First Defense of Joint Doctoral Thesis on Family Relationships of Transsexual People

With more than 40 in attendance, the first thesis for a joint doctorate by the Miguel Hernández University of Elche (UMH) has been successfully defended. Research for this project began in 2016 and culminated in the best possible manner, as author, Danilo Borges Paulino, was conferred a joint doctorate and the grade of cum laude with international mention for the project entitled, “The Family and the Dynamics of Their Relationships in Caring for the Health of Transsexual People.”

The thesis examining committee was comprised of expert investigators from the University of São Paulo (USP), São Paulo State University (UNESP), Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), and the UMH.

The thesis, which aimed to analyze family relationships of transsexual people through visits to a specialized health center in Brazil, is one result of the International Joint Doctorate Agreement signed by the Doctoral Program in Public Health, Medical and Surgical Sciences at the UMH and the Postgraduate Program in Collective Health at the USP in Brazil. The doctoral thesis advisors were professors Rosana Machin from the USP and María Pastor Valero from the UMH.

Among the main conclusions from the research, Borges Paulino highlights that the “social constructions of gender and family are closely related with the suffering and health conditions of transsexual individuals. In most cases, in order for them to be able to enjoy healthy relationships with their families of origin, they need to express their gender in a way that society accepts them,” he says.

The thesis also examines the close relationships existing between the concepts of health, family, and transsexuality. “For transsexual individuals, the specialized health service was identified as being a part of their family. However, for people who are not transsexual, health services are not usually seen as being family–whereas for the former it is, because sometimes these are the only places where they can express their transsexuality, have their rights recognized, and express themselves freely in terms of gender,” maintains the author of the research.

According to 2020 research published by the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals, Brazil occupies the top spot in the ranking of countries where the most transsexuals and transvestites are murdered. USP thesis advisor, professor Rosana Machin, explains how the political situation in Brazil makes it difficult for transsexuals to become visible. “In Brazil, we are engulfed under a political and social context of much confrontation to defend gender rights, and I feel that the research by Danilo helps shed light on the trans population and their necessities. It represents an opportunity to discuss these issues at such a critical and difficult situation that we are undergoing here,” she adds.

Along these lines, the thesis author defends that “a need exists to implement actions in education, in health, and in gender that are not only directed at health professionals, but at the entire community, and that way violence and discrimination directed at the trans population can decrease, and their levels of health can thereby increase. The gender education taught at schools is not enough. We talk about gender all the time, but we talk in such a way that only divides the people into the masculine and into the feminine,” he claims.

Likewise, UMH thesis advisor, María Pastor, affirms that the “results of the thesis by Borges Paulino can be assimilated in Spain because, even though we are not in the same political situation as Brazil, we still have to provide more visibility to the transsexual population.”

First thesis of a joint doctorate

For the UMH, this research represents a milestone, as it is the first defense of a joint doctorate. “This joint doctorate constitutes one more step by the UMH towards the internationalization of its scientific and academic endeavors,” states professor Pastor.

International mobility programs, like the joint doctorate earned by Borges Paulino, are an opportunity to evolve in not just academic and professional realms, but furthermore in that personal, since the person carrying out the mobility faces new challenges that they had not encountered beforehand.