The three reading resources that are important in explaining gender fluidity, which is the focus of my project, are available in PDF format. One of the files is quite large as it is a compilation of 15 pages that were “scanned” with a phone app (thanks for the tip, Dana!). As such, I will be sending out the materials via a CTools message (if the attachment limit permits).
Below are my annotated bibliography for each reading to provide clearer context for the material:
How Sex Changed by Joanne Meyerowitz
Chapter 7 (“The Next Generation”) of the book How Sex Changed is particularly helpful in outlining the history of the transgender movement. This chapter discusses the change in acceptance of transgendered people in the US. In particular, it highlights the roles of doctors and scientists as contributors to both sides of the debate. While some surgeons were dedicated to performing sex-change surgeries, others were openly resistant to the procedure. The chapter also discusses the relationship between the transsexual movement and the feminist movement. It describes the tension between the movements as the feminist movement began actively excluding those who were not born with female genitalia but identified as women. Many feminists openly rejected the possibility of others they deemed “not women” as they believed that a man cannot possibly identify as a woman and understand the implications of being a woman. This chapter also discusses an interesting study conducted to show the changes brought about by sex-change surgeries. The study showed that, in general, “sex reassignment surgery confers no objective advantage in terms of social rehabilitation.” However, as the author of the book points out, this study uses measures of “advantage” in terms that favor “mobility, heterosexuality, and patients who avoided asking for help.” These criteria are telling of the pervasive biases of the time.
Situating ‘Fluidity’ (Trans) Gender Identification and the Regulation of Gender Diversity by Erin Calhoun Davis
This article focuses on the issues of gender as experienced by transgendered individuals. An interesting point that this article raises that is particularly pertinent to my project is the inherent restriction in assuming that gender fluidity necessarily means that there are no boundaries to gender diversity. Davis argues that although people can move in and out of different gender categories with more ease now, they are not unbounded within the categories. This can be seen in the gender performances that occur. For instance, some transgendered people who identify as male or female emphasize certain characteristics that are commonly associated with these genders so as to be more socially accepted as either a male or female. However, these individuals do not seek to actively eliminate their gendered history. Rather, they choose their gender presentations based on the social context in which they are involved. This, in a way, brings about a question as to whether or not gender fluidity necessarily implies complete freedom in gender expression or if it further restricts the freedom it seeks to promote.
Patterned Fluidities: (Re)Imagining the Relationship between Gender and Sexuality by Diane Richardson
This article explains pre-existing theories about the intersection (and often also the conflation) of gender and sexuality. The author lays out five main arguments that have been used: “naturalist approaches (principle of consistency), gender prioritized over sexuality, gender as an effect of sexuality, sexuality and gender as separate systems, [and] gender and sexuality elision.” In the article, the author proposes an analogy of the relationship between gender and sexuality to the relationship between the land and the sea. Specifically, she argues that the intersection of gender and sexuality changes depending on contexts influenced by situations, locations, and historical periods. This implies a gradation of change that can happen over time. The author also suggests a “patterned fluidity” in the relationship between gender and sexuality as a relationship that necessarily involves both predictability and unpredictability.
I hope these readings are helpful to you in understanding my project with regards to its historical background and the current debates that surround gender fluidity.