Unqueering Transgender? A Queer Geography of Transnormativity in Two Online Communities
This research implicates gender in the study of sexuality and suggests a genealogy of transgender that consists of both the medicalisation of transsexuality and the articulation of gender performances in gay liberation’s politics of difference. While the transgender subject is often idealised in queer discourses, this research positions the transsexual (one articulation of transgender) as normative: conservative gender politics, the ontological separation of gender and sexuality that echoes assimilationist gay and lesbian politics, an identity based on essentialist biology and psychiatric “wrong body” discourses, and the privileging of passing technologies such as hormone replacement therapies and sex reassignment surgery (themselves justified though the elaboration of wrong body discourses). Further to this, the public rendering of some transgender bodies as nonconformist results in violence and the need to explore alternate spaces of being, namely the internet which has the potential to build community, raise consciousness of gender and transgender oppression, but can also be used to legitimate transnormative (re)productions of the self. The analysis of two online communities of transgender individuals shows the most frequent users tended to be transsexual and privileging conservative gender politics and an essentialist medical etiology of transsexuality. Users were also typically more knowledgeable in passing biotechnologies than some medical professionals. In one community that are tailored to transgender individuals, subjects felt at ease to discuss a variety of topics and explore the complications of transgender. In the second community, tailored towards feminists in general, transgender issues were addressed in a more confrontational manner, often exposing the transphobic nature of some feminisms.