Becoming persons : a sociological investigation into institutional formations of transgender and intersex in the Christian Church

Dormor, Duncan James (2021) Becoming persons : a sociological investigation into institutional formations of transgender and intersex in the Christian Church. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This research makes a distinctive contribution to our understanding of how religious and secular institutions respond to the growing awareness of trans and intersex persons at a time when the prevailing matrix of conditioning moral norms is being challenged and the rigid gender binary, which has characterised modern Western society, is breaking down. It takes the form of a sociological investigation into the framing of personhood, in particular, the hegemonic constructions, within which transgender and intersex persons, whose embodiment is defined, interpreted and contested by others, seek to live a fulfilled life within Western societies. Its concern with the flourishing of individuals is broad, encompassing the experience of good health and well-being, agency and freedom, but also the social conditions that allow or inhibit people from being treated justly, equitably and free from harm. The research findings are published primarily in two substantial chapters: Dormor (2015) provides the first survey of how churches have responded to trans people. It identifies theological anthropology as the determining framework within Christian discourse and provides a threefold interpretative typology based on the congruence between theological anthropology and institutional practice: conservative, radical and moderate. Dormor (2018) provides a trans-historical analysis, drawing a contrast between how intersex persons have been treated within traditional Christianity and modern society. It argues, first, that conceptions of gender underpinned by scientific ideas created the conditions in the mid-twentieth century for clear harms, of social aetiology, to intersex persons - harms not routinely experienced within pre-modern Christianity. Second, that the creation with modernity of two distinct institutional domains, medical and human rights advocacy, an example of functional differentiation, generates conflicting and limited discourses within which, or against which, individual intersex persons seek to make sense of themselves, their identity and agency. The thesis also contains four shorter supplementary published texts.

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