The word “transgender” first appeared in print in American English in 1965, and entered widespread use only in the 1990s. Thus, it might seem to name a relatively recent phenomenon without much of a history—one that has had scant time to leave many traces in the built environment or inhabited landscape. In most respects, “transgender” is just today’s term for referring to the ways people can live lives that depart from the conventional patterns according to which all bodies are assigned a sex at birth (male or female) and enrolled in a social gender (girl or boy), form gendered personalities (subjective feelings of being a man or a woman or something else), and come to occupy the social and kinship roles considered normal for people assigned to their particular birth-sex (for example, becoming a wife or father). In so doing, such people cross over (trans-) the gender categories that organize the historically specific ways we all imagine ourselves to be the particular kind of persons that we are. Such “gender variance” is a common feature in human cultures. It seems that however a given culture constructs its typical ways of being a person, some members of that culture do it differently, for whatever reason. Read more » [PDF 2.6 MB]
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Series: LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History
Last updated: October 10, 2016