Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category

Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category Author David Valentine
ISBN-10 0822338696
ISBN-13 9780822338697
Year 2007-08-30
Pages 320
Language English
Publisher Duke University Press
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Imagining Transgender is an ethnography of the emergence and institutionalization of transgender as a category of collective identity and political activism Embraced by activists in the early 1990s to advocate for gender variant people the category quickly gained momentum in public health social service scholarly and legislative contexts Working as a safer sex activist in Manhattan during the late 1990s David Valentine conducted ethnographic research among mostly male to female transgender identified people at drag balls support groups cross dresser organizations clinics bars and clubs However he found that many of those labeled transgender by activists did not know the term or resisted its use Instead they self identified as gay a category of sexual rather than gendered identity and one rejected in turn by the activists who claimed these subjects as transgender Valentine analyzes the reasons for and potential consequences of this difference and how social theory is implicated in it Valentine argues that transgender has been adopted so rapidly in the contemporary United States because it clarifies a model of gender and sexuality that has been gaining traction within feminism psychiatry and mainstream gay and lesbian politics since the 1970s a paradigm in which gender and sexuality are distinct arenas of human experience This distinction and the identity categories based on it erase the experiences of some gender variant peopleparticularly poor persons of colorwho conceive of gender and sexuality in other terms While recognizing the important advances transgender has facilitated Valentine argues that a broad vision of social justice must include simultaneously an attentiveness to the politics of language and a recognition of how social theoretical models and broader political economies are embedded in the day to day politics of identity

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