The Wizard behind the Curtain: Transgender Women's Experiences of Navigating Male Privilege

Monday, 16 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Margaret KELLY, Macquarie University, Australia

The aim of my Master of Research project was to explore how transgender women experience and navigate male privilege when they lived socially recognized as men and now as women. Qualitative life-history interviews were conducted with twelve transgender women from diverse backgrounds, and aged from 20 to 70. The data was analysed thematically through the lens of Raewyn Connell’s concept of hegemonic masculinity and masculinity’s ideology of supremacy and claim to authority. Transgender women participants’ responses evidenced that privilege is unevenly distributed among multiple masculinities, and this unevenness is reflected in participants’ experiences of and attitudes to male privilege and hegemonic masculinity, pre and post-transition. Participants exposed the wizard behind the curtain, and turned a spotlight on a complex social structure of gender inequality that is difficult to identify, define and, therefore, to challenge. This project argues that it is the very complexity and elusiveness of the structure and the opaqueness of the advantages this structure bestows on some men that is one of its strengths. And, that the unique insights and reflections of transgender women on their experiences of privilege, pre and post-transition, illuminate these mostly invisible and paradoxical social structures and the gender inequality they perpetuate.