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19th April 2012, 2:45pm
National academic prize for sociologist's book on transsexualism
Specifying gender on an official document A book by a Lincoln sociologist which examines how transsexuals perceive their own bodies, and the potential conflicts with the medical and legal arenas, has won a prestigious national award.

Dr Zowie Davy was awarded the Philip Abram's Memorial Prize for her first sole-authored book, Recognizing Transsexuals: Personal, Political and Medicolegal Embodiment, at the British Sociological Association's Annual Conference.

The book draws on interviews with 24 transsexuals at various stages of transition, giving an original account of their sense of 'embodiment' and exploring the reasons why some wish to modify their bodies to varying degrees.

Importantly, the book moves away from the conventional focus on gender identity that characterises much of the existing literature on transsexuals, and instead investigates the concept of bodily aesthetics how transpeople view their own body image and identity and how others make judgements on trans bodies.

It highlights the multifaceted problems experienced by transpeople and especially those who do not fit within medical and legal definitions of what it means to be transsexual. Drawing on Dr Davy's doctoral research into the implications of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, the book contextualizes trans embodiment within personal and political domains.

Dr Davy, a Research Fellow in the University of Lincoln's School of Health and Social Care, explained: "It is very difficult to arrive at a definitive understanding of transsexualism, even though medicine and law have claimed to do so. This is due to the diverse phenomenology of transgendered people. This has implications for how transpeople are recognised, or misrecognised, in society. The discourse of "I was born in the wrong body" is a very prominent one, even in NHS policy. This can be problematic, because while the body is fundamental to our understanding of gender identity, not all trans-gendered people have the same issues with their body. There is still no universal understanding of what transsexualism is."

The BSA prize is awarded for the best first and sole-authored book within sociology, and was established in honour of the memory of Professor Philip Abram, whose work contributed substantially to sociology and social policy research in Britain.

"To win the award was so special on many levels. Personally, it was amazing to be recognised by my peers, but it is also an acknowledgement by the academic community that embodiment and gender theory are important aspects of the sociology of health," added Dr Davy.

She shared the prize of 1,000 with Dr Michael Skey of the University of East London, author of National Belonging and Everyday Life: The Significance of Nationhood in an Uncertain World.

The BSA held its 61st annual conference at the University of Leeds between 11th and 13th April 2012, when around 600 social scientists gave presentations.

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