Challenging Gender Orders: Some Clues to (Re)Think Transgender Identities

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:30
Location: Hörsaal 34 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Sara MERLINI, University of Lisbon, Portugal
The study of translives says much about how differentiation processes operate in binary gender order (re)definitions. Transgressions, variations and gender transitions – whether in performative or discursive terms – allow us to question precisely how order rejection/challenge might often result in the reinforcement or amplification of established distinctions. However, is the emerging mutability of traditional gender substantive enough to produce a transformation of the center?

Assuming that identity is constituted performativity, an effect which manifests itself in an arrangement of differences (Derrida,1988; Butler,2004), we seek to understand how far the identifications mobilized by twenty trans individuals – interviewed in the framework of the ERC funded project TRANSRIGHTS(http://transrightseurope.com) – contribute to overcome the social construction of gender outside the male/female opposition.

Interaction with the heteronormative order, its binary and dualistic apparatus, is not univocal. There are diverse positions and speeches – often ambivalent – in explaining how and why gender differences are performed (and desired). In some trajectories gender transgression is a permanent building process of borders; in others it is more like a walkway, a transitional point required for the achievement of civic and social recognition. Typically, the importance of being recognized, its association with body materiality and the need of using normative masculinity and femininity references confines the construction of gender outside traditionally defined borders.

Nevertheless, the link between phenomenological dimensions (appearance and bodily performances) and political dimensions (strategic and categorical essentialism) – more latent in some paths than in others – is important for understanding political representation and gender citizenship rights. The analysis conducted provides clues for the (re)cognition of identity politics’ limits. The warrant of gender rights requires us to think of ways to overcome the use of essentialist categories, which precisely set and constrain the subjects that identity politics seeks to represent and release (Butler,1990).