Situating Transgender Identities Formation in Portugal
II European Geographies of Sexualities Conference
The paper presents some results from a research project about transgender identities undertaken at CIES-IUL, with funding from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology. Completed in 2010, it is one of the first approaches to the topic within the field of the social sciences in Portugal. The research reveals significant differences between trans identities and expressions of gender depending on the time and the space where these identities were formed. Younger trans women and trans men (younger and older) tend to build their trans identity of gender based mostly on psychological-medical scientific discourse and practice on “transsexuality”, which are appropriated through their involvement on transsexual health care services and places. Older trans women, on the other hand, especially those who came out in the initial phase of their lives, before the formal implementation in the country of trans heath care in 1995, interpret the feeling of sex/gender non-coincidence without access both to “expert” sources and to transsexual health care services. They built their gender identity among peer, frequently in micro-cultures linked to gay milieus, drag show environments and prostitution public places that are specifically frequented by sexual workers with transgender expressions. These are the types of place where, in the Portugal of the 1970’s and 1980’s, there was likely to be space for biological men who expressed themselves as women. These areas, which also had links to others, such as the street prostitution zones abroad, made it possible to constitute and exchange meanings and values via micro-group-type sociability networks and to access a collective identity, even if it is one that is shared at a micro level. We find a different reality for trans men, given that in Portugal there is no shared, visible history of “female masculinity” (Halberstam, 1998) before the formal implementation in the country of trans heath care.