The (pink) elephant in the room

The structure and experience of race and violence in the lives of transgender prisoners in California

Authored by: Jennifer Sumner , Lori Sexton , Valerie Jenness , Cheryl L. Maxson

Routledge International Handbook of Race, Class, and Gender

Print publication date:  June  2014
Online publication date:  July  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415632713
eBook ISBN: 9780203095454
Adobe ISBN: 9781134178827


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In the past few decades, there has been a move in research along two parallel lines: on transgender people and on intersectionality. In Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category, David Valentine (2007: 4) argues that the term “transgender” emerged in the early 1990s and came to be understood as “a collective category of identity which incorporates a diverse array of male-and female-bodied gender variant people who had previously been understood as distinct kinds of persons.” At about the same time, Patricia Hill Collins’ (1990) book, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, and Kimberlé W. Crenshaw’s (1991) article, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,” served as a catalyst for the now-institutionalized commitment across the social sciences and humanities to focus analytic attention on how various axes of differentiation form intersectionalities that are informed by and shape systems of inequality. These parallel developments—the growing recognition of “transgender” as a social type and the study of intersectionalities—direct attention to the varying ways in which race, class, and gender (as well as other axes of social differentiation, such as sexuality) are manifest in the lives of those who embrace identities and present bodies that challenge, if not upend, a binary sex/gender system.

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