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Lauren Fried

PhD Work

A Material History of Trans Identities in UK Performance (1967-1990)

MA work

Title of Dissertation: Design as Cure? Treating the Male to Female Trans Body through Strategies of Design in Medical Discourse, 1890 to 1970

Is it possible, or even permissible, to discuss bodies as designed? What are the implications of writing a history of a designed ‘object’ that is able to speak back, to narrate its own history and design in ways that the objects history of design as a discipline is more accustomed to dealing with, for example buildings, chairs or clothing, are obviously not able to do? Where can we locate design in a history of the body, and what about locating the body in a history of design?

These issues have informed my dissertation, which looks at the interactions between male to female trans people and medical discourse during a period in which medical technology and definitions of sex underwent significant permutations. These histories detail specific enactments of bodily design which took place within the varied practices of plastic surgery, endocrinology and psychiatry.

Through theoretical discussions and re-readings of medical sources, all grounded in a design historical approach, I examine how design can be considered as remedial, embodied and negotiated. Using medical journals and text books from the early twentieth century, contemporary transgender studies and patient testimony, ‘Design as Cure?' details an early history of the medical treatment for trans people. Addressing questions of agency and animate design, it considers new paradigms of scholarship within the medical humanities.


  • PhD


    School of Humanities


    History of Design, 2014–2017

  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2013

  • As a historian of the body, my work interacts with the various ways that non-heteronormative bodies have been shaped, and have shaped themselves, through dress, gender and sexuality, medicine and performance. I am coming to the end of an AHRC- funded CDP PhD based between the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Royal College of Art, researching ‘A Material History of Trans Identities in UK Performance (1967-1990)’. 

    In 2013 I graduated with an MA from the History of Design programme also at the the V&A and RCA, writing my thesis on the use of design as medical treatment for trans people during the first half of the twentieth century. I also hold an MA (Hons) in the History of Art and the History of Architecture from the University of Edinburgh, where I completed my dissertation in 2008 on the costumes and performances of Leigh Bowery. In disciplines dominated by discussions of inanimate objects, my work considers animate, designed subjects, exploring how historians can sensitively and appropriately discuss material histories of designed bodies.

    I have worked both academically and vocationally in the fields of art and design, fashion, and gender and sexuality histories, and currently teach at various institutions including the London College of Fashion, Middlesex University, Kingston and the Royal College of Art. I have presented my research on trans histories and design in a number of major conferences and symposia, and continue to write, teach and research on this work. 

  • Degrees

  • MA (Hons), History of Art and History of Architecture, University of Edinburgh, 2004–8; MA, History of Design, V&A / RCA, 2011-13
  • Experience

  • Curatorial internship, David Bowie is, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2012–13; Associate Lecturer, London College of Fashion, London, 2014-Present; Visiting Lecturer, Royal College of Art, London, 2016-Present; Sessional Lecturer, University for the Creative Arts, 2015-Present; Sessional Lecturer, Kingston University, London, 2017; Sessional Lecturer, Middlesex University, London, 2017
  • Awards

  • Winner, Clive Wainwright Memorial Prize, 2012
  • Conferences

  • 'Queer Material Culture', Fifty Years of Queer History Through the Moving Image and Beyond, BFI, 19.03.17; 'Trans Material Culture in Glam Rock', Unpacking the Archive, RCA, 24.03.17; 'Material Histories of Trans Identities', Transformation CHS Symposium, RCA, 09.02.17; 'Trans Material Cultures Working Group', American Society for Theatre Research, Minneapolis, 09.02.17; 'Trans Lives in the Museum', What is the History of Sexuality?, Birkbeck, University of London, 19.06.17; 'LGBTQ Histories in the V&A', Victorian Futures: Culture, democracy and State on the road to Olympicopolis, Chelsea College of Art, 15.05.17; 'Trans Design History', History of the Body: Approaches and Directions, IHR, 16.05.15; 'Early Histories of Medical Treatment for Trans People', The Gender History Network, The University of Edinburgh, 14.05.14; 'Designing Bodies, 1900–1960', What is LGBT(Q) History and Where do we Stand?, Queen Mary, University of London, 2012; 'The Neglected Medical Archive', Brave New World: LGBTI Archives, History & Culture Conference, Guildhall, 2013; 'Design as Cure?', A Picture of Health, Royal College of Art, 2013