College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree

Women & Gender Studies


transgender, pathology, law, gender self-determination, youth


While contemporary attitudes, laws and policies in the U.S. toward lesbian, gay and bisexual people are increasingly more humane and just, transgender and gender nonconforming people continue to experience widespread structural oppression, discrimination and physical and psychological violence. Through a close analytic reading of fourteen contemporary court decisions involving young transgender and gender nonconforming people, this paper examines the seemingly neutral institutions of law and medicine and exposes how access to institutional resources hinges on a medically authorized diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder. It explores the harm caused by this pathology, its erasure of socialization, and its normalization of gender conformity. It challenges the dominant societal and institutional knowledge that says transpeople are mentally ill, threatening, deceptive and the locus of the violence we experience. The analysis implies the need for medicine and law to value one’s right to self-determine their gender identity and expression, the need for the erasure of pathology as a means to access trans related resources, and the need for a societal and institutionalized shift away from understanding gender nonconformity as inherently harmful. I suggest a critical trans politics embrace a strategy of working with while transforming beyond institutions in its desires to decrease institutionalized harm and increase trans survival.