In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Non-normative Sexuality Studies

  • Introduction
  • Trans Citizenship

Sociology Non-normative Sexuality Studies
Ahonaa Roy
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0238


Sexual non-normativity in the early-21st-century social sciences not only describes the cultural, social, and political needs, interests, experiences, and struggles of nonheterosexual desires and representations, but it also includes an array of identity formations. What does it mean to be “non-normative”? Ideally speaking, this connotation structures around a political claiming, a subversive metaphor that does not adhere to the standard gender(ed) expressions. That said, these gender traits challenge the cultural norms, or the dominant languages as historically coined within the medical dictionary. In order to address this, the politics further renders a non-foundationalist approach to gender, as making an attempt to de-objectify any sort of typification of classification. In addition, the diversity and fluidity of it aims to install de-pathologization of identity category, and further, to pacify the rigid gender traits that could potentially make gender more discrete. Thus, its very fluidity establishes an unsettling position of gender and sexual choices, as further to establish anti-imperial, non-hegemonic claim in the US-centric gender positions and theorizations. In lines to this argument, non-normative sexuality studies are an attempt to collate interdisciplinary and non–Euro-American modes of texts, theories, and approaches from the domains of culture, desire, beauty, aging, legalities, medicine, and health, complemented with several dimensions of these disciplines to create a bibliographical space addressing the several bodies, identities, and experiences of these representations. Furthermore, it maps the various changes in the lives, personal experiences, forms of discrimination faced in the past or present, needs, interests, and perspectives of these individuals in varied geopolitics, contexts, and cultures—modeling approaches that might be seen as alternatives to the dominant queer studies. My heartfelt thanks to Professor Raewyn Connell for introducing me to the Oxford Bibliographies series, Ms. Neha Pande as my research assistant who enabled me to complete this important piece of work, and Ms. Jennifer Pierce from Oxford University Press.

Understanding Bodies, Identities, and Experiences

Bodies, identities, and experiences need not only the trans-specific language to understand them—as explained in Levitt and Ippolito 2014; Khosla 2006; Schrock, et al. 2005; and Green 2016—but also the conventional language used to marginalize them, as one can see in Westbrook and Schilt 2014. Also, there are various theoretical approaches taken and studies conducted to understand the different dimensions of trans identities, their personal experiences, and trans politics as well as politics around trans individuals and communities. Styker 2006 discusses transgender as a concept along with other social, cultural, and political intersectionalities, and Valentine 2007 discusses trans politics. Further, Gagné and Tewksbury 1999 talks about several alternative ways employed by trans individuals to do gender, and Elliot 2010 discusses different aspects of trans identities.

  • Elliot, Patricia. 2010. Debates in transgender, queer, and feminist theory. Farnham, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

    This book attends to the trans debates that are produced as a result of the intersection of women’s studies, gender studies, and transgender studies. Along with this, it also deals with various social, cultural, and political issues transgender individuals face.

  • Gagné, Patricia, and Richard Tewksbury. 1999. Knowledge and power, body and self: An analysis of knowledge systems and the transgendered self. The Sociological Quarterly 40.1: 59–83.

    This article observes the ways in which transgender individuals conduct alternative ways of doing gender to embody and express the self, despite the presence of gender knowledge of dual genders.

  • Green, Jamison. 2016. Transgender: Why should we care? The Lancet 388:334–335.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30840-6

    An autobiographical text by a female-to-male (FtM) transgender, Jamison Green, detailing his experiences.

  • Khosla, Dhillon. 2006. Both sides now: One man’s journey through womanhood. New York: Penguin.

    A memoir by Dhillon Khosla, a transgender man, where he shares his experiences of being a woman, and how it has influenced the man he presently is, while emphasizing his transitioning process.

  • Levitt, Heidi M., and Maria R. Ippolito. 2014. Being transgender: The experience of transgender identity development. Journal of Homosexuality 61.12: 1727–1758.

    DOI: 10.1080/00918369.2014.951262

    This study, through interviews, attempts to understand the experiences of transgender-identified participants from various regions of United States regarding approaching their gender identities.

  • Schrock, Douglas, Lori Reid, and Emily M. Boyd. 2005. Transsexuals’ embodiment of womanhood. Gender & Society 19.3 (June): 317–335.

    DOI: 10.1177/0891243204273496

    This article, through in-depth interviews of nine white, middle-class, male-to-female (MtF) transsexuals, explores the producing and experiencing of their bodily transformation.

  • Styker, Susan. 2006. (De)subjugated knowledges: An introduction to transgender studies. In The transgender studies reader. Edited by Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle, 1–17. London: Routledge.

    This article emphasizes studies that engage with the concept of transgender and various aspects related to it. This is complemented by embracing intersectionalities like race, class, and various genders within the group for a critical and complex rereading of contemporary (post)modernity.

  • Valentine, David. 2007. Imagining transgender: An ethnography of a category. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822390213

    This book is an ethnographic account of the emergence and institutionalization of the collective identity category of transgender and its political activism.

  • Westbrook, Laurel, and Kristen Schilt. 2014. Doing gender, determining gender: Transgender people, gender panics, and the maintenance of the sex/gender/sexuality system. Gender & Society 28.1 (February): 32–57.

    DOI: 10.1177/0891243213503203

    This article thoroughly examines the term “determining gender,” which is used as a common term to include nonconforming genders, using three case studies tackling transgender employment rights, transgender competitive sports policy, and removal of the genital surgery requirement to change the sex marker on birth certificates.

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