Joshua Franklin, 2011, Anthropology

This summer I worked with a center for sex reassignment surgeries provided for free by the Brazilian health system located in a large federal public hospital in southern Brazil. In 2007, a legal action initiated by a group of transsexual patients from this public hospital succeeded in a federal court of appeals, forcing the Brazilian government to make sex reassignment surgeries available. The rationale, which referred to the universal right to health as well as the right to human dignity and freedom from discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation, raised questions about the meanings of fundamental rights and the way that rights discourses and gender norms shape public healthcare in Brazil.

During my time in Porto Alegre, I conducted interviews with the lawyer who represented the transsexual patient group and the federal appeals judge who authored the opinion in favor of the group, as well as other legal professionals and scholars working in this area. I also observed the treatment facility, interviewing the medical and psychiatric staff that worked there, and I gathered individual stories from patients participating in the program.

I am interested in the ways that public healthcare is organized and access to healthcare resources is structured by the politics of gender identity and ideological struggles in the judicial and medical establishments. My research is focused on the unique experiences of transgender individuals, and how those experiences are mediated by institutions of care and the ideological commitments that shape them.