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The Emergence of a Discourse of Transgender in South Africa

  • B Camminga
Chapter
Part of the Global Queer Politics book series (GQP)

Abstract

The policing of gendered and sexual behaviours, along with race, functioned as a central tool in an arsenal of prescriptive measures deployed by the South African apartheid state to ensure the exclusion of ‘deviance’. However, gender and the production of gender subjectivities has received remarkably little attention. This chapter addresses this lacuna plotting, beginning with the earliest instances of the legislative curtailing of gender-transgressive behaviour through the Disguises Acts (1906–1969). By plotting the historical commingling of eugenics and sexology, the interweaving relationship between the law and medical knowledge it is the argument of this chapter that the apartheid state did not simply police acceptable gender but defined normality and abnormality within public sphere. This includes what, at first glance, may seem quite strange—the materialisation of transsexuality during apartheid as a state-sanctioned medical and legal entity. This chapter follows the varied and shifting understandings, diagnoses, and assemblages of the gendered body in South Africa, in particular how it has been constructed—deviant, inverted, homosexual, and transsexual—by whom, and to what end, including its construction by groups such as the Phoenix Society, quite possibly the first organisation in South Africa to focus on gender-transgressive identities.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • B Camminga
    • 1
  1. 1.African Centre for Migration and SocietyUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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