Vol IX, Issue 2 Date of Publication: April 21, 2024
DOI: https://doi.org/10.20529/IJME.2024.011

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Power, policy, and transgender identities: A case study of gatekeeping by mental health professionals in accessing gender affirming surgeries in India

Harikeerthan Raghuram

Background: Transgender individuals seeking gender-affirming surgeries (GAS) are often denied or delayed by mental health professionals (MHPs). Studies on the gatekeeping of GAS have been mainly conducted in the Global North and primarily focus on the perspectives of health professionals. This case study from India incorporates health professional, community, advocate, and activist perspectives to contribute new evidence about MHP gatekeeping in GAS. The study aims to examine the role of power and gender in MHP gatekeeping of GAS in India.

Methods: A qualitative multi-method case study including thematic analyses of key informant interviews (n = 9) and policy analysis using the policy triangle framework.

Results: Health professionals and transgender persons participate in the construction, performance, and reproduction of gender indicating the persistence of gender normativity in India which enables gatekeeping by MHPs. However, evidence suggests some signs of a change from binormativity to a culturally intelligible and historically familiar “trinormativity”.

Conclusion: To understand MHP gatekeeping, there is a need to contextualise this example of biopower within the larger social construction of gender within which MHPs operate. A transition from binormativity to “trinormativity” enables MHP gatekeeping of transgender persons seeking GAS. This risks creating new forms of gender-related oppression, such as new hierarchies and class differences between the gender binary and the “third gender”.

Copyright and license
©Indian Journal of Medical Ethics 2024: Open Access and Distributed under the Creative Commons license ( CC BY-NC-ND 4.0),
which permits only non-commercial and non-modified sharing in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

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