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The gendered and trans/gendered self : personal, political, and psychological narratives of trans repudiation, trauma, and healing Shelley, Christopher Acton

Abstract

Transpeople are among the most marginalised [i.e. marginalized] and subjugated of social groups. Any attempt to improve this situation demands understanding (a hermeneutic task) and concrete change (which activism can incite). This study turns to feminist theory and psychoanalysis/depth psychology, in an attempt to understand the everyday/night repudiations that transpeople experience. Examples of such experiences are taken from twenty in-depth interviews conducted in B.C., and considered in relation to existing comprehensions of gender (in)justice. Trans repudiation is perpetrated from across the political spectrum (from the right, centre, and left) and paradoxically configures transpeople simultaneously as exotic Others (a seductive spectacle), and dangerous transgressors (stirring fear/enmity). Transpeople present a challenge to both modernist and postmodern theories of sex/gender in relation to subjectivity and the body. In particular, they epitomise problems in longstanding debates around the integrity of the “self” and the divided status of the "subject". Transsexuals illustrate the difficulties of changing sex in order to become "whole", while the trans-gendered experience obstacles to their desire to remain both (m/f) or in-between (/). All those interviewed have experienced an array of prejudiced reactions based on their status as ’trans’. Repudiation occurs at the intersections of interiority and exteriority: exteriority in the form of barriers encountered in the social world, and interiority as demonstrated in interpersonal dynamics that engage the perpetrators’ unconscious motivations (repression/projection/abjection) and transpeople’s internalised (emotional/mental) conflicts. The interviews allow identification of institutional sites where trans repudiation is most problematic, while the theoretical framework points to the deeper changes that need to occur in people’s consciousness in order to eliminate this repudiation.

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