Living in a gender dichotomized society; the experiences of male-identified transpeople

Date

2007-08

Authors

Dietert, Michelle

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Abstract

From shortly after birth until death, society indicates the roles we must undertake. Depending on the culture in which we live, specific values and norms will guide social expectations. In terms of gender, many societies strictly adhere to the male/female binary arrangements in that people must either identify as male or as female. The social construction of gender serves to maintain conformity by providing only two choices of gender identity. There are however, members of the society who transgress the binary arrangements. These individuals can be described as transgender people whose gender identity and/or gender expression does not dovetail with societal gender norms associated with their assigned sex at birth. Using a combination of face-to-face and phone interviews to collect data, twenty-six interviews were conducted with male-identified transgender individuals aged 18 to 57 from around the United States. All were born female-bodied but went on to express gender traits that fall towards the male end of the binary continuum. Participants were recruited via purposive and snowball sampling techiques. After transcribing the interviews, the data was analyzed using NVivo qualitative software. The fmdings were arranged according to three themes: Growing Up: The Emergence and Solidification of the Gender Binary, Negotiating Spaces: Living in a Gender

Dichotomized Society, and Private Spaces: Intimate Relationships. The final conclusions reveal that while Foucault's "authorities of delimitation" help us understand challenges of these individuals, we need to modify this concept to account for their life experiences. Giddens' (1984) suggestion that structures enable and constrain can be summarized to compliment Foucault's theory and to better reflect the experiences of the participants in this study.

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Keywords

Female-to-male transsexuals, Transgender people, Social role, Sex role

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