Paper Title

The Coloniality of Race and Gender and the Lives of Contemporary Trans Women

Location

Room 220, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

Start Date

April 2016

End Date

April 2016

Keywords

Race, Gender, Trans, agency, voice, media

Abstract

In various works, Maria Lugones articulates the idea of gender as a colonial construct that has been introduced, in addition to the construct of race, to reinforce power dynamics in the development of the “civilized West.” Using Lugones’ concepts as a larger framework, this paper aims to develop an understanding of how these colonial constructs of race and gender affect the everyday lives of trans women. As such, the paper explores the functions of race and gender in maintaining dominant power structures and hegemonic values, including but not limited to: white supremacy, compulsory heterosexuality, a naturalized conception of the gender binary, and the favoring of cis-gendered bodies. In developing a deeper understanding of the roles that the concepts of “race” and “gender” have in the lives of trans women, the paper seeks to uncover how these concepts function to divide the trans community, giving power, agency, and voice to some more than others. In doing so, the paper attempts to address some of the following questions: Why are some privileged within the trans community? Who gets to serve as the representative “face” of the trans community and trans issues? Who is able to tell their own narrative in their own voice and who has their story told for them? Which trans lives are generally ignored and silenced? Why is there not more attention paid to the lost lives of so many trans women of color? To address some of these questions, the paper enters into dialogue with the work of Emily Skidmore on the construction of the “good transsexual,” which primarily focuses on media representations of trans women in the 1950s- 1960s. I hope to expand the focus of Skidmore’s paper and argue that the media representation trends articulated by Skidmore as taking place decades ago are still prevalent today, as made clear by the differing media attention given to white, upper class trans celebrities (ie Caitlyn Jenner) and trans women of color (ie the various trans women of color who have been murdered this year, such as Kandis Capri, Yazmin Vash Payne, India Clark, and so many others.) In doing so, I hope to articulate some of the reasons why certain trans individuals are deemed “legitimate” or “worthy” of public attention and recognition, while others are dying and, despite social media efforts to keep their names circulating, are rarely covered by the media and are too soon forgotten by the vast majority of society. Looking at recent media representations of trans women, as well as some first person narrative experience of trans women which is not being readily covered by the media, can help us gain a deeper understanding of the power dynamics of “race” and “gender” within the trans community, and how these colonial artifacts continue to create a dangerous power hierarchy that further subjugates and silences women who already occupy a marginalized societal space.

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Apr 2nd, 9:00 AM Apr 2nd, 10:15 AM

The Coloniality of Race and Gender and the Lives of Contemporary Trans Women

Room 220, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

In various works, Maria Lugones articulates the idea of gender as a colonial construct that has been introduced, in addition to the construct of race, to reinforce power dynamics in the development of the “civilized West.” Using Lugones’ concepts as a larger framework, this paper aims to develop an understanding of how these colonial constructs of race and gender affect the everyday lives of trans women. As such, the paper explores the functions of race and gender in maintaining dominant power structures and hegemonic values, including but not limited to: white supremacy, compulsory heterosexuality, a naturalized conception of the gender binary, and the favoring of cis-gendered bodies. In developing a deeper understanding of the roles that the concepts of “race” and “gender” have in the lives of trans women, the paper seeks to uncover how these concepts function to divide the trans community, giving power, agency, and voice to some more than others. In doing so, the paper attempts to address some of the following questions: Why are some privileged within the trans community? Who gets to serve as the representative “face” of the trans community and trans issues? Who is able to tell their own narrative in their own voice and who has their story told for them? Which trans lives are generally ignored and silenced? Why is there not more attention paid to the lost lives of so many trans women of color? To address some of these questions, the paper enters into dialogue with the work of Emily Skidmore on the construction of the “good transsexual,” which primarily focuses on media representations of trans women in the 1950s- 1960s. I hope to expand the focus of Skidmore’s paper and argue that the media representation trends articulated by Skidmore as taking place decades ago are still prevalent today, as made clear by the differing media attention given to white, upper class trans celebrities (ie Caitlyn Jenner) and trans women of color (ie the various trans women of color who have been murdered this year, such as Kandis Capri, Yazmin Vash Payne, India Clark, and so many others.) In doing so, I hope to articulate some of the reasons why certain trans individuals are deemed “legitimate” or “worthy” of public attention and recognition, while others are dying and, despite social media efforts to keep their names circulating, are rarely covered by the media and are too soon forgotten by the vast majority of society. Looking at recent media representations of trans women, as well as some first person narrative experience of trans women which is not being readily covered by the media, can help us gain a deeper understanding of the power dynamics of “race” and “gender” within the trans community, and how these colonial artifacts continue to create a dangerous power hierarchy that further subjugates and silences women who already occupy a marginalized societal space.