Controversial Ideas 2022, 2(1), 2; doi: 10.35995/jci02010002
Queer Theory and the Transition from Sex to Gender in English Prisons
1 Department of Sociology, University of Oxford;
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 23 Jul 2021 / Revised: 27 Feb 2022 / Accepted: 6 Mar 2022 / Published: 29 Apr 2022
Social theory describes and explains the world but can also transform it. The generative power of theory has been shown for disciplines that emulate natural sciences, like economics and psychiatry. I argue that queer theory has similar power, using the case of prison policy in England and Wales. The theory’s privileging of gender over sex helped to transform the criteria for incarcerating males in women’s prisons: from genital surgery to legal status, and then to gender identity. The implementation of queer theory enables us to unpack two distinct meanings of gender performance. The first is dramaturgical, where the individual gives off the appearance of femininity or masculinity through body modification, clothing, and gesture. The second meaning of performance is illocutionary, where the individual verbally declares themself to be man or woman. This case demonstrates the impact of queer theory on institutional policy and elite opinion, even under a Conservative government.
Keywords: sex; gender; transgender; prisons
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
Biggs, M. Queer Theory and the Transition from Sex to Gender in English Prisons. Controversial_Ideas 2022, 2, 2.
Biggs M. Queer Theory and the Transition from Sex to Gender in English Prisons. Journal of Controversial Ideas. 2022; 2(1):2.
Biggs, Michael. 2022. "Queer Theory and the Transition from Sex to Gender in English Prisons." Controversial_Ideas 2, no. 1: 2.