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GVSU study on gender: Who counts as a man and who counts as a woman
Date:10/28/2013

ALLENDALE, Mich. Gender is no longer determined solely by biological factors, according to a new study by a Grand Valley State University researcher whose article, "Doing Gender, Determining Gender: Transgender People, Gender Panics, and the Maintenance of the Sex/Gender/Sexuality System," was recently published in Gender & Society.

Laurel Westbrook, assistant professor of sociology at Grand Valley State, and Kristen Schilt, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, examined various case studies and found that biological factors, such as genitals and chromosomes, used to be the ultimate determiner of gender, but that is slowly changing.

"We explore the criteria for determining who is a 'man' and who is a 'woman' in sex-segregated spaces," said Westbrook. "We are at an interesting point in the history of gender, where people are torn between valuing self-identity and believing that biology determines gender. Our study explores that change in the gender system."

Westbrook examined case studies involving public debates over the expansion of transgender employment rights, policies determining eligibility of transgender people for competitive sports, and proposals to remove the genital surgery requirement for a change of sex marker on birth certificates.

"Transgender equality has never been more visible as a key issue than it is today, and with the development of every new trans-supportive law or policy, there typically follows an outbreak of criticism," said Westbrook. "In our analysis, we find that these moments, which we term 'gender panics,' are the result of a clash between two competing cultural ideas about gender identity: a belief that gender is determined by biology versus a belief that a person's self-identity in terms of gender should be validated. These gender panics frequently result in a reshaping of the language of such policies so that they require extensive bodily changes before transg
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Contact: Laurel Westbrook
westbrol@gvsu.edu
510-541-7378
Grand Valley State University
Source:Eurekalert

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