Lecture: Thailand as Transgender Mecca: Transnational Imaginaries of Gender Reassignment | Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
University of Pittsburgh

Lecture: Thailand as Transgender Mecca: Transnational Imaginaries of Gender Reassignment

January 23, 2014 - 4:00pm

Aren Aizura (Arizona State University) presents a lecture titled "Thailand as Transgender 'Mecca': Transnational Imaginaries of Gender Reassignment."

Thailand is often described as the global "Mecca" of gender reassignment surgery, which cater almost exclusively to trans women-transitioning from male to female, although one or two surgeons cater to trans men.

This talk looks at Thailand's gender reassignment surgery clinics as part of a transnational imaginary of gender reassignment. This transnational imaginary consists in communities and connections that form across national boundaries, and that circulate practices, ideas, fantasies, anecdotes and information about gender reassignment across the uneven spaces of global/local modernity. Drawing on ethnographic research in gender clinics in Thailand and with trans women and men who obtained gender reassignment surgery there, the talk considers how understandings of Orientalized Thai femininity structured non-Thai patients' experiences of care, community, and transition in the space of the clinic and in tourist encounters with Thailand. By questioning the economic, colonial, and racial relations of "transgender travel", this research contributes a critical voice to the emerging field of transnational transgender studies.

Aren Aizura is an Assistant Professor in Women and Gender Studies at Arizona State University. His research interests include queer theory, gender and transgender studies, and scientific understandings of gender/sexuality. Aizura, who hails from Australia, earned a PhD in cultural studies from the University of Melbourne and before joining ASU was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Women's and Gender Studies and the Institute for Research on Women at Rutgers University. Aizura's interdisciplinary research looks at how queer and transgender bodies shape and are shaped by technologies of race, gender, transnationality, medicalization and political economy. He studies gender reassignment surgery tourism in Thailand and elsewhere; trans and queer migration, especially queer/trans involvement in transnational economies of care work; and looking at the circuitry of nationalism, and biopolitics and value as they relate to gender variant life.

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