Gender & Society in The Classroom’s Guide for Syllabi on Transgender and Non-Binary Gender Identities

UPDATED Dec. 2018

The following Gender & Society articles are the journal’s most recently published pieces that focus on the growing scholarship on transgender and non-binary gender identities.  As this body of scholarly literature continues to grow, as will this list of articles that may be used as supplements to other readings in the classroom.

Garrison, Spencer. 2018. On the Limits of “Trans Enough”: Authenticating Trans Identity Narratives. Gender & Society. 32 (5): 613-637.

Existing (binary) understandings of gender affirm some types of gendered accounts as “authentic,” while others are discredited or obscured. As a consequence, many transgender people express anxiety about whether their experience of gender can be distilled into a narrative that is intelligible to others and appears consistent over time. In this article, I assess the identity narratives produced by two cohorts of trans respondents—binary-identified respondents, and non-binary respondents—as a means of understanding the narrative strategies that respondents employ to establish themselves as “authentically” trans. To affirm themselves as trans, I find that non-binary participants tended to elide or to minimize potential inconsistencies in their stories, producing narratives that reflect dominant cultural accounts of trans experience—accounts that center an early-childhood affiliation with the “opposite” sex, endorsing and affirming binary gender distinctions. In turn, binary-identified participants often produced accounts that complicated or questioned these tropes. While non-binary individuals have been hailed as the primary arbiters of gender’s undoing, the social and institutional constraints that inform how we account for gender—which shape both our production of those accounts and others’ interpretations of them—suggest that binary-identified respondents may be better positioned to work towards this “undoing” than their non-binary counterparts.

Rogers, Baker A. 2018. Drag as a Resource: Trans* and Nonbinary Individuals in the Southeastern United States. Gender & Society. 32 (6): 889-910.

Through 32 in-depth surveys with drag kings, I ask how do trans*/nonbinary individuals find a way to make a home in the Southeastern United States? I answer this by examining the use of drag kinging as a resource to explore gender identity and find resources for gender transition. This study adds to previous research on drag kinging by expanding beyond large cities and college towns to include a broader look at the Southeast, where queer lives have often been rendered invisible. I highlight the importance of geographic location on attitudes about gender and resources available to trans*/nonbinary people. In contrast to other areas of the country, trans*/nonbinary drag kings in the Southeast use drag as a place to explore a “felt” identity that is stifled in the broader culture.

Nisar, Muhammad Azfar. 2018. (Un)Becoming a Man: Legal Consciousness of the Third Gender Category in Pakistan. Gender & Society 32 (1): 59-81.

In the past decade, a few countries have created a third gender category to legally recognize gender-nonconforming individuals. However, we know relatively little about the response of the gender-nonconforming individuals toward the legal third gender category. To address this gap, this article analyzes the different social, religious, and institutional discourses that have emerged around the recently created third gender category in Pakistan and their influence on the legal consciousness of the Khawaja Sira community, a marginalized gender-nonconforming group. Even though the third gender category was created to address the unique gender identity of the Khawaja Sira community, most continue to legally register as men. My research indicates that the patriarchal stigma, high compliance costs, and limited material benefits associated with the legal third gender category dissuade the Khawaja Sira community from choosing to register. My findings point to the limitations of a legal third gender category within a patriarchal sociolegal order where important benefits associated with the masculine identity are forfeited by registering. In doing so, I caution against over emphasizing the symbolic value of legal recognition for gender-nonconforming groups.

shuster, stef. 2017. Punctuating Accountability: How Discursive Aggression Regulates Transgender People. Gender & Society 31 (4): 481-502. 

Using in-depth interviews with forty transgender people, I explore “discursive aggression,” a term for the communicative acts used in social interaction to hold people accountable to social- and cultural-based expectations, and subsequently to reinforce inequality in everyday life. I show how these interactional affronts restore social order, are based in dominant language systems, and reflect expectations for how interactions should unfold. Gendered expectations—such as the assumption that gender is identifiable based on visual cues alone—come to life through language, are delivered through discursive aggression, and become routinized micro-inequalities that people negotiate in interaction. I present five vignettes to exemplify how discursive aggression typically unfolds in interaction. In so doing, this research demonstrates the value of discursive aggression as a concept to capture a pervasive, yet under-examined, feature of everyday life and a mechanism for how power is reified in interaction.

Nanney, Megan and David L. Brunsma. 2017. Moving Beyond Cis-terhood: Determining Gender through Transgender Admittance Policies at U.S. Women’s Colleges. Gender & Society 31 (1): 145-170.

In 2013, controversy sparked student protests, campus debates, and national attention when Smith College denied admittance to Calliope Wong—a trans woman. Since then, eight women’s colleges have revised their admissions policies to include different gender identities such as trans women and genderqueer people. Given the recency of such policies, we interrogate the ways the category “woman” is determined through certain alignments of biology-, legal-, and identity-based criteria. Through an inductive analysis of administrative scripts appearing both in student newspapers and in trans admittance policies, we highlight two areas U.S. women’s colleges straddle while creating these policies: inclusion/exclusion scripts of self-identification and legal documentation, and tradition-/activism-speak. Through these tensions, women’s college admittance policies not only construct “womanhood” but also serve as regulatory norms that redo gender as a structuring agent within the gendered organization.

Davis, Georgiann, Jodie M. Dewey, and Erin L. Murphy. 2016. Giving sex: Deconstructing intersex and trans medicalization practices. Gender & Society 30 (3): 490-514.

Although medical providers rely on similar tools to “treat” intersex and trans individuals, their enactment of medicalization practices varies. To deconstruct these complexities, we employ a comparative analysis of providers who specialize in intersex and trans medicine. While both sets of providers tend to hold essentialist ideologies about sex, gender, and sexuality, we argue they medicalize intersex and trans embodiments in different ways. Providers for intersex people are inclined to approach intersex as an emergency that necessitates medical attention, whereas providers for trans people attempt to slow down their patients’ urgent requests for transitioning services. Building on conceptualizations of “giving gender,” we contend both sets of providers “give gender” by “giving sex.” In both cases too, providers shift their own responsibility for their medicalization practices onto others: parents in the case of intersex, or adult recipients of care in the case of trans. According to the accounts of most providers, successful medical interventions are achieved when a person adheres to heteronormative gender practices.

Jenness, V., & Fenstermaker, S. 2016. Forty Years after Brownmiller prisons for men, transgender inmates, and the rape of the feminine. Gender & Society 30 (1): 14-29.

In this essay, we draw on a growing body of research, including our own work recently published in this journal, to consider the social organization of prison rape as it relates to transgender women. Just as Brownmiller (1975) focused attention on rape as a male prerogative, a weapon of force against women, and an agent of fear, our central focus is on “the rape of the feminine” in the context of prisons for men and with an eye toward the intersection of the state and violence. In the next section, we inventory some alarming facts about the rape of transgender women in carceral environments built for men (and only men). Thereafter, we describe and theorize the unique space and social relations in which this type of rape emerges in relation to the social organization of gender in prison. We conclude with comments about the relationship between embodiment, gender, and the rape of the feminine in a carceral context.

 ILLUSTRATION BY Phoebe Helander


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