (2005). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families
  118. (1988). Pornography and Civil Rights: A New Day For Women's Equality
  119. (1981). Pornography: Men Possessing Women doi
  120. (1994). Printed Primary Sources " American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (4"' edn.,
  121. (2002). Problems in the History of American Sexuality
  122. (2005). Queer London: Perils and Pleasures doi
  123. (1977). Rebuff to Mrs King Causes a Split in Women's Tennis',
  124. (1977). Renee Richards In New Dispute Over Sex Test',
  125. (1976). Renee Richards Pursuing Tennis Career for a Cause',
  126. (1976). Renee Richards Rejects Sex Test', The Times,
  127. (1977). Renee Richards Reports She Has Passed Sex Test',
  128. (1995). Reshaping the Female Body: the Dilemma of Cosmetic Surgery doi
  129. (2001). Review: Jean-Francois Gaudreault-DesBiens, Le sexe et le droit. Sur le fdminisme juridique de Catharine MacKinnon (Liber, doi
  130. (1970). Richard Hams Upstages La Lollo in the Maxi Stakes',
  131. (1977). Richards Gets Support of Mrs King',
  132. (1976). Richards Set to Refuse to Take Sex Test',
  133. (1962). Scandal - hotel throws us our,
  134. (1993). Scared: Masculinity and the Representation of the Male Body doi
  135. (1976). Schoolgirl makes Dr Richards battle',
  136. (1976). Second Time Around for Renee',
  137. (2003). Self-Made Men: Identity and Embodiment among Transsexual Men doi
  138. (1983). Serve: The Renee Richards Story doi
  139. (1970). Sex Change April Says I'll Still Wear My Gowns',
  140. (2005). Sex Change, Social Change: Reflections on Identity, Institutions, doi
  141. (1970). Sex Change' April Ashley is still a man, says judge',
  142. (2003). Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism (2nd edn., doi
  143. (1985). Sex Signs: Bibliography 264 "
  144. (1967). Sex Test Disqualifies Athlete',
  145. (1976). Sex Tests for Open Under Way',
  146. (2003). Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation doi
  147. (1994). Sex: The Politics of Pleasure (London, doi
  148. (2004). Sexuality and Its Discontents: Meanings, Myths, and Modem Sexualities (reprint, doi
  149. (1970). Shattered" April says: I'll fight to stay a girl',
  150. (1976). She'd Rather Switch - And Fight',
  151. (2003). She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders (New.
  152. (2004). Simpsons episode: hftp: //www.
  153. (1998). Skins: The Body Narratives of Transsexuality doi
  154. (1999). Slow Motion: Changing Masculinities, doi
  155. (1970). Snap! I took Derek out in his new maxi-frock... and there was this bloke in his old-fashioned mini skirt! ',
  156. (1976). Socialist Victory",
  157. (1976). Some Olympians Get Tin',
  158. (2001). Something She Called a Fever: Michelet, Derrida, and Dust'', doi
  159. (1976). Speaking of People',
  160. (1994). Sporting Females: Critical Issues in the History and Sociology of Women's Sports doi
  161. (1999). Stiffed: The Betrayal of Modem Man
  162. (1995). Strange Dislocations: Childhood and the Idea of Human Interiority (London, doi
  163. (1976). Swimmers - Do Big Girls Have Less Fun? ', San Francisco Chronicle,
  164. (1967). Tamara Press Retires as Track Competitor',
  165. (1976). Tennis Faces Challenge by Transsexuals',
  166. (2005). Testosterone Dreams: Rejuvenation, Aphrodisia, doi
  167. (2000). The Adonis Complex: How to Identify, Treat and Prevent Body Obsession
  168. (1970). The April Ashley Story',
  169. (1993). The Art of Midwifery: Early Modem Midwives in Europe (London, doi
  170. (1991). The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women (London, doi
  171. (1985). The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World doi
  172. (1980). The Cancer Journals,
  173. (1995). The Central Mistake of Sex Discrimination Law: The Disaggregation of Sex From Gender, doi
  174. (1992). The Change: Women, Ageing, and the Menopause doi
  175. (2004). The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics
  176. (2001). The Cultural Cold War.
  177. (1997). The Feminine Ideal (London,
  178. (1963). The Feminine Mystique doi
  179. (2006). The First Lady (London,
  180. (1994). the Future Female? Troubled Thoughts on Contemporary Feminism (London, doi
  181. (1976). The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality doi
  182. (1969). The Intersexual Disorders (London, doi
  183. (2005). The Long Sexual Revolution: English Women, Sex, and Contraception, doi
  184. (1980). The Making of the English Working Class (3rd edn., with new preface,
  185. (1997). The Male Body: A New Look at Men
  186. (1989). The Mind Has No Sex: Women and the Origins of Modem Science doi
  187. (1976). The Monster Lives! ',
  188. (1976). The Olympics Revisited: Perfection and Crybabies',
  189. (1962). The Operation', doi
  190. (1985). The Patient's View: Doing Medical History From Below', doi
  191. (1995). The Perfectible Body: The Western Ideal of Physical Perfection
  192. (1999). The Pornography of Permissiveness: Men's Sexuality and Women's Emancipation in Mid Twentieth-Century Britain', doi
  193. (1988). The Private Self: Theory and Practice of Women's Writing doi
  194. (1964). The Red-Faced Reds',
  195. (2006). The Rivals: Chris Evert Versus Martina Navratilova (London, doi
  196. (1968). The Second Skin: An Interdisciplinary Study of Clothing
  197. (1986). The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture doi
  198. (2000). The Transgender Debate (London,
  199. (1979). The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male doi
  200. (1968). The Transsexual Phenomenon doi
  201. (2000). The Whole Woman (London, doi
  202. (1991). The Woman Beneath the Skin: A Doctor's Patients in Eighteenth-Century Germany doi
  203. (2001). The Woman I was Not Bom to Be: A Transsexual Journey
  204. (2000). The World Split Open: How The Modem Women's Movement doi
  205. (1997). Thinking With Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modem Europe doi
  206. (1985). This Sex Which is Not One (trans.
  207. (1976). to the Drawing Board for the US',
  208. (1996). Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman doi
  209. (1976). Transsexual Must Take Test to Prove Her Sex'.
  210. (1986). Transsexualism & Sex Reassignment
  211. (1991). Transsexualism and Legal Policy',
  212. (1985). Transsexualism and Marriage',
  213. (1969). Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment doi
  214. (1954). Transsexualism and Transvestism as Psycho-Somatic and Somata Psychic Syndromes',
  215. (1995). Transsexuality in Society: A Sociology of Male-to-Female Transsexuals doi
  216. (1999). Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (2nd edn., with introduction by Butler, doi
  217. (2005). Twenty years of the 'Sexiest People in the World'
  218. (1976). Ugly Olympians of the '76 Games',
  219. (1993). Unbearable Weight: Feminism, doi
  220. (1963). US Track Team Leads in Moscov',
  221. (1976). US Women Swimmers are Confident',
  222. (1976). USTA Orders Sex Test For Women',
  223. (1992). Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety doi
  224. (2004). Viagra useage statistics: http: //www.
  225. (1970). Web Sources " Corbett v.
  226. (1999). What is a Woman? ' And Other Essays
  227. (1994). What Should Historians Do With Masculinity? Reflections on NineteenthCentury Britain', doi
  228. (1995). What Took You So Long? A Girl's Journey to Manhood (London,
  229. (1995). Why all the Fuss About the Body? A Medievalist's View', doi
  230. (1970). Why I think the judge was wrong over April', The People,
  231. (1993). With Fire: The New Female Power And How It Will Change The 21' doi
  232. (1974). with haniet (sic), Emergence: A Transsexual Autobiography
  233. (1977). Women Athletes and Their Fears About Femininity',
  234. (1993). Women: Perspectives on Pregnancy and the Unborn doi
  235. (1976). Women's Hopes Are Cast in Bronze';
  236. (1976). WTA members will not play Richards', The Times,

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.