Gender Belongings: The Effects of Historical Visibility over the Life Course

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Sara MERLINI, University of Lisbon, Av. Prof. Aníbal Bettencourt 9, 1600-189 Lisboa, Cab. 4121800146, Portugal
In this presentation we focus on gender belongings throughout the life course and their relation to the increased recognition and historical visibility of gender diversity in Portuguese and British contexts. Taking gender belonging as a linking concept between self and society that allows us to analyse social change (May, 2011), we deepen the relation between temporal (biographical and historical) dimensions and the process of discovering and identifying with a non-binary gender.

Through a historical, comparative and transnational approach we present preliminary results of a PhD research on non-binary genders framed by the ERC funded project TRANSRIGHTS (http://transrightseurope.com). Our starting point of analysis are 20 biographic interviews with individuals born between 1943 and 1997 who identify beyond the gender binary – i.e. don't belong exclusively to a masculine or a feminine gender. Based on an analysis of biographic and socio-historical data from Portugal and the United Kingdom, we tackle how gender diversity recogniton and historical visibility impacts on self-discover processes and enables different gender belongings.

Concretely, we applied the biographical-interpretative-method as a privileged tool to explore the ways in which socio-historical circumstances relate to individual and particular lives (Cohler and Hostetler, 2003;Wengraf, 2000). With regard to gender belongings our data shows how access to information and transgender networks, as well as the possibilities for legal gender recognition open the way for earlier processes of discovery and identification. Through the analysis of troubled and nonlinear trajectories in view of the mainstream "transgender path" (discovery-> treatment-> gender transition/migration), we verified that individual gender belonging is specially marked by the time in which one lives. Historical context has profound implications upon the course of an individual’s life. By focusing on the relations between gender belonging and time, our results allow us to better understand the complex interrelations of change in personal and social life.