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J Med Humanit. 2014 Mar;35(1):37-55. doi: 10.1007/s10912-013-9267-z.

It is as it does: genital form and function in sex reassignment surgery.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, 101 West Hall, 1085 South University, Ann Arbor, MI, 48109, USA,


Surgeons who perform sex reassignment surgeries (SRS) define their goals and evaluate their outcomes in terms of two kinds of results: aesthetic and functional. Since the neogenitals fashioned through sex reassignment surgeries do not enable reproductive function, surgeons must determine what the function of the genitals is or ought to be. A review of surgical literature demonstrates that questions of what constitute genital form and function, while putatively answered in the operating room, are not answerable in the discourses of clinical evaluation used to define them. When the genitals--the word itself derived from the Latin genitas meaning to beget--are not reproductive, the question of their function shifts away from the biological and into other registers: pleasure, intimacy, sociality. As condensed sites of meaning and meaning-making around which selves, affects, resources, anxieties and futures are organized, the genitals signify in excess of the categories of "aesthetic" and "function" that surgeons use to assess them. Not reducible to either aesthetics or function, but constitutive of them both, this excess appears in surgical texts in the form of imagined futures of social and sexual engagement and demonstrates a powerful means by which properly sexed bodies are created.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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