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Borders That Matter: Conceptualizing Trans/gender Identity Management

By Reese C. Kelly
For all trans people, regardless oI gender expression or embodiment, identity
management is crucial in negotiating social and legal interactions in order to maintain a
consistent and coherent sense oI selI through validation and aIIirmation while avoiding
social disapproval, harassment, rejection, discrimination, and even physical harm. There
are two distinct issues with trans identity management, although many trans people will
experience both oI these to a degree. First, some people want to be recognized within the
gender binary, but are unable to acquire identity documents that match their lived gender.
In many instances, these individuals do not wish to or do not have the resources to
complete Iull sex reassignment surgery. In other, albeit rare, cases, individuals cannot
change some identity documents even aIter a medical sex change because oI state
policies regarding birth certiIicates. Second, individuals seeking to live outside oI the
binary sex/gender system must negotiate a culture that IorceIully compels gender
normativity. They may identiIy with and match the gender marker on their identity
documents, but their expression oI selI challenges traditional notions oI masculinity and
Iemininity. From a bureaucrat perspective, these two issues may look the same, the
regulation oI sex/gender 'others. However, the negotiation oI that 'otherness will diIIer
depending on how trans individuals understand, embody, and present their identity.
Previous Research
Previous empirical studies on transgender identities are limited by their use oI gay
and lesbian identity models to Irame trans identity development and management,
especially through the use oI a 'coming out model (Bolin 1988; Devor 1997, 2004;
Rubin 2003; Schrock, Reid &Boyd 2005). For many trans people, living a liIe oI
authenticity is oIten not to live openly as trans, but to live consistently and securely as
one`s determined or preIerred gender. While coming to terms with one`s trans identity
may provide a positive sense oI selI, coming out to others may not. For many cases, but
not all, a successIul transition or coherent identity involves the absence oI such disclosure
(Devor 1997; Rubin 2003). On the other hand, there are many instances in which trans
people are Iorced to disclose their status, especially to employers and colleagues, Iamily,
and intimate partners, iI they choose to transition to the opposite sex while maintaining
these relationships. Disclosing one`s trans identity or transsexual past to others may
provoke Ieelings oI shame, distancing, and isolation that are assumed to exist only when
one is inside the closet. An accidental outing can lead to shame and Iear oI a spoiled
identity, especially iI the trans person does not want their status known. It can also lead
to arrest, violence, the loss oI a job, housing, the legal right to marry, the right to
inheritance, and the custody oI children (Girshick 2008)
Trans identities still require a selI-recognition oI discordance like gays and
lesbians, but they oIten do not involve Iollowing through with repetitive public disclosure
to maintain a consistent sense oI selI. For many trans people, their lives are marked not
by repetitive public disclosure, but by personal acts of disclosure, Iorced or voluntary.
Personal acts oI disclosure are, however, sporadic and distinctly not connected to the
experience oI authenticity, as is the case Ior gays and lesbians. They are similar to other
intimate acts oI disclosure such as having an illness, being in prison, or revealing
something Irom the past. But these acts are not a 'coming out. Furthermore, the
experience oI 'coming out Ior gays and lesbians was also an aIIirmation oI belonging to
a larger, collective, political community. For gays and lesbians, there is a heightened
culture oI visibility and an institutionalized grounded collective identity that is not in
place Ior trans people.
Treating trans people as another group oI sexual minorities to be incorporated,
under the label transgender, into lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) research and politics
also enIorces a division between the analytical categories oI 'gender and 'sexuality.
On one hand, transgender people are sectioned oII both institutionally and culturally as an
entity distinctly diIIerent Irom gays and lesbians, as is evidenced in the 'border wars
and the Iindings oI both Namaste (2000) and Valentine (2007). As a result, the points oI
similarity and overlap between transgender people and gays and lesbians become
invisible. Further, populations in need oI transgender related services and outreach might
be ignored iI they identiIy as gay or lesbian instead oI as transgender (Valentine 2007).
Also, as Valentine (2007) points out, the distinction between homosexuality and
transgenderism positions gays and lesbians as gender normative and trans people as
gender deviant. On the other hand, the incorporation oI 'T into LGBT has also resulted
in a Iailure to recognize the speciIic needs oI transsexual and transgender individuals,
since in some instances they are assumed to have the same social and political goals as
gays and lesbians (Namaste 2000).
One signiIicant area oI distinction to be noted is that gays and lesbians in the
United States have a Iairly marginal connection to the medical and psychiatric world at
this point in time. They are still appealing to normalizing medical discourses, but they
are not required to interact with physicians or therapists in order to come out or live Iully
as homosexuals. Characteristic oI the trans experience Ior many is the protracted
relationship oI the body and psyche to discourses oI pathology and to the medical
community, setting them apart Irom gay and lesbian identity Irameworks. Creating a
coherent sense oI selI Ior trans people requires disclosure to oneselI and, Ior many, a
relationship with the medical community in which the body is inspected, judged, and
altered as part oI a consensual process by which the shiIt to embody authenticity takes
place. To embody one`s preIerred gender, trans people are required to disclose their
identity to medical proIessionals, insurance agencies, their employer, and legal
institutions, as diIIerently gendered. Some trans people are also required to prove their
commitment to this identity by perIorming a real-liIe test, living as their preIerred gender
Ior a speciIied amount oI time, in order to be validated by proIessionals (Girshick 2008).
Only through medical legitimation can trans people change legal sex/gender markers on
Iorms oI identiIication such as birth certiIicates, passports, and driver`s licenses. In other
words, trans people who desire to live as the opposite sex/gender are required to have a
successIul relationship with the medical community in order to live and Iunction in
Medical and legal designations oI sex and gender reach beyond the
pathologization oI those who wish to change their gender through hormones and surgery.
Deeply embedded in United States culture is the institutionalization oI binary sex/gender
categories. From sex designations at birth, identity documents incorporate sex as part oI
one`s civic status. Identity documents only have the categories oI either male or Iemale
Iorcing people to be marked as one, even iI they live as diIIerently gendered in their
everyday liIe. ThereIore, even though there are an increasing number oI individuals who
identiIy as neither men nor women, they are still Iorced, in many circumstances, to lay
claim to identiIication as either men (males) or women (Iemales). Furthermore, one`s
sex/gender is oIten validated on the basis oI perIorming a normatively gendered selI.
Trans people, then, are Iorced to comply with the binary gender system in order to
participate Iully in a number oI institutions, organizations, and social spaces.
In the Iollowing section, I will outline a new Iramework Ior analyzing transgender
identity management. The goal oI developing this Iramework is to bridge the gap
between the institutional marginalization oI trans people and the ways in which trans
people understand and negotiate their identities in day-to-day interactions. I aim to build
upon the discussions oI identity and embodiment in trans theorizing and the concept oI
gender perIormativity, exploring the relationship between institutions, social structures,
and gendered selves. In particular, I examine the ways that the sex/gender binary and
culture oI compulsory sex/gender normativity shape gender identities and expressions.
Border Crossing Framework
Presentation oI selI and identity management are central concerns Ior many trans
people in order to garner validation and legitimacy as their lived gender(s) as well as to
avoid discrimination, harassment, and violence. I propose the concept oI border crossing
to Irame trans identity management in a society organized around binary genders as well
as compulsory gender normativity. I will deIine the notion oI borders, the role they play
in trans theorizing, and then delineate a typology oI borders that play a Iormative role in
shaping the lives oI trans people.
Defining Borders and Border Crossing
The primary Iunction oI borders is to divide two or more social orders,
distinguishing one set oI social selves Irom another. The notion oI borders is used in
geography, Ior example, to physically delineate diIIerent political territories in a global
world. It is also used in cultural studies to describe the ways groups oI people are
separated and categorized based on social distinctions. Cultural borders divide the roles,
norms, values, expectations and behaviors across a variety oI social groups. Some
cultural borders rest across dominant social identities such as race (white/non-white),
class (rich/poor), gender (male/Iemale), and disability (abled/disabled). Other cultural
borders exist within more secondary social relationships such as between proIessors and
students, therapists and clients, employees and customers, and guards and inmates. Our
social position, where we Iall in relation to the border, structures our interactions with the
social world. More importantly, power relations underlay each oI these relationships
where one group oIten has dominance over the other. In order to maintain these power
dynamics, the diIIering roles, norms, and behaviors characteristic oI each social group
come to serve as border markers. Over time, border markers are internalized by group
members and seen as natural, rather than constructed, diIIerences. As such, cultural
borders reaIIirm social hierarchies, and unequal power relations, characterized by
diIIering degrees oI regulation.
Certain cultural borders are more emphatically regulated than others. These
highly restricted borders exist between groups that are deIined by opposition and a
relatively high power diIIerential. The boundary between guards and inmates, Ior
example, is a highly restricted border. Like at some geographical borders, the boundaries
between guards and inmates are demarcated by physical barriers such as Iences, walls,
and bars. These boundaries are reinIorced through mandated uniIorms and strict rules
governing what is 'acceptable behavior Ior both inmates and guards. Border crossing is
highly regulated and quite oIten a unidirectional process. Inmates may side with guards
and the play the role oI inIormants, but there is no process Ior them to acquire an oIIicial
position as a guard while they hold the status oI inmate. On the other hand, guards more
easily crossover to inmate status through being charged with a criminal oIIense. The
highly restricted border Iunctions to maintain the us/them dichotomy, on the premise that
unwarranted crossings present an extreme threat to those on either side, especially to
those in the dominant position.
In contrast, other cultural borders are lesser or moderately restricted, such as the
borders between employees, customers, and owners oI a cooperative grocery store (co-
ops). Co-ops Iunction through memberships where individuals purchase a share oI the
business or work a number oI hours in order to obtain discounted products. As a result,
many oI the members occupy the statuses oI owner, employee, and customer at the same
time. The diIIerences between each status is minimized at less restricted borders. There
may be little to no diIIerence in appearance between individuals in each oI the groups.
Furthermore, there is very little Iear that individuals on either side pose a threat to the
social order. The behaviors oI those in groups divided by lesser or moderately restricted
cultural borders are usually guided by larger, overarching principles. For example, it is
expected at co-ops that individuals participating in the business, on any side, hold similar
belieI systems and values such as community agriculture and Iair labor practices. As a
result, individuals may cross back and Iorth and maintain multiple positions with relative
In many situations, cultural and physical borders are intertwined and mutually
reinIorcing. In crossing national borders, individuals must present documents that not
only identiIy citizenship, but also sex, a cultural border. Similarly, people on diIIerent
sides oI cultural borders are given diIIerentiated access to physical locations. To return
to the inmate/guard border, the inmates are restricted to the walls oI the prison complex
and their cells where the guards are able to move about Ireely outside oI the prison.
Identities, and visible diIIerences, play a large role in deIining which people have access
to which spaces. As such, markers oI social status or group membership become
important in a world oI borders. In many cases, physical markers such as skin tone,
dress, or stature are used to signiIy group membership. There are many cases in which
identity diIIerences are not that apparent, so in order to maintain distinctions between two
social orders identity cards or documents are used as oIIicial markers oI membership.
Thus, borders maintain diIIerence through both an inIormal and oIIicial designation oI
Border crossing is any instance when one`s identity is open to inspection,
questioning, and determination either by in-group members or by a legal authority.
Border crossings may include, but do not necessarily require, physical movement Irom
one social order to the next. However, all border crossings are characterized by a set oI
practices employed to accommodate a set oI expectations and norms. At a border
crossing, one must successIully negotiate their body, presentation, and identity in order to
aIIirm and legitimate their group membership as well as to deter harassment, scrutiny, or
even harm. Individuals may mute or hide expressions oI selI when border crossing in
order to present themselves as non-threatening. Over time, these acts oI selI-policing
become internalized and part oI the individual`s sense oI selI and identity.
Because borders are enacted to create and regulate diIIerences, they are not a Iine
line oI distinction, but a permeable zone that shiIts and changes over time. This
'borderlands (Anzaldua 1987) is the place where hybrid identities are Iound, where
those bodies, identities, and cultures that cannot be neatly placed onto one side or the
other exist. Anzaldua observes,
When you live on the border/ people walk through you, the wind steals your
voice/ you`re a donkey, oxen, scapegoat,/ Iorerunner oI a new race,/ halI and halI
both women and man, neither/ a new gender; (1987: 216).
Those inhabiting the borderlands must negotiate shiIting and multiple subject positions,
and depending on the regulatory regime oI the border, negotiate the threat oI sanctions
against 'pollution and the constant contestation oI one`s 'homeland (Anzaldua 1987).
They become the embodiment oI the border; their bodies are the sites oI territorial
conIlicts. Because the border keeps shiIting and reshaping, such individuals are both
living in the borderlands and constantly in a state oI border crossing. Anzaldua writes,
In the borderlands/ you are the battleground/ where enemies are kin to each
other;/ you are at home, a stranger,/ the border disputes have been settled/ the
volley oI shots have shattered the truce/ you are wounded, lost in action/ dead,
Iighting back; (1987: 216).
Accordingly, borders are a key site Ior the creation, regulation, and negotiation oI bodies
and identities.
The borders central to this study involve real power dynamics, distinctions
between 'us and 'them, and signiIicant consequences Ior Iailed attempts at crossing.
They are cultural borders, reinIorced by physical separation and institutional segregation.
The borders examined involve greater and lesser degrees oI regulation and enIorcement,
deIined by both Iormal and inIormal norms, codes, and laws. Border crossers, especially
those inhabiting the 'borderlands, must employ a variety oI strategies to present
themselves as non-threatening members oI a particular group. For the individual, border
crossing may involve conIorming to social scripts, compliance with examination, risk
assessment by regulators and enIorcers, and surveillance oI the individual beIore and
aIter the moment oI crossing. Thus the type and degree oI regulation at the border as
well as how consistently the border crossing is experienced inIluences the way that one
classiIies, embodies, and negotiates their identity.
(Trans)Gender Borders
The concept oI borders underlies a great number oI works in trans studies. The
boundary between the categories oI man and woman have been described as a border that
transsexuals cross in order to inhabit their preIerred gender or that transgender
individuals move back and Iorth across throughout their liIetime (Ekins and King 2006).
This area is also described as a 'border zone or 'borderlands through which
transsexuals pass and within which transgender people exist (Prosser 1995, 1999). The
notion oI a border also Irames the discussion oI what it means to be 'trans within the
debates over the similarities and diIIerences between butches and transsexual men
(Halberstam 1994, 1998; Prosser 1995, 1999). What previous uses oI the 'border notion
illustrate is that the United States culture is highly structured around the binary
sex/gender system as well as compulsory gender normativity.
The expectation that individuals are either male or Iemale and normatively
gendered is one that is deeply enIorced through social and institutional rewards Ior those
who perIorm it satisIactorily, and consequences Ior those who do not (Butler 1993).
Even in locations and social interactions where the boundaries around sex/gender identity
and expression are more open and relaxed, there are still rules and norms deIining which
expressions and identities are legible and validated and which are subject to policing,
control, violence and invisibility. The sex/gender binary and compulsory gender
normativity are maintained through systems oI regulation operating all oI the time, in
virtually every location; the gender border is always in place, everywhere.
In discussions oI identity boundaries in trans studies, what rises to the surIace is
that there are certain sites or social interactions where the border becomes more
concretized. At these sites individuals are Iorced to allay with one sex/gender or the
other; there is no alternative position. Examples Irom previous studies include, but are
not limited to, bathrooms (Girshick 2008; Halberstam 1998), identity document
inspections (Girshick 2008; Prosser 1999), employment and the workplace (Girshick
2008), and women`s-only events and organizations (Girshick 2008; Hale 1997; Wilchins
1997). Individuals who Iall outside the realm oI the intelligible at these sites experience
harassment, violence, social rejection, the loss oI employment, withholding oI
institutional participation, as well as many other consequences. At these sites or
interactions, gendered structures become internalized by the individual, creating a sense
oI selI that is deeply shaped by the sex/gender binary and gender normativity.
The process oI identity management where a trans person is compelled to take on
a binary sex/gender identity and normative gender expression is a 'border crossing. A
trans person border crosses when the perceived or actual disclosure oI their gender status,
history, and body must be negotiated in a social interaction, whether interpersonal or
oIIicial. The trans person must successIully negotiate their body, appearance, and
identity in order to deter harassment, scrutiny, or harm and, Ior some, to aIIirm and
legitimate the coherency oI their identity. Paradoxicallv, it is the case that gender
border crossings are specific situations or moments of liminalitv and, vet, also alwavs
Gender borders construct the identities oI not just trans, but non-trans individuals
as well. Since gender borders are perceived to be a natural part oI our social world,
however, those individuals with a sex/gender identity or expression that is deemed to be
'unnatural or deviant experience unique challenges in their ability to present and
embody a normatively sexed/gendered selI. Many trans people do not or cannot meet the
conventional requirements oI only one or the other sex/gender. They Iind that their
bodies, in height, voice, or shape, Ior example, prevent them Irom being read by others as
their lived gender. Although hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and sex reassignment
surgery (SRS) ameliorate many oI these issues, a relatively small number oI trans people
complete SRS (Spade 2008). For those who are consistently read as their lived gender,
some do not have identity documents to match (Spade 2008). Further, some trans people
choose to maintain an androgynous or ambiguously gendered appearance. Those who
inhabit bodies or present gender expressions that to not readily Iit in the binary gender
order are conIronted with greater risks at gender borders than those who are 'naturally
A Tvpologv of Gender Borders
To address the diIIerent ways in which gender is regulated, gender borders are
separated into Iour main categories: sex classification borders, normative embodiment
borders, political association borders, and lived gender borders. Each oI these
categories represents sites where diIIerent types and degrees oI sex/gender regulation and
policing occur, incorporating a range Irom lesser to moderately to highly restricted
borders. Although these categories are analytically separated, there will be instances in
which there is overlap and even conIlict. At any point, a social encounter may shiIt Irom
a lived gender border to a normative embodiment or even be characteristic oI both at the
same time, Ior example. These categories are to be used as guidelines Ior understanding
the diIIerent and complex ways that sex and gender are experienced and regulated.
Sex Classification Borders. Existing jurisprudence, legislation, and policies in the
United States require that individuals be classiIied into categories oI either male or
Iemale and regulate how those classiIications can be changed (Spade 2008). It is a taken
Ior granted assumption that sex markers on any identity document represent the 'truth oI
one`s sex and it is also assumed that these markers are consistent across all Iorms oI
documentation (Spade 2008). These assumptions stand as a challenge to trans people
who Irequently have diIIering and contradictory sex markers across identity documents
and other inIormation recording their personal history. Sex classiIication borders enIorce
a strict male or Iemale identiIication through the inspection and comparison oI identity
documents, and other personal records when possible. Because they require identity
documentation and those deemed to be presenting IalsiIied documentation might Iace
criminal penalties, these borders are considered highly restricted. In general, unless an
individual is attempting to access a sex-segregated institution or Iacility, problems that
arise regarding one`s sex classiIication are incidental to other identity concerns or a result
oI transphobic border regulators.
Border regulators are the dominant gatekeepers at sex classiIication borders.
They are administrators, inspectors, and agents that utilize their authority and power to
determine the validity oI identity documentation. The role oI border regulators is to
decide whether an individual is who they claim to be. They diIIer greatly in the extent oI
their authority, ranging anywhere Irom a Iederal judge to a store clerk and beyond. The
goal oI border regulators is to inspect, compare, and process identity documents looking
Ior Ialse or Iraudulent claims, signals to them oI individuals who pose a threat to the
social order. Also, some border regulators may use their authority to harass and detain
gender variant individuals Ior not presenting as normatively gendered.
Passport inspections at airport security checkpoints are a quintessential example
oI a sex classiIication border crossing. At these borders, agents act as border regulators
to Iormally inspect the passports, visas, luggage, and travel documents oI border crossers
as well as their general appearance and presentation. Presenting oneselI as a gender that
is not associated with the sex listed on one`s documents may cause suspicion amongst
customs agents. Those who do not comply with mandated requirements, or those seen as
misrepresenting themselves at any oI these points, may be denied entry, detained,
arrested, or deported, depending on the threat they pose to national security. To reiterate,
individuals who present themselves outside oI normative gender categories may also
experience these outcomes as a result oI transphobic border regulators.
Sex classiIication borders are not limited to movement across physical borders.
Other instances where one`s sex classiIication may be questioned is when making store
purchases with a credit card or check, during patient intake at health care Iacilities, and
during the employment process, to name a Iew. At a number oI sex classiIication borders
the personal and proIessional history oI a trans person may be revealed. For instance,
individuals seeking health services are commonly asked to complete patient history Iorms
or transIer over past medical records even iI they are just being seen Ior Ilu. Similarly,
employment or housing applications require reIerences Irom previous employers,
associates, or landlords. In these situations, an individual`s history, on top oI their
current identity documentation, becomes part oI the identity inspection and determination
Normative Embodiment Borders. There are a number oI Iacilities in the United
States that are segregated by sex/gender. These sex/gender segregated spaces, such as
bathrooms, sleeping quarters in some domestic violence shelters, and locker rooms, are a
reIlection oI as well as serve to maintain cultural views regarding privacy, sexuality, and
genitals. Normative embodiment borders are characterized by a single sex/gender space
sectioned oII by physical barriers, which are Irequently, iI not always, part oI a set or
pair: one Ior men, one Ior women, and sometimes an additional space Ior those who
require assistance. These borders require prooI oI status Ior entry, but this prooI is social,
a combination oI presentation oI selI, appearance, and demeanor. One must present a
normatively gendered selI in order to not be seen as a threat to the other occupants. The
raced and classed appearance oI the individual also plays a role in whether the border
crosser is seen as a threat to the other occupants oI the space. At this type oI border, a
legal document or identity card is not required to cross unless one`s membership status is
contested or unless an individual is seen to be a threat.
Border enIorcers, not border regulators, maintain normative embodiment borders.
Border enIorcers are oIten other participants in the border crossing or occupants inside or
around the space one is crossing into. In a store, Ior example, they may be other
occupants inside oI a dressing room or customers situated near its entrance. In some
instances these individuals may be oIIicial personnel, but what makes them diIIerent
Irom border regulators is that they monitor gender primarily on appearance. In the case
that such personnel ask a border crosser Ior identiIication to enter the single sex/gender
space, then they are additionally taking on the role oI the gender regulator, but not until
that point and only iI they are in a position oI authority. These border enIorcers maintain
the border expressly through social reprimands. Normative embodiment borders range
Irom lesser to highly restricted depending on the situation, such as whether border
enIorcers are present or not, whether border enIorcers have authority over that given
space, or whether the space is highly sexualized, to name some diIIerences in
Segregated bathroom Iacilities are a prime example oI normative embodiment
borders. The private, nonsexual space oI the bathroom creates the appearance oI a haven
Ior women to evade the sexualized masculine public sphere. Consequently, disruption oI
this space by men, or those presumed to be men, is seen as dangerous. Those occupying
bathrooms who are ambiguously gendered are commonly criticized or questioned by
other patrons as intruders. In some instances, this questioning may lead to security or
police involvement when the border crosser is perceived to be a threat. Those who
challenge or transgress these gender roles may invoke anger, disgust, resentment, and
Iear in individuals, and are consequently rejected or expelled Irom participation or
occupying that physical space. Other than bathrooms, some other examples oI normative
embodiment borders are locker rooms and homeless or domestic violence shelters.
Political Association Borders. Institutionalized sex/gender segregated Iacilities
like those mentioned above are not the only sex/gender-speciIic restricted sites. There are
a great number oI social and political organizations, events, and clubs that are
sex/gender-speciIic. A number oI these sites and organizations are Iounded on the belieI
that men and women are diIIerent and have Iundamentally diIIerent needs and goals.
These borders, political association borders, restrict membership status or participation
based upon their speciIic social and political goals and deIinitions oI sex and gender,
which might be characterized by an alignment with or, conversely, presenting a challenge
to normative conceptions oI sex and gender. One must present their sex/gender status in
alignment with these goals and be validated as such in order to gain entry or membership.
In many instances, gender is secondary to other statuses or social or political aIIiliations
the members may have, but still an important and required identity.
Political association borders are maintained by border representatives, individuals
who are held responsible Ior overseeing the social and political goals oI the event, club,
or organization. Border representatives may be other members, but are oIten individuals
who hold elected or appointed positions. The role oI border representatives is to ensure
that members are IulIilling the requirements or guidelines, whether inIormal or Iormal, oI
the organization. They maintain the border through social reprimands and through the
revocation oI membership or participant status. Political association borders range Irom
lesser to highly restricted depending on how exclusive the event, club, or organization is
and what they imagine is at stake iI someone were to invade.
Women`s-only sexual events, like leatherdyke play parties, are an example oI
political association borders. These events are held in order to create spaces where
women`s sexuality is embraced and protected. Expressions oI masculinity, such as
presenting as a daddy or boy, are welcomed, but maleness is restricted (Hale 1997; Boyd
1997). Such events are known to restrict entry on the basis oI sex chromosomes and
genital conIiguration (Boyd 1997). Those perceived to embody maleness are considered
a threat to the saIe sexual space oI the event and are denied entry or social reprimanded.
It is important to note, however, that a border crosser rejected Irom a women`s-only
space is not necessarily considered a man. At these borders, the complexities oI sex and
gender are oIten highly visible, but so are points oI regulation and control. Any other
men`s or women`s only events, club, and organizations are examples oI political
association borders such as sororities and Iraternities, national and regional women`s
organizations, and some recreational events.
Lived Gender Borders. Gender monitoring and policing is not limited to the
aIorementioned three types oI borders. In virtually all day-to-day interactions, it is
expected that people are either males/men or Iemales/women. This expectation is
reinIorced in a great number oI ways Irom sex classiIication on identity documents and
sex/gender segregated Iacilities to the use oI masculine and Ieminine pronouns in our
language. Every interaction we experience is gendered in some way. Furthermore, there
is very limited space Ior a third or other additional sex/gender categories. In order to
maintain the sex/gender binary as natural and normal, people are regulated in regards to
the way they embody and express their gender, compulsory gender normativity.
ThereIore, in addition to the preceding border categories, people`s sex/gender identities
and expressions can be called into question in any interaction, at lived gender borders.
Everyone is, in essence, a gatekeeper at lived gender borders. We all monitor
each other`s behaviors and presentations, and our own as well regarding gender. We also
enact sanctions against violators Irom subtle looks and remarks to overt acts oI violence
and harassment. The sanctions against sex/gender variance at all oI the borders are not
only directed outwardly at others, but internally as well. Individuals restrict their own
thoughts, Ieelings, and behaviors to Iit the normative codes oI sex and gender. As a
result, lived gender borders, like the other borders, are a part oI our identities and sense oI
In order to negotiate any oI these gender borders, trans people will enact strategies
oI bodily, presentation, and personal history management. These strategies may be
planned out ahead oI time iI individuals expect that their identity may be called into
question, such as at airports or going to a bar. However, in many instances, they are
reactions to everyday gender policing by those around them. In these cases, the
interactions are more reIlective oI spontaneous and situational thoughts, Ieelings, and
actions. Certain expressions oI selI may be hidden or muted during these interactions.
This selI-regulation may also become a patterned part oI their daily lives in order to avoid
the policing oI others. These acts oI border crossing, oI identity negotiation and
management, reveal the ways in which a binary gender order and normative gender
presentations are embedded in our institutions, social structures, and everyday
interactions. For some trans people, these borders greatly shape their daily lives and
activities and, yet, Ior others they may be understood to be negligible experiences.
The process oI identity management Ior trans people during border crossings is
currently being explored through qualitative interviews with 60 trans individuals across
identiIications and embodiments. Preliminary Iindings will be reported at the conIerence.
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