Entrenchment in a strict gender binary

The seminar happens tomorrow; its title is Transitional Experiences: Understanding Embodied Stigma, Stress and Trans Resilience in the U.S.

The seminar-haver is Zachary DuBois (University of Oregon) IAS Visiting Fellow.

Although trans, gender diverse and gender non-binary people are increasingly visible in popular culture in the U.S., political backlash and entrenchment in a strict gender binary continue to contribute to enacted stigma and violence. This talk examines trans experience through a biocultural anthropological lens focusing on how stress and stigma become embodied and explores ways to understand trans lives, transitional experiences and “biologies of resilience.”

Entrenchment in a strict gender binary is it. Hm. Is that like entrenchment in a strict species binary? The one that says you either are human or you are not? The one that says you either are a woolly mammoth or you are not?

“Strict” is a useful nudge-word for this kind of thing. Oh dear, we don’t want to be strict, do we. That would be horrid – it summons up images of green Margaret Hamilton shaking her broom. Away with your uptight bourgeois strictness! Let a thousand flowers bloom! Torture anyone who doesn’t let a thousand flowers bloom!

Reality is strict though. It just is. It’s strict about flying – we can’t do it. Our bodies don’t have any of the right equipment – no hollow bones, no wings, no large flexible skin membrane between the fingers. It’s strict about drowning – if we stay under water for a long time we drown. It’s strict about heights – if we jump off them we smash. There’s a whole big set of rules like that which are sadly strict. We are “entrenched” in them because we have no choice in the matter. Sex is just one of those.

You’d think an anthropologist would know that…

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