Queers in the American City: Transgendered perceptions of urban space

Petra L. Doan

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Doan, P. L. (1). Queers in the American City: Transgendered perceptions of urban space. Gender, Place & Culture, 14(1), 57–74. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09663690601122309

gender variant , Queer space , transgender , urban safety

This paper explores the complex relationship between transgendered people and cities in the USA, and, in particular, their relationship with queer spaces within those cities. Some have argued that queer spaces occur at the margins of society and constitute a safe haven for LGBT oppressed by the hetero-normative nature of urban areas. Data from a survey of 149 transgendered individuals indicate that although queer spaces provide a measure of protection for gender variant people, the gendered nature of these spaces results in continued high levels of harassment and violence for this population. The author argues that the strongly gendered dimensions of these spaces suggests that a discursive revisioning of gender is needed to create more transgender friendly urban spaces.

Main finding
This article emphasizes the different experiences of gender variant and transgender individuals in urban spaces. The gendered queer spaces of the city have often shut out transgender individuals. One-third of all respondents have experienced blatant staring in the past year in urban spaces. Twenty-two percent had experienced hostile verbal altercations, while seventeen percent have experienced outright physical harassment. These percentages varied by gender identity. Results show that transgender individuals felt less safe in urban spaces than their LGB counterparts, although transgender respondents felt significantly more comfortable in queer spaces. Forty-four percent of respondents indicated that their city had a queer-identified area, but only four percent lived in them. Transgender people are too small a proportion of the queer population to effectively form their own concentrations or neighborhoods, and as such have relied on different kinds of discursive spaces, including annual conventions, public protests and political lobbying, and online spaces. Although increasing activism has made queer spaces more accepting of transgender individuals, more action is still needed to ensure the safety and comfort of transgender individuals in urban spaces.

Description of method used in the article
A snowball survey of 149 transgender individuals was conducted by the author. Participants were initially recruited from two major gender conferences: the Southern Comfort Convention in 2000 and the Fourth International Congress on Cross-dressing, Sex, and Gender in 2001, and encouraged to distribute the survey through transgender support groups. This survey explored perceptions of where the individuals worked, lived, played, and examined their connection to queer spaces. The sample includes a range of gender identities, varying from cross-dressers, those currently in transition, individuals with no plans of transition, and respondents who are currently living in their appropriate gender.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Crime and Aggression Gathering/Socializing
Urban Planning
Physical types
Geographic locations