Men in Context: Transmasculinities and Transgender Experiences in Three US Regions
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This dissertation addresses the central research question--How does context matter for men's experiences of gender, sexuality, and race? --by analyzing interviews with 66 trans men, female to male transgender people, in the U.S. West, Midwest, and Southeast. This project contributes to four areas in the sociology of gender and sexuality: understandings of transgender people, regional variations in masculinity, inclusion of trans men in the study of men and masculinity, and understudied queer spaces. The first part of the analysis shows how being a man is a lifelong process of negotiating the expectations of different contexts in light of the gendered self and offers a conceptual framework for the subsequent analytic chapters, which focus on the different ways that context operates in the lives of trans men. The first of these chapters spotlights how emotional control, in this case appropriate emotion in particular contexts, is a hallmark of contemporary masculinities across spaces and a central way of marking distinctions between men and women and among men. The final two substantive chapters focus on how different spatial and institutional contexts affect trans men's fears and experiences of violence. The first centers on exploring the spatial distribution of fears of transphobic violence. This illustrates another aspect of context, how the ideas about who and what inhabit particular contexts shape men's actions in those settings. The second chapter shows how these fears and actual violence in particular institutional contexts act as powerful forms of social control that reproduce various forms of inequality. It illustrates how the structural arrangements of institutions are key contextual features that influence behavior and the reproduction of social inequality in ways that potentially reach outside of their institutional contexts. Finally, the dissertation concludes by returning to the research question and discussing the implications of this research on sociological understandings of inequality, the field of men and masculinities, and transgender politics.