Sunday, January 26, 2014

Amazing Trans* Research!

There is an article in the Huffington Post by an Assistant Professor of Sociology at The College at Brockport, Tristan Bridges about the research that has been done over the last fifty years in to the study of gender thanks to us.
What Research About Transgender People Can Teach Us About Gender and Inequality
Posted: 01/24/2014

Most people think of gender as some kind of inalienable property of individuals -- as something we either are or have. Decades of scholarship on gender have uncovered a perspective at odds with the conventional wisdom. The thing about conventional wisdom, though, is that it's difficult to challenge even when we can prove it wrong. It's much more accurate to talk about gender as something we "do" than as something we simply "are" or "have." While this might initially seem like splitting hairs, people's lives, legislation, and more hang in the balance. Sociologists Laurel Westbrook and Kristen Schilt just published a new study on how the media manage moments of conflict over who "counts" as a woman or a man, and they've uncovered new reasons why we ought to care more about this distinction than you might have thought. Their study of how media navigate transgender individuals tells us more than why transgender people challenge conventional wisdom on gender. They continue a tradition in the sociology of gender of relying of the experiences of transgender people to provide new insights into what gender is and how taken for granted gender inequality has become.
When I teach cultural awareness one of my slides is about how we are unique in seeing gender inequality. For trans-women we see the loss of male privilege, it is like that we have had lobotomy and don’t know anything anymore. In business meeting our suggestions no long have merit, but if a man makes the same suggestion everyone all of sudden the same idea gets discussed. The opposite is true for the trans-men, all of sudden they became expert in everything.

What the sociologist Harold Garfinkel found out was that we all role play,
Agnes was studied by surgeons, endocrinologists, psychologists, all matter of medical professionals, and -- as fate would have it -- a sociologist named Harold Garfinkel. Garfinkel wasn't a sociologist of gender; indeed, the sociology of gender didn't even really exist at that point. And it may very well be Agnes that we should thank for its production. While the medical professionals meeting with Agnes (among others) were all concerned with helping her, they were also all casually in agreement that it was Agnes who was the one with the problem. Garfinkel's great insight was to recognize that while her desire for surgery may be statistically rare, there was nothing at all "problematic" about her gender. In fact, Garfinkel found that Agnes knew quite a bit more about her gender than most. Rather than teaching Agnes how to better "fit in" or "pass" as a woman, Garfinkel became increasingly interested in what he could learn from Agnes about gender.
...But it was Agnes' intricate insights into her daily performances of gender that allowed Garfinkel to realize that gender is a performance for everyone. It wasn't just Agnes who was passing; we're all passing as men and women. Agnes was just better able to talk about it than most. It becomes so much a part of who we think we are that most of us don't even recognize the daily work we do to pass as men and women (shaving, make-up, clothes, hair cuts, styles of walking, talking, sitting, how to interact conversationally, carrying wallets or a purse, and more). It's exhausting once you list it all out, and we're constantly at work.
How many times have we heard other trans-women say that they had to learn how to be a man? We learn at an early age how to blend in to our birth gender that seems foreign to us. I used to pretend to love cars and engines; I could talk the gearhead talk like a gearhead.

Garfinkel goes on to write about “gender panic” about what happens when a society focuses on body parts. How there is gender panic when a male invades a women space and how there is less gender panic when a woman enters men space. He writes that this is about the belief men at capable of violence and the belief that women are uniquely vulnerable and he goes on to say that,
…Indeed, Schilt and Westbrook address violence against transgender women in their previous research as did Cox in her interview with Couric [about society focus on body parts]. And our collective failure to recognize violence against transgender women is a testament to the power of conventional wisdom about gender. While transgender people have a unique capacity to help us understand gender as more flexible than we often imagine, Westbrook and Schilt's research illustrates the ways that the challenges brought about by transgender individuals are often dealt with in ways that have the effect of shoring up our faith in gender as innate and gender inequality is inevitable.
Conservatives focus on body parts thereby furthering society oppression of not only trans-people but also women. They should be focusing on the brain and not what is between your legs.

1 comment:

Sarah Wilson said...

"They should be focusing on the brain and not what is between your legs"

And that's exactly the body part they consistently miss in their blatherings about "they were born with (body part) so that makes them a (sex)." By their prurient interest in sex, the though never comes to them that a person's identity lies in the brain and not the genitalia. Maybe that's because they're not using their brains.