The gender binary city
With swim baths and restrooms as examples my dissertation - Body Lines: Gender, transsexualism and embodiment in narratives on gender correction (2011) - briefly touched upon transgender people´s vulnerability in urban space. For instance, under the headline "the risk of going to the lavatory" I describe how a transgender man, who is one of the bloggers in the study, is subjected to serious harassment when he visits the men's room. Still this was a mixed gay bar in Sweden´s second largest city - a relatively safe space for most lgbtqi people one would assume. Yet, the violent bathroom situation demonstrates that major cities are more than anonymous and diverse coexisting crowds of people: it is also in such spaces that transgender people risk being subjected to some of the most extreme expressions of gender based violence.
These are the cultural conditions – the city, as a both risky and liberating place to live – that forms the starting point for my current research project: The gender binary city - Ethnography of safety, vulnerability and resistance in transgender people’s narratives on city life. Unlike my doctoral study this study explores a variety of transgender people’s experiences of their home towns - as exemplified in how safety, vulnerability and resistance is expressed, embodied, renegotiated and lived by some transgender city residents who live their lives in the statistically large Swedish cities Malmö, Gothenburg and Stockholm. I base my work on a multisited ethnographic mixed composition of research material such as walk-along ethnography, in-depth interviews, field work notes, art exhibitions, participants written diary notes and newspaper articles. The project continues between 2014 and 2017 and is funded by FORTE – short for The Swedish Research council for Health, Working Life and Welfare.
The research objective is to contribute to the now almost non-existent Scandinavian research on transgender city life and related experiences of hate crimes, and in the longer run to create a body of knowledge that can be politically useful in the important struggle to reduce anti-transgender violence and discrimination. A central research question in this project is which contexts/places/spaces that are available in the city where the participants live and work that are perceived as more or less comfortable and safe.
For more information about the project, that among other things has come to concern transgender experiences of inclusion and exclusion in feminist and related separatist urban spaces, please contact me.
Researcher: Signe Bremer