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Medicine and making sense of queer lives.

  • Academic Journal
  • The Hastings Center report [Hastings Cent Rep] 2014 Sep; Vol. 44 Suppl 4, pp. S12-6.
  • English
  • As practiced, medicine bumps along with the rest of us, doing its level best to cope with the contingencies of this often heartbreaking world. Yet it's a commonplace that much of medicine's self-image, and a good deal of its cultural heft, come from its connection with the natural sciences and, what's more, from a picture of science that has a touch of the transcendental, highlighting the unmatched rigor of its procedures, its exacting rationality, and the reliability of its results. In contrast, the very idea of "queer" carries with it a little taste of the uncanny. What we're inclined to label queer resists understanding, not so much because it's too complicated, but because it tends to be too slippery to capture neatly in our conceptual nets-that queer ache in your side, for instance, or your partner's queer notion of doing laundry. The outmoded use of "queer," as a way to refer disparagingly to gay people, carried similar uncanny connotations: the unnatural, the perverse. One might think, then, that the reclamation of "queer" as an umbrella term referring to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender spectrum has a pleasing depth to its irony-not only does it wrench the customary direction of evaluation conveyed by the word from condemnation to celebration, but it also hints that what you find comprehensible depends a good deal on who you are and where you're standing. What from the perspective of many heterosexual and cisgendered people may seem opaque, exotic, threatening-erotic love directed toward someone with the same kind of body you have, lives lived in ways that challenge the immutability of birth-assigned gender-are to LGBT folk not uncanny at all, but as familiar as breathing. I like this conceit, but alas, it is too simple. It slights the variety of difficulties associated with making sense of queerness that can vex deeply thoughtful people of undoubted good will-as I found out some years ago when I first talked about my efforts to understand my own transgender identity with a ferociously intelligent, highly sophisticated friend.
    (© 2014 by The Hastings Center.)
Additional Information
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Country of Publication: United States NLM ID: 0410447 Publication Model: Print Cited Medium: Print ISSN: 0093-0334 (Print) Linking ISSN: 00930334 NLM ISO Abbreviation: Hastings Cent Rep Subsets: MEDLINE
Publication: 2012- : Malden, MA : Wiley-Blackwell
Original Publication: Hastings-on-Hudson, N. Y., Institute of Society, Ethics and the Life Sciences.
Date Created: 20140919 Date Completed: 20180925 Latest Revision: 20180925

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