Transgender Spectrum

Transgender as an identity and an experience comes with many assumptions and interpretations- often informed by Western dominant ideas of a gender binary system. However, transgender spectrum implies that there are many ways of living a gender-variant, sometimes gender non-conforming lived-experience. For Valentine in “I Know What I Am: Gender, Sexuality, and Identity,” to understand transgender as a spectrum is to acknowledge the instabilities of transgender as a category, which applies to individual lives…” (Valentine 2007: 108). The transgender spectrum highlights various embodiments of gender  as a site of “radical gender possibilities” (Valentine 2007: 106). Women and Gender Studies professors, Susan Stryker and Aren Aizura, theorize on this concept in the Transgender Studies Reader 2- although she might not name it as such specifically. She discusses the essence of transgender as a spectrum and acknowledges that “‘transgender’ can often evoke- modernity, metropolitanism, Eurocentrism, whiteness, globalization, [and] transnationalism,” while also recognizing that “it would “explore the multiple reworkings of identity,” (Stryker 2013: 9). Stryker and Aizura capture the nature of transgender spectrum- as ” a way of resisting local pressures, as an empowering new frame of reference, as an erasure of cultural specificity, as a counter-modernity, as an alternative tradition, or as a mode of survival and translation for tradition cultural forms that are unintelligible within the conceptual double binary of man/woman and homo/hetero associated with the modern west,” (2013: 9-10). Transgender as a spectrum accounts for an experience that is heavily impacted by other factors of intersectionality, including race, gender, class, nation, age, religion, etc. Thus, transgender means different things, in different places, and to different people. This implies that transgender as an organizing identity as well as a community is dependent on location or geography and cultural experience. Transgender spectrum can also be represented by trans*- which acknowledges the various ways that the identity can exist- in that it is intersectional and not monolithic. The significance of thinking about transgender as a spectrum of identities suggests that we must be cautious not to make generalizations of the transgender as an identity category. Transgender spectrum can also challenge categorization, as it prioritizes the agency of self-identification and accounts for difference as well as a multititude of perspectives. For example, Afsaneh Najmabadi, Professor of History as well as Women an Gender studies discusses a very different kind of transgender identiy within the article, ““Transing and Transpassing Across Sex-Gender Walls in Iran. Najmabadi spends a lot of time discussing the legality and legibility of transgender identities in Iran, especially in regards to gender confirmation surgeries. In this narrative, we see a kind of idea in which transgender identity can be permissable in Iran because transgender identity, unlike homosexual identity, is not forbidden by the Quran. This shows the fluidity in transgender identity, as individuals transition- sometimes with the purpose of finding a legal way to meet their sexual desires, and as a way of participating in a loop hole within their system. This exemplifies a very different perspective, non-Westen in what it means to be a transgender individual in Iran, thus captivated within the transgender spectrum.


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