The Legal Certification of Sex in Belgium over Time. Ideological Effects and Practical Implications

Sara Aguirre-Sánchez-Beato, Caroline Closon, Isabelle Rorive

Abstract



Belgium has recently modified the way ‘sex’ is legally certified for trans* people following the principle of self-determination. However, like in most countries, this modification has not changed the way ‘sex’ is determined for all members of society, being limited to trans* people. How is sex legally certified for different categories of people in Belgium and what are the effects thereof? Drawing on the theoretical perspective of discursive psychology (DP), we consider sex/gender categories as something constructed in discourse – in this case, legislative discourse – and not as an essentialist and pre-discursive reality. Categories are thus an effect of discourse: what discourse accomplishes or constructs. Based on this premise, this paper aims at elucidating the ideological effects and practical implications of the legal certification of sex in Belgium. The effects of the legislative discourse are ideological in the sense that they establish social norms, in this case, regarding sex/gender, leading to practical implications in everyday life. To elucidate these effects, we first identified Belgian civil law on the legal certification of sex since the establishment of Belgium as a sovereign state. We then applied a DP-inspired analytical device comprising a qualitative content analysis and the examination of content variability. The variability of discourse is a key analytical tool to elucidate the effects of discourse since these are not directly observable. The results show that the analysed legislation constructs women and men as natural categories. This is carried out through: 1) the establishment of a distinction between the population at large (unmarked) and those ‘outside the norm’ (marked subjects: ‘transgender’, ‘intersex’); 2) the lack of legal regulation of the attribution of sex markers at birth, being taken for granted; 3) the regulation of the latter only in ‘abnormal cases’ (called ‘children suffering from sexual ambiguity’); and 4) the fact that gender identity is recognised as a criterion for the attribution of sex markers only for trans* people, presented as an exception to the norm. This variability reifies sexual dimorphism and naturalises the correspondence between ‘biological sex’ and gender identity, thereby constituting ‘normative’ and ‘deviant’ sex/gender categories. The results are discussed in light of the practical implications that this legal norm has in everyday life.

 


Full Text:

PDF

References


Aguirre-Sánchez-Beato S (2018) Trans Terminology and Definitions in Research on Transphobia: A conceptual review. Quaderns de Psicologia. International Journal of Psychology, 20(3), 295–305.

Alessandrin A (2016) La transphobie en France: Insuffisance du droit et expériences de discrimination. Cahiers du Genre, 60(1), 193–212. Available from: https://www.cairn.info/revue-cahiers-du-genre-2016-1-page-193.htm. Last accessed 15 July 2020.

Amnesty International (2014) The states decides what I am. Lack of legal gender recognition for transgender people in Europe. Available from: https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/8000/eur010012014en.pdf. Last accessed 15 July 2020.

Andréu Abela J (2000) Las técnicas de análisis de contenido: una revisión actualizada. Fundación Centro Estudios Andaluces, Universidad de Granada, 10(2), 1–34.

Bender-Baird K (2011) Transgender employment experiences: Gendered perceptions and the law. Albany: State University New York Press.

Bettcher TM (2014) Feminist Perspectives on Trans Issues. In Zalta EN (ed.),The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Vol. Spring Edition.

Bettcher TM (2015) Transphobia. Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1(1–2), 249–251.

Billig M (1991) Ideology and Opinions. Studies in Rhetorical Psychology. London: SAGE.

Braun V and Clarke V (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, pp. 77–101.

Bribosia E and Rorive I (2018) Human rights integration in action: making equality law work for trans people in Belgium. In Brems E (ed.), Fragmentation and Integration in Human Rights Law: Users’ Perspectives. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishers, 111-138.

Burr V (1995) An Invitation to Social Constructionism. London: Routledge.

Butler J (1990) Gender Trouble. Feminism and the subversion of identity. London: Routledge.

Butler J (1993) Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’. New York: Routledge.

Butler J (1997) Excitable Speech. A Politics of the Performative. New York and London: Routledge.

Cooper D and Renz F (2016) If the State Decertified Gender, What Might Happen to its Meaning and Value? Journal of Law and Society, 43(4), 483–505. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jols.12000. Last accessed 15 July 2020.

Edwards D (2003) Psicología discursiva: el enlace de la teoría y el método mediante un ejemplo. In Íñiguez-Rueda L (ed.), Análisis del discurso. Manual para las ciencias sociales. Barcelona: Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, 141-156.

Edwards D and Potter J (1992) Discursive Psychology. London: SAGE.

Elliot P (2009) Engaging Trans Debates on Gender Variance: A Feminist Analysis. Sexualities, 12, 5–32.

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2014). Being Trans in the European Union. Comparative analysis of EU LGBT survey data. Available from: https://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra-2014-being-trans-eu-comparative-0_en.pdf. Last accessed 15 July 2020.

Foucault M (2015) Histoire de la sexualité I. La volonté de savoir. Paris: Gallimard.

Ibáñez J (1985) Las medidas de la sociedad. Reis: Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas, 29, 85–128. Available from: http://www.reis.cis.es/REIS/PDF/REIS_029_05.pdf. Last accessed 15 July 2020.

Íñiguez-Rueda L (ed) (2003) Análisis del discurso. Manual para las ciencias sociales. Barcelona: Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.

Íñiguez-Rueda L and Antaki C (1994) El análisis del discurso en psicología social. Boletín de Psicología, 44, 57–75.

Institut pour l’égalité des femmes et des hommes (2018) Personnes transgenres ayant fait une demande de changement de la mention officielle de leur sexe en Belgique. Données issues du Registre National. Available from: https://igvm-iefh.belgium.be/sites/default/files/trans_cijfers_rijksregister_2018_fr.pdf. Last accessed 15 July 2020.

Martínez-Guzmán A (2017) Cis. In Platero Méndez RL, Rosón Villena

M and Ortega Arjonilla E (eds.), Barbarismos Queer y otras esdrújulas. Barcelona: Bellaterra, 82-88.

Martínez-Guzmán A and Iñiguez-Rueda L (2010) La fabricación del Trastorno de Identidad Sexual. Discurso & Sociedad, 4(1), 30–51.

Martínez-Guzmán A, Stecher A and Íñiguez-Rueda L (2016) Aportes de la psicología discursiva a la investigación cualitativa en psicología social: análisis de su herencia etnometodológica. Psicología USP, 27(3), 510–520. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/pdf/pusp/v27n3/1678-5177-pusp-27-03-00510.pdf Last accessed 15 July 2020.

McIlvenny P (2002) Talking gender and sexuality. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

McNay L (1999) Subject, psyche and agency: The work of Judith Butler. Theory, Culture and Society, 16(12), 175–193.

Meadow T (2010) “A Rose is a Rose” On Producing Legal Gender Classifications. Gender & Society, 24(6), 814–837. Available from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0891243210385918. Last accessed 15 July 2020.

Rubin H (2003) Self-Made Men: Identity and Embodiment Among Transsexual Men. Nashville: Vandervilt University Press.

Sisto Campos V (2012) Análisis del discurso y psicología: a veinte años de la revolución discursiva. Revista de Psicología, 21(1). Available from: https://revistapsicologia.uchile.cl/index.php/RDP/article/view/19994. Last accessed 15 July 2020.

Transgender Europe (2017) Legal Gender Recognition in Europe. Available from: https://tgeu.org/toolkit_legal_gender_recognition_in_europe/. Last accessed 15 July 2020.

Van Dijk T (2005) Estructura y funciones del discurso. Mexico: Siglo XXI.

Weatherall A (2012) Discursive psychology and feminism. British Journal of Social Psychology, 51(3), 463–470. Available from:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.2044-8309.2011.02062.x. Last accessed 15 July 2020.

Wetherell M and Potter J (1988) Discourse analysis and the identification of interpretative repertoires. In Antaki C (ed.), Analysing Everyday Explanation. A Casebook of Methods. London: SAGE, 168-183.

Wiggins S (2017) Discursive psychology. In Wiggins S (ed.) Discursive Psychology. Theory, Method and Applications. London: SAGE, 3-30.

Wittig M (1992) The Straight Mind and Other Essays. Boston: Beacon Press.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.19164/ijgsl.v1i1.989

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Copyright (c) 2020 Sara Aguirre-Sánchez-Beato, Caroline Closon, Isabelle Rorive

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.