Transphobia and the Relational Production of Gender
Hastings Women's L.J., Vol. 18, No. 137, Summer 2007
32 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2009
Date Written: Summer 2007
Knowing one's place in the social order, whether that place is one of relative privilege or not serves two psychologically ameliorative functions. It relieves one from the “anxiety of [gender] identity interrogation” and it helps to inform one as to the socially agreed upon, acceptable conduct for interpersonal exchanges - the episteme of social interaction. This Paper will demonstrate that gender identity is produced through relational, contextually influenced, interpretative processes. Because gender is constructed in societies which strongly embrace static, binary conceptions of gender, and in which social, familial, occupational, and sexual interactions are heavily influenced by gendered social scripts, gender expressions which are ambiguous, or which have changed since a prior interaction, or which are strongly incongruent with normative understandings of the correlation between gender and biology, are typically experienced by others as at least uncomfortable, and often actually disruptive. The dominant social response to disruption is an ultimately futile effort to reinforce a gender binary. The law is frequently invoked in aid of this re-inscription of gender. In this Paper I argue that the disruption is produced by the binary model itself, and I propose legal strategies which will assist in a re-conceptualization of gender.
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