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State-level Structural Violence against Transgender People

State-level Structural Violence against Transgender People

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Published by Logan_ak

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Published by: Logan_ak on Dec 08, 2010
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04/30/2012

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 Kirkland: 1Apparati of Power:Concerning the Social Manufacture, Application, and Effectsof Structural and Cultural Violence against Transgender People
Logan A. KirklandAnthropology of ViolenceEmanuela Guano, PhD
 December 2, 2010
Georgia State University
 
 Kirkland: 2
The term "structural violence" was originally coined by Johan Galtung. It is violencecommitted not by an individual, but by structuralized social systems. For example, a social systemcan manufacture harm against certain groups of people by making it difficult or impossible to meettheir needs (1969: 170) . Descriminatory social constructs like class-ism, racism, sexism,heterosexism, ageism and ableism can all be examples of this type of structural violence. Culturalviolence, on the other hand, is the method in which parts of a culture can be used to justify,legitimize, or otherwise make structural violence seem not wrong. Art, religion, political ideology,science and language are examples of commonly used cultural systems from which culturalviolence is manufactured (Galtung 1990: 291-292). These engrained forms of discrimination andviolence hurt people by making their very survival and inclusion in day-to-day life and the'accepted' culture a difficult struggle-- they may not have access to basic services, may not be ableto get jobs, and may be routinely abused in any other number of ways. One man can't get a job because of the colour of his skin; another because he is gay. Another person might be fired for beingtoo old, or may lack mobility because they are dependent on a wheelchair in a universe of stairs.This paper in particular, however, shall focus on cultural and structural violence againsttransgendered people in the modern urban setting.To begin with, let first us define 'transgender' as someone who in one way or another doesn'tidentify as the gender they were assigned at birth. This can thus include a wide variety of gender-nonconforming people, and is used because of this inclusive nature-- it includes not onlytranssexual people (a more contested term, referring alternatively to people who have completedgender reassignment surgery of some kind, or at least live full time as their identified gender), butalso can include drag queens and kings, genderqueer people, and other forms of transmasculine and
 
 Kirkland: 3
transfeminine people. (Doan 2009: 22). In addition, it must be stated that all of these lables focus ongender and not sexuality; a transgendered man (transman) might be gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, pansexual or have any number of other sexual labels and characteristics, as can a transgenderedwomen (transwomen)-- and anybody else, for that matter.Transgender people are common targets of the social phenomena of 'othering'. Othering, for the sake of this paper, shall be defined as the social process through which a group constructs an 'us'and a 'them' for the purpose of seperation, stigmatization and opression of the 'them' and/or theadvancement of the 'us' over the 'them'. The experiences of many transgender people is ripe withothering-- in many places they don't even have the right to work or marry. Using a public(gendered) restroom—either of them-- can be a frightening experience, plagued with harassment.They often must live in constant fear of violence and discrimination, even in places and situations inwhich the majority of people would feel perfectly safe. One informant, a young transwomen whomI've known for some time, told me her rather poignant story: she was denied employeement purely based on her gender-status. It follows:...Okay, okay, so I had been applying to a bunch of places nearby after I moved in with
 partner 
and of course they make you use your legal name and so I had to apply with my birth name. And a couple days later I get a call-back from
 smoothie establishment 
and theywant to interview me. So I'm excited, you know, and go in a couple days later for theinterview, and the guy takes one look at me when I tell him who I am and I can, you know,see how he changes immediately. But we go ahead through the short interview, and hewarmed up some so I thought it was going to be cool. We get to the end and he looks over everything and tells me I can start monday-- but only on the condition that I act in a malegendered way. I couldn't handle that, it would be too difficult, I was depressed enough as itis...Another collaborator, a 23-year-old transman, had a similer tale: he was forced to continue using his birth-name at the pizza delivery place at which he worked, despite operating in an obvious male-gendered identity. Realities such as these are both constant and common among transgender peopleworking in all but the most liberal of fields in the American workforce.

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