Gender, Sex, Sexuality and DES-Exposure: A Research Study

Jacquelyne Luce, PhD
Principal Investigator and Lecturer in Gender Studies
Department of Gender Studies
Mount Holyoke College

How has your exposure to DES shaped your understanding of gender, sex, and sexuality? With a grant from DES Action USA, I am conducting a new research project exploring the relationships between people’s experiences of gender, sex, sexuality, and sexual orientation and their experiences of the physical and psychological effects of being DES-exposed.

This is an area of study that has not received much prior attention.

Most members of the DESexposed second generation would have reached puberty between 1960 and 1985, a time of both very strong societal ideas about femininity and masculinity, as well as increasing resistance to expectations about what it means to be a woman or man.

New ideas about sex hormones and techniques of genital surgery also emerged during this time period, shaping various fields of intersex and transgender health. The third generation of DES-exposed people is likely to have been born anytime between 1975 and now, experiencing life in a world of both rigid and fluid ideas about gender, sex and sexuality.

My work as a researcher involves seeking out and listening intensely to people’s stories about their experiences of the body, health, disability and difference, and situating these within local and global developments in science and medicine.

I wonder: How can members of the DES-exposed communities, who lived through the forefront of the women’s rights movement, the LGBT rights movement, and the Intersex rights movement, contribute to our understandings of the relationship between bodies and identity? How can the stories of this community help us to better understand the historical ongoing health, advocacy, and research needs of LGBTIQ and gender non-conforming DESexposed people?

We will conduct interviews by phone and video conference, recording these with permission. We will anonymize everyone who shares their story in order to protect privacy. These interviews will be like open-ended conversations.

We are not looking for any particular “answer.” Instead, participants will help us shape our research, and the larger themes we explore.

We will be sharing the ongoing thoughts that emerge from this research with the DES-exposed community. If you would like to receive more information about the project please contact jluce[@]mtholyoke.edu.