'We Walk Among You': Trans Identity Politics Goes to the Movies

29 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2013

See all articles by Sharon Cowan

Sharon Cowan

University of Edinburgh - School of Law

Date Written: October 25, 2013


Recent legal and social acknowledgement of (some) trans citizenship claims demonstrates the continuing evolution of trans politics and identity, and the relationship between socio-political identities and popular culture. This article examines current debates over trans citizenship and identity, and argues that certain kinds of identity and citizenship claims have cultural currency in contemporary representations of sex/gender. In order to address these issues, this article highlights key disputes and tensions in contemporary debates about transgender identity, citizenship and claims to legal rights, by examining the ways in which sex/gender identity is portrayed in three films -- Cabaret, Transamerica and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Each film demonstrates various ways of interpreting and reworking the constraints of heteronormative binary notions of sex/gender, and these struggles over meaning are also reflected in the ways in which different articulations of trans identity and citizenship claims have been legally and culturally recognized. The article explores the ways in which particular accounts of trans identity are given primacy within law, and how film can help us to reflect upon questions about which sexed/gendered people get to count as legal citizens. The paper concludes by reminding us that despite discourses of recognition, it is important to remember the exclusionary as well as inclusionary tendencies of law.

Keywords: Transgender, sex, gender identity, film, law, recognition, heteronormativity

Suggested Citation

Cowan, Sharon, 'We Walk Among You': Trans Identity Politics Goes to the Movies (October 25, 2013). Edinburgh School of Law Research Paper No. 2013/39. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2345266 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2345266

Sharon Cowan (Contact Author)

University of Edinburgh - School of Law ( email )

Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh, EH8 9YL
United Kingdom

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