Identities and (In)Visibilities of Transsexual Women and Men: The ‘gender’ strikes again
10th Conference of the European Sociological Association
The paper presents some results from the research project “Transsexuality and Transgender: Gender Identities and Expressions of Gender”, which was undertaken at CIES-IUL, with funding from the Foundation for Science and Technology. Completed in 2010, is one of the first approaches to the topic within the field of the social sciences in Portugal. Transsexuality is fertile ground for discussions on femininity and masculinity; on what it is to be a man and to be a woman in both intimate and social levels. The biographic interviews and ethnographic incursions highlighted the existence of a major difference between transsexual men and transsexual women at the level of both gender identities and social trajectories. This shows that sex/gender is one of the main difference-producing variables, just as it is for the cissexual population (i.e. people for whom there is no mismatch between the sex they were attributed at birth and the gender they experience). But in the case of transsexual people, the analytical complexity is greater, inasmuch as it requires us to deal with a dual reference: the sex/gender which is attributed, and that which is expressed. When we analyse transsexual identities, we must bear in mind that we are in the presence of highly medicalised identities, and that there is a ‘classic narrative of transsexuality’ which arose in the medical sciences, and which has more recently been joined – often in opposition – by new or alternative references constructed on the basis of movements ‘from inside’. These new references, which are materialised in new expressions of gender, have the potential to change the identities and visibilities of transsexual women and men.
Gender; identity; transsexuality; transgender