Dedicated to the study of gender, sexuality, and violence

Current Projects

Psychology, Power, and Gender Fluidity

Dr. Jemma Tosh is currently working on a book proposal for her fourth book, a book chapter for an edited collection on psychology, gender, and power, and a journal article on gender fluidity. She uses feminist intersectionality theory and critical discursive psychology in her analyses. 

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Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) Research Award (2020)

Psygentra Founding Director Jemma Tosh has been awarded by the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) for their contribution to the article: 'A critical commentary on follow-up studies and 'desistance' theories about transgender and gender non-conforming children' published in the International Journal of Transgender Health (originally named the International Journal of Transgenderism).

with Julia Temple Newhook, Jake Pyne, Kelley Winters, Stephen Feder, Cindy Holmes, Mari-Lynne Sinnott, Ally Jamieson, and Sarah Pickett

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The Trans Priorities Project: Cross Country Trans Women and HIV Research Priority Setting (2016-17)

We collected and analysed data for the REACH 2.0 Trans Priorities Project - a project that aimed to identify research priorities for trans women impacted by HIV. The project centred around asking trans women and their allies across Canada what they thought researchers should be focusing on in their work. We collected material through interviews, analysed the material using content and discourse analyses, prepared materials for conference presentations, and drafted papers for publication.

in collaboration with REACH 2.0

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Books & Book Chapters

Sexual Abuse and Surviving with(in) Psychology

J. Tosh with F. Dempsey

In this chapter Tosh describes their experiences as a queer and genderfluid survivor growing up in Northern Ireland, and how those experiences influenced their career as a psychologist who specialises in sexual abuse and violence. Tosh outlines the complex intersections of gender, sexuality, race, place, and historical context and shows why these intersections should be central to therapeutic approaches that aim to help survivors heal from sexual trauma.The chapter also has a discussion section where the authors talk about abuse, psychology, intersectionality and more.

The Body and Consent in Psychology, Psychiatry, and Medicine: A Therapeutic Rape Culture

J. Tosh

This groundbreaking text interrogates the constructed boundary between therapy and violence, by examining therapeutic practice and discourse through the lens of a psychologist and a survivor of sexual abuse. It asks, what happens when those we approach for help cause further harm? Can we identify coercive practices and stop sexual abuse in psychology, psychiatry, and medicine? Tosh explores these questions and more to illustrate that many of the therapies considered fundamental to clinical practice are deeply problematic when issues of consent and sexual abuse are considered. 

A critical commentary on follow-up studies and "desistance" theories about transgender and gender-nonconforming children

J. Temple Newhook, J. Pyne, K. Winters, S. Feder, C. Holmes, J. Tosh, M. Sinnott, A. Jamieson and S. Pickett

The tethering of childhood gender diversity to the framework of “desistance” or “persistence” has stifled advancements in our understanding of children's gender in all its complexity. These follow-up studies fall short in helping us understand what children need. As work begins on the 8th version of the Standards of Care by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, we call for a more inclusive conceptual framework that takes children's voices seriously. Listening to children's experiences will enable a more comprehensive understanding of the needs of gender-nonconforming children and provide guidance to scientific and lay communities.

Psychology and Gender Dysphoria: Feminist and Transgender Perspectives

J. Tosh

Drawing on discursive psychology, this book traces the historical development of psychiatric constructions of ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ gender expression. It contextualises the recent reconstruction of gender through the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and its criteria for gender dysphoria. This latest diagnosis illustrates the continued disagreement and debate within the profession surrounding gender identity as ‘disordered’. It also provides an opportunity to reflect on the conflicted history between feminist and transgender communities in the changing context of a more trans-positive feminism, and the potential implications of the diagnoses for these distinct but linked communities.

Perverse Psychology

J. Tosh

Perverse Psychology examines psychiatric constructions of sexual violence and transgender identities from the 19th century until the latest DSM-5 diagnoses. It uses discourse analysis to interrogate the discursive boundaries between 'normal' and 'abnormal' rape, as well as the pathologization of gender and sexual diversity. The book illuminates for the first time the parallels between psychiatry's construction of gender diversity and sexual violence, and leads us to question whether it is the violence that the profession finds so intriguing, or the gender nonconformity it represents.

Working together for an inclusive and gender creative future: A critical lens on 'gender dysphoria'

J. Tosh

This chapter reflects on the conflicted history of the diagnosis of 'gender dysphoria', as well as describe a collaborative project challenging its implementation. This project addressed the DSM-5 Chair of the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Section and involved contributions and support from lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and feminist activists, academics and clinicians. The acceptance of diverse differences in relation to philosophical or political issues was nurtured through the commitment to a common goal: the condemnation of psychiatric intervention with young gender creative children. This politically engaged academic intervention illustrated the potential for creating awareness and intervening in professional discussions around psychiatric intervention when groups overcome differences and work together to develop extensive and valuable activist networks.

The Complex Impacts of Intensive Resource Extraction on Women, Children, and Aboriginal Peoples: Towards Contextually-Informed Approaches to Climate Change and Health

M. Gislason, C. Buse, S. Dolan, M. Parkes, J. Tosh, B. Woollard

  It is now widely understood that human health and well-being is affected not only by the social and economic contexts and conditions within which people live, but also by ecological systems and services. Yet dramatic social and ecological challenges to people’s health and well-being, and their impacts in particular on vulnerable populations, are not always carefully studied. In this chapter, we consider a range of ways that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women and children living in northern British Columbia (BC) are impacted by intensive resource extraction (IRE), and how these complex, regional dynamics need to be taken into account when seeking to understand the dynamics of climate change and health. We focus on the interrelated pathways that make women and children vulnerable to short- term social and ecological changes as well as to their long-term consequences, and why these populations may serve as sentinels which illustrate how sustainably communities are being developed (Poland & Dooris 2010).  


J. Tosh

There is a long and complex history regarding clinical/counselling and forensic psychology's roles in defining sexual 'abnormality'. From 19th century studies of 'perversion' to current understandings of 'paraphilic disorders', there has been a wealth of debate, disagreement, and controversy. This chapter outlines several key diagnoses in the field, describing their history and criticisms from the inside and outside of the profession. It encourages critical reflexivity on the context and ethics of categorizing diverse sexualities as 'abnormal'. The chapter includes examples of pathologized sexualities in relation to sexual orientation, gender expression, and sexual consent. Psychology's portrayal of these concepts is examined, as are the tensions between clinical/counselling and forensic perspectives, particularly when sexual coercion is involved. 

Kritische Feministische, Queer - & Trans-Psychologie: Zur Dekonstruktion von Gender und Sexualität

J. Tosh

In den Hauptströmungen der Psychologie und Psychiatrie gibt es eine lange Tradition von Definitionen und Festlegungen, was bezüglich Gender und Sexualität als 'abnormal' gilt. Diese und die mit ihnen assoziierten Theorien haben meist minorisierte Gender und Sexualitäten äußerst negativ dargestellt. Diejenigen, die sich als Frauen/weiblich, schwul, lesbisch, bisexuell oder transsexuell identifizieren oder diejenigen, denen die Legitimität ihrer Geschlechtsidentität abgesprochen wird (Ansara 2012), sind oft als geistig minderwertig, pathologisch oder deviant dargestellt worden (Foucault 1990; Lev 2005; Ussher 1991). Es gibt zahlreiche psychologische Theorien und Diagnosen die das verdeutlichen, z.B. „Hysterie“ (American Psychiatric Association [APA] 1952; 1968), „Homosexualität“ (APA 1952; 1968) und „Geschlechtsidentitätsstörung“ (APA 1980; 2000a). Diese werden als exemplarische Diagnosen in diesem Kapitel untersucht, das im Weiteren der Frage nachgeht, wie Queer-, Trans- und feministische Psychologien kritische Perspektiven und sozialen Aktivismus genutzt haben, um solche negativen Konstruktionen zu bekämpfen.

The problem with normal: Teaching and learning about gender and trans psychology

J. Tosh

General training in psychology, whether undergraduate or postgraduate, can contain little content on the issues and complexities regarding the psychology of gender. The problems I go on to discuss here, regarding psychology, can be applied across the psy-professions of psychiatry and psychotherapy. It is not the case that discussions of 'essential sex differences' and comparisons of men and women do not feature in these trainings, but that critical examinations of the psychology of gender, and of psychological approaches to gender identity and gender-related distress, are often absent. This lack of explicit discussion can lead to students being surprised when they discover the role psychology has had in how we think about gender, and how important the topic has been to psychology. 

The caring professions, not so caring? Bullying and emotional distress in the academy

J. Tosh & S. Golightley

In this chapter we analyze two case studies of bullying in Unitied Kingdom (UK) universities, one involving a student of social work and another of a faculty member in a psychology department. The initial disjuncture in one case study occurred when a victim of bullying was labeled as "mentally ill," and the second was when someone was bullied because of a label of "mental illness." These two similar but opposing disjunctures offer an opportunity for comparative analysis. This includes an investigation of the process and discourses at play within the broader context of UK higher education and constructions of bullying and emotional distress.


No body, no crime? (Representations of) sexual violence online

J. Tosh

Sexual violence is an ever-increasing feature of online culture, with rape the central aim of ‘stalking simulators’ as well as the infamous violence directed towards avatar sex workers in the Grand Theft Auto franchise (Martinez & Manolovitz, 2010, p. 68). This is in addition to the word ‘rape’ being commandeered and redefined by online gaming communities to refer to murder, humiliation and destruction (Hernandez, 2012) while simultaneously being ridiculed in online rape ‘jokes’ (Kramer, 2011). Using discourse analysis (Parker, 1992; 2003), this chapter examines discussions from online forums about the use of the word rape to refer to instances of sexual violence in online spaces. It interrogates the debate around whether these occurrences are forms of sexual violence, or representations of sexual violence based on the presence/absence of an embodied material experience. 

Gender nonconformity or psychiatric noncompliance? How organized noncompliance can offer a future without psychiatry

J. Tosh

Gender nonconformity has been pathologized by psychiatry for well over a century, and critiques of this pathologization are numerous. I add to this body of analysis by drawing on feminist, transgender and critical psychology perspectives to critique current psychiatric diagnostic approaches to gender. I also foreground the role of power in psychiatry’s defining of gender normality by interweaving poststructuralist and intersectionality theory (Crenshaw, 1991; Foucault, 1977), including a discursive analysis of the criteria for “gender dysphoria” (Parker, 2003). In conducting this analysis, I illustrate how the diagnosis of gender dysphoria represents a form of psychiatric noncompliance, which is considered problematic by psychiatry but offers a useful way of resisting psychiatric power when organized.

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K. Winters, J. Temple Newhook, J. Pyne, S. Feder, A. Jamieson, C. Holmes, M. Sinnott, S. Pickett, & J. Tosh

The authors answer recent responses by Steensma & Cohen-Kettenis (2018) and Zucker (2018) to our critical commentary on “desistance” stereotypes and their underlying research on trans and gender diverse children (Temple Newhook et al., 2018). We provide clarification in the following areas: (1) the scope of our paper; (2) our support of longitudinal studies; (3) consequences of harm to trans and gender diverse children; (4) clinical practice implications; (5) concerns about validity of research methodology; and (6) the importance of learning to listen to trans and gender diverse children.

J. Temple Newhook, J. Pyne, K. Winters, S. Feder, C. Holmes, J. Tosh, M. Sinnott, A. Jamieson & S. Pickett

It has been widely suggested that over 80% of transgender children will come to identify as cisgender (i.e., desist) as they mature, with the assumption that for this 80%, the trans identity was a temporary “phase.” This statistic is used as the scientific rationale for discouraging social transition for pre-pubertal children. This article is a critical commentary on the limitations of this research and a caution against using these studies to develop care recommendations for gender-nonconforming children. A critical review methodology is employed to systematically interpret four frequently-cited studies that sought to document identity outcomes for gender-nonconforming children (often referred to as “desistance” research). Methodological, theoretical, ethical, and interpretive concerns regarding four “desistance” studies are presented. The authors clarify the historical and clinical contexts within which these studies were conducted to deconstruct assumptions in interpretations of the results. The discussion makes distinctions between the specific evidence provided by these studies versus the assumptions that have shaped recommendations for care. The affirmative model is presented as a way to move away from the question of, “How should children's gender identities develop over time?” toward a more useful question: “How should children best be supported as their gender identity develops?” The tethering of childhood gender diversity to the framework of “desistance” or “persistence” has stifled advancements in our understanding of children's gender in all its complexity. These follow-up studies fall short in helping us understand what children need. As work begins on the 8th version of the Standards of Care by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, we call for a more inclusive conceptual framework that takes children's voices seriously. Listening to children's experiences will enable a more comprehensive understanding of the needs of gender-nonconforming children and provide guidance to scientific and lay communities.

L. Thompson, B. Rickett, and K. Day

Discourse analysis is a useful and flexible method for exploring power and identity. While there are many forms of discourse analysis, discourse is the central site of identity construction. However, recent feminist concerns over power, agency, and resistance have drawn attention to the absence of participants' first-hand experiences within broad discursive accounts (Lafrance & McKenzie-Mohr, 2014; Saukko, 2008). For those with an interest in power relations, such as feminist researchers, this is a problematic silence which renders the personal functions of discourse invisible. In this article, we argue that the 'personal' and 'political' are inextricable, and we make a case for putting the 'personal' into broader discursive frameworks of understanding. Further, we assert that feminist research seeking to account for identity must more explicitly aim to capture this interplay. To this end, we argue that voice is the key site of meaning where this interplay can be captured, but that no clear analytical framework currently exists for producing such an account. In response, we propose Feminist Relational Discourse Analysis (FRDA) as a voice-centered analytical approach for engaging with experience and discourse in talk. We then set out clear guidance on how to do FRDA, as applied in the context of women working in UK policing. Finally, we conclude that by prioritizing voice, FRDA invites new and politicized feminist readings of power, agency, and resistance, where the voices of participants remain central to the discursive accounts of researchers.

L. Thompson

Although it has been argued that feminist work has gained recognition in mainstream psychology (Eagly, Eaton, Rose, Riger, & McHugh, 2012), these arguments tend to cite a proliferation of research in high‐ranking Euro‐American academic journals, on topics that concern women or gender in psychology. However, the majority of this work is not presented as explicitly feminist. Rather, it tends to be incorporated into mainstream spaces under the umbrella of the psychology of women. This is often interpreted uncritically to mean the study of womanhood as a stable category or variable, reproducing binary accounts of sex and gender that are largely devoid of feminist analysis. Not only do these interpretations reify essentialist constructions of womanhood; they also convert transformative feminist politics into singular and special interest ‘women's issues’. Indeed, broad feminist theoretical perspectives remain largely absent at the fundamental levels of mainstream psychological knowledge production (Eagly et al., 2012; Eagly & Riger, 2014). Thus, while credit has been given to the growing visibility of issues concerning women and gender in the discipline, less critical attention has been paid to the broader absence of feminist language in this work. As such, instances of mainstream inclusion have come to take priority over broader issues of feminist exclusions in psychology. Taking a critical position on the discipline from within the context of the Global North, this paper questions the state of mainstream inclusions and reasserts the transformative potentials of diverse feminisms (Liebert, Leve, & Hui, 2011), arguing that current inclusions of women without feminisms in psychology are problematic. 

J. Tosh & K. Carson

Psychiatry’s problematic framing of femininity, women’s bodies, and sexuality has attracted much condemnation (Caplan & Cosgrove, 2004; Frith, 2013; Ussher, 2011). The intersection of sanism and sexism is particularly overt in the psy- complex’s (Rose, 1979) response to violence. While psychiatry acknowledges that many of those diagnosed with ‘female sexual dysfunction’ have experienced sexual abuse, addressing the problems of violence against women is starkly absent within psychiatric discourse. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders combined ‘vaginismus’ and ‘dyspareunia’ to produce a new diagnostic classification: ‘genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder.’ The diagnostic criteria included difficulties, pain, or fear regarding penetrative heterosexual sex (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Using discourse analysis (Burman, 2004; Parker, 2013) and critical intersectional analysis (Cole, 2009; Crenshaw, 1991; Hill- Collins, 1998, 2003), this paper analyzes psychiatric discourse to illuminate the violence inherent in procedures and treatments that perpetuate sanism and (hetero)sexism within psychiatry. We argue that psychiatry’s positioning of penetrative heterosexual intercourse as ‘normal,’ necessary, and ‘healthy’ pathologizes experiences of sexual violence as well as other forms of sexual identity (e.g., asexuality and homosexuality). Psychiatry needs to promote and accept sexual diversity, including the choice not to have penetrative sex at all.