Given decades-old statistics that link childhood gender nonconformity with adult homosexuality—not to mention wider historical and cultural associations between gender and sexuality—parents’ distinctions between “gay” and “trans” are at the crux of contemporary trans-affirming parenting practices. Drawing on constructionist perspectives of gender and sexuality, as well as qualitative data from interviews with parents of transgender and gender-nonconforming children, this article examines parents’ contrasts between “just gay” and “truly trans” assessments of childhood gender nonconformity. Through these distinctions, parents reiterate that gender and sexuality are separate spheres of identity and experience, echoing mainstream LGBT rights discourses. However, throughout their narratives, “gay” kinds of gender nonconformity were occasionally re-considered as “trans” kinds of gender nonconformity after all, such that these otherwise distinct realms of experience intermittently overlapped and switched along an imagined “spectrum” of LGBTQ possibilities. In the absence of any firm “biological” markers or predictors for such distinctions, I argue that parents’ intellectual, conceptual, and discursive labor in these ways proves a key social process through which (trans)gendered self-conceptions are given increasing intelligibility, and opportunity, in the 21st century, for their children and for others.
Sexuality and Culture – Springer Journals
Published: May 30, 2018
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