Gender, Sex, and Bioethics

Instructor: Elizabeth Reis
Wednesdays, 1:00 PM – 3:40 PM
Modality: Hybrid
Macaulay Classroom 2 (204)
Course Code: MHC 320
Pre-requisite: Seminar 3

The ethics of medicine, biology, and psychology deeply influence our ideas about gender and sexuality and how we establish what is “normal” about our sexed bodies. Even the most basic questions about gender identity, for example, or how we distinguish male from female (or that we distinguish at all), have been shaped by the culture of science and medicine. This course will be organized around four contested topics in bioethics, and we will devote three weeks of reading to each, often studying historical perspectives to understand how we have arrived at today’s debates. Gender, Sex, and Bioethics should not be confused with the new field in medical training called “Sex and Gender Medicine,” which tries to personalize people’s health by examining differences between men and women in epidemiology and in the prevention and treatment of disease. Instead, we will question the traditional binary, focusing especially on how it has been prescribed and enforced throughout American medical history. The readings will be multidisciplinary and will draw from history, anthropology, gender studies, transgender studies, psychology, law, sociology, and medicine. These are the four topics, broadly conceived:

  1. The Ethics of Sexual Health
  2. Homosexuality, Depathologization, Conversion Therapy, and AIDS
  3. Transgender Health for Adults and Kids
  4. The Medical Management of Intersex


Gender, Sex, and Bioethics Preliminary Syllabus