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Centrality of Self Identification

The following is an excerpt from an original piece published as a Chapter in LGBTQ People And Social Work: Intersectional Perspectives by Canadian Scholar's Press in fall 2014.

There are many ways that the term “transgender” has been defined over space and time, with much individual variation in meaning in trans and gender variant communities (Valentine, 2007). Not everyone agrees on what, exactly, it means to be trans, particularly given the Euro-centrism of the term (Walters, Evans-Campbell, Simoni, Ronquillo, & Bhuyan, 2006). While the definition of “trans” as some sort of umbrella term of various gender identities and expressions that do not fit neatly into the assigned gender binary can be useful, I would propose that the term is not so much an articulation of a particular gender category as it is a space and place of liminality and subjective, contextual experience. In this space, one can come to understand that their body, spirit, gender preferences, or expression may fall outside typical Euro-American understandings and delineations of gender that presume individuals are biologically born masculine/males/men or feminine/females/women, with no variation thereof. While many people who seek medical or social modes of transition may identify as cross-gendered and seek to align their bodies with their internal sense of gendered self in ways that society would recognize as conventional masculine maleness or feminine femaleness, many other trans folks do not fit neatly into such categories. It is important to make efforts to understand and resist the false social and biological constructs that render normative conceptualizations of gender identity, body, dress, behaviour, and roles exclusively legitimate. These constructs are deeply embedded in service structures producing a singular medically approved and psychiatrically defined narrative (“one true narrative”) for Two Spirit, gender variant or trans individuals (Coleman, Bockting, Botzer, Cohen-Kettenis, DeCuypere, Feldman, Fraser, Green, Knudson, Meyer, Monstrey, Adler, Brown, Devor, Ehrbar, Ettner, Eyler, Garofalo, Karasic, Lev, 2012). Trans folks call into question the legitimacy of biological understandings of gender, and social categories limiting gender expression and possibility, particularly those expressions that have been rendered oppositional and static in nature. Contrary to common assumptions, a trans identity does not necessarily - although it could -presuppose any sort of directionality or “crossing over” of experience. Rather, it can signify a place of existence that cannot easily be pinned down in terms of language, social codes, physical expression and embodiment.....

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