[Thesis]. Manchester, UK: The University of Manchester; 2015.
This thesis considers how understandings of the sexed body changed in Britain during
the 1930s. Popular versions of sex changeability were grounded in medical science
and I examine how medico-scientific research into hormones changed understandings
of where sex was located in the body. I examine the historically specific concept
of normality, which medics employed to ascertain whether or not individuals ought
to have their sex reclassified. I focus on L. R. Broster, a surgeon at London’s Charing
Cross Hospital. I analyse Broster’s case studies, published in 1938 as The Adrenal
Cortex and Intersexuality, which showed the markers medical professionals were using
to assign sex. The thesis investigates how Broster’s work in the burgeoning field
of endocrinology generated distinctive narratives of sexual mutability and locatedness
in the body. Broster was an important figure in the press stories about changes of
sex and provides a link between them and the medical research occurring at Charing
Cross.During the 1930s the popular daily, local and Sunday newspapers contained numerous
articles about individuals whose sex had changed. These accounts were treated in a
mostly positive tone and were held up as being symptomatic of scientific modernity.
I argue that this concept of ‘sex change’ does not neatly map on to present day categories,
be they intersexuality, transsexuality, transgender or any other. Older categories
such as that of the ‘man-woman’ persisted into the 1930s as a way to conceive of sexual
ambiguity and changeability. That sex could change, and in particular that women could
become men, was an idea that had a wide reach across popular culture.New concepts
of hormones and of sex change were also taken up in special- interest magazines, adverts,
fiction and popular science. I explore the dissemination of ideas about sex changeability
and the role of hormones beyond the press and medical studies to show their pervasiveness.
I pay particular attention to two very different magazines, Urania and London Life.
These magazines extended the life of articles about changes of sex by reprinting and
recontextualising them. They point to the interest that such stories attracted and
the ways in which they were harnessed to competing ideological ends.Women's increased
participation in sport also changed understandings of the sexed body, having an impact
on gender roles and the sexed and gendered meanings ascribed to physical features
such as muscles. Women’s athleticism suggested that competitiveness could also be
a female trait, and that muscularity was not exclusively male. I consider how the
achievements of sportswomen, and the more typically masculine bodies they developed,
challenged the received differences between men and women.Attention to the sexed body
as a site of cultural concern expands the remit of queer historiography beyond sexual
identities and practices. I argue that scientific developments and popular culture
coalesced to create an environment in which sex characteristics were not fixed and
the sexed body was seen as mutable.