The tyranny of gendered spaces – reflections from beyond the gender dichotomy

Petra L. Doan

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Doan, P. L. (1). The tyranny of gendered spaces – reflections from beyond the gender dichotomy. Gender, Place & Culture, 17(5), 635–654.

autoethnography , gender variant , public space , queer theory , transgender

This article argues critically that the consequences of a binary system of gender norms is experienced as a kind of gender tyranny both for those who transgress gender in their daily lives, but also for those whose lives are lived within such constraints. Feminist geographers and urban theorists have argued that space is gendered and that gendering has profound consequences for women. This article extends this analysis and shows how rigid categorizations of gender fail to include the intersexed and transgendered populations, a small and highly marginalized segment of the wider population. This article uses autoethnographic methods to illustrate the ways that those who transgress gender norms experience a tyranny of gender that shapes nearly every aspect of their public and private lives. The nature of these consequences is explored using citations from the transgender and queer literature as well as the lived experience of this tyranny by the author in a continuum of public to private spaces, including: parking lots, public restrooms, shopping malls, the workplace and the home.

Main finding
The autoethnography discusses the way space is gendered for transgender women based on specific spatial contexts and their degree of heteronormative variance. Examples ranged from public harassment on the street and in elevators to the use of improper pronouns in the privacy of the author’s own home. Other described situations include changes in perception at the workplace, both for the use of the restroom and credibility in the classroom. Mall-walking is described as an important activity when presenting gender in public. The author’s experiences varied from odd stares to verbal harassment to physical assault. These various spatial contexts and conflicts lead to a co-construction of gender presentation.

Description of method used in the article
The author wrote autoethnographically to combine a review and analysis of the literature with reflection on her experiences in private spaces, elevators, malls, public restrooms, workplaces, classrooms, parking lots, and on public transit.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

Organising categories

Crime and Aggression
Field Observations
Urban Planning
Physical types
Geographic locations