In This Article Non-normative Sexuality Studies

  • Introduction
  • Trans Citizenship

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


The word “trans” in early-21st-century social sciences not only describes the cultural, social, and political needs, interests, experiences, and struggles of LGBTQ community but includes cross-dressers, drag queens and kings, and trans* (transgender, transsexuals, transvestites, trans men, trans women, genderqueer, genderfluid, nonbinary, genderless, agender, nongendered, third gender, two-spirit, and bigender) individuals from different geographies and cultures. Trans* is an umbrella term which shows the diverse identities that the word represents. Transsexuality, which emerged as a term in the early/mid-20th century, was understood medically in both academic and popular circles and meant transitioning of one’s body, through psychiatric and medical processes, to match one’s gender identity. For many trans individuals, the term “transsexual” has a negative connotation due to its medical background and pathologization of bodies. On the other hand, transgender refers to the individuals who decline to accept their “given” gender identity. For instance, if someone is assigned as male or female at birth, but they identify as the other, or as neither (agender), both (bigender or genderfluid), or otherwise (genderqueer, pangender), they may fall under the transgender umbrella. A cross-dresser, or transvestite, is a person who dresses in and acts in the style of the other than the normative gender. Drag is historically based on cross-dressing. Further, an intersex person is one who is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the conventional definitions of female or male. Different countries in the world have different communities of individuals who might fit in the aforementioned categories (with self-proclaimed terms) for the same. Thus, trans studies is an attempt to collate interdisciplinary 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 trans people. These categories also intersect with each other at various instances. It maps the various changes in the lives, personal experiences, forms of discrimination faced in the past or present, needs, interests, and perspectives of the trans individuals in different geographies, and toward them by the other communities and individuals, including kith and kin, in their vicinity. It also includes various theories, models, and approaches which might be seen as alternatives to understand trans identities, bodies, and experiences, other than gender and sexuality, which have long been the most common lens used to understand them. My heartfelt thanks to Professor Raewyn Connell as introducing me to the Oxford Bibliographies series, and Ms. Neha Pande as my research assistant enabling me to complete this important piece of work.

Understanding Trans Bodies, Identities, and Experiences

Trans bodies, identities, and experiences need not only the trans-specific language to understand them—as explained by 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.

    E-mail Citation »

    This book attends to the trans debates which 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.

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    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)30840-6E-mail Citation »

    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.

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    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: 10.1080/00918369.2014.951262E-mail Citation »

    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: 10.1177/0891243204273496E-mail Citation »

    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.

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    This article emphasizes studies which 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: 10.1215/9780822390213E-mail Citation »

    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: 10.1177/0891243213503203E-mail Citation »

    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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