Gender Matters: Making the Case for Trans Inclusion

78 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2007 Last revised: 25 Jul 2010

See all articles by Nancy J. Knauer

Nancy J. Knauer

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Date Written: July 23, 2010


The transgender communities are producing an important and nuanced critique of our gender system. For community members, the project is self-constitutive and, therefore, has an immediacy that also marks the efforts of other marginalized groups who have attempted to make sense of the world through description, interrogation, and, ultimately, a program for transformation. The transgender project also has universalizing elements because, existing within the gender system, each one of us embodies a particular gender articulation. It is through this articulation that we define ourselves in relation to the gender we were assigned at birth, the gender we choose, the gender we create, the gender we reject, the gender we are, and the gender we are assumed to be.

Lesbian and gay advocacy organizations began to incorporate transgender issues in the late 1990s, as signaled by the now ubiquitous "T" that appears at the end of the popular acronym "LGBT." The resulting alliance, however, has been an uneasy one, and the feminist response has been arguably even less welcoming. This Essay maintains that the progressive resistance to transgender narratives is rooted in a form of post-feminist agnosticism regarding gender that focuses on the temporal and historically contingent nature of gender.

It is difficult to make sense of transgender demands for gender self-definition from within a world view where gender is merely a cultural construct. To the contrary, contemporary transgender narratives provide a first-hand account of gender as it is experienced at the beginning of the 21st century and establish that gender continues to shoulder great social meaning. Once we allow that gender matters, the transgender truth claims regarding the press and weight of gender no longer ring of false consciousness, and the demand for the right to gender self-definition takes on a new urgency.

Part II discusses this post-feminist gender agnosticism and explains how liberation ideology erased and demonized transgender identities in traditional feminist and LGB histories. Part III examines the commonality of all gender narratives and suggests that perhaps we might all be a little genderqueer. Part IV reminds us that identity formation is historically contingent and discusses the opportunities presented by the use of "queer" as a strategic position of alliance. Most importantly, it asks us to imagine what types of legal reform would be necessary to create space for the type of gender self-definition envisioned and demanded by the transgender narrative - one that respects internal gender identity, gender expression, and gender embodiment. The final section outlines specific actions steps to further trans inclusion in our law schools.

Keywords: transgender, LGBT, gender, feminism, transsexual, gay, lesbian, gender queer, queer, sex reassignment, post-feminist, butch femme, embodiment, gender identity disorder, gender disphoria, lesbian feminism, gay liberation, transman, transwoman, law school diversity, gender performance, gender

JEL Classification: J7

Suggested Citation

Knauer, Nancy J., Gender Matters: Making the Case for Trans Inclusion (July 23, 2010). Pierce Law Review, Vol. 6, No. 1, Fall 2007; Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2007-10. Available at SSRN:

Nancy J. Knauer (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-1688 (Phone)
215-204-1185 (Fax)

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