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Is biomedicine compatible with contemporary understandings of queerness?


Rae Halliday

Swansea University, GB
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Medicine is widely considered a site of social power, one that influences, and is influenced by, social and cultural norms. As such, medicine is deeply intertwined with societal powers and has complex patriarchal roots, with a history of oppression and underserving marginalised communities. This is compounded by the rise of biomedicalisation in the nineteenth century, which centres the empirical scientific method, further steering medicine from its foundations in social responsibility.

The development of queer theory, on the back of feminist work since the 1960s, has shifted cultural views on gender, sexuality, and human identity far from the pathologising models of queerness suggested by modern biomedicine. As these radical theories have developed, biomedical understandings of identity have expanded into the biopsychosocial model. However, it is  uncertain whether biomedicine as a discipline will be able to fully integrate wider queer theory, due to a limiting language and framework based on patriarchal and empirical foundations. It is critical that the ideologies currently pervasive throughout medical schools accurately reflect contemporary thought on gender and sexuality.

This article calls for a radical analysis of the frameworks for understanding gender and sexuality that exist within biomedicine. Contemporary understandings of queer theory, and how that applies to the human body and good health, must be integrated in the education of medical students.

How to Cite: Halliday R. Is biomedicine compatible with contemporary understandings of queerness?. The British Student Doctor Journal. 2021;5(2):47–55. DOI:
Published on 30 Apr 2021.
Peer Reviewed


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