Carla Pfeffer. “I Don’t Like Passing as a Straight Woman”: Queer Negotiations of Identity and Social Group Membership

Monday, November 3, 2014 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall

“I Don’t Like Passing as a Straight Woman”: Queer Negotiations of Identity and Social Group Membership

Social recognition and affirmation of gay and lesbian identities and rights have increased alongside claims advancing the biological etiology of sexual orientation. Despite broader social acknowledgment of gender and sexual diversity, transgender individuals and their significant others remain relatively unrecognized in both mainstream and academic discourse and are often subsumed under the limited theoretical frame of social “passing” when they do appear. Building a sociological critique against overly-simplified biological frameworks for understanding complex gender and sexual identities, Pfeffer analyzes in-depth interviews with cisgender (non-transgender) women partners of transgender men. The personal identifications and experiences of this group of “queer” social actors are proposed as socio-politically distinguishable from those of other more commonly-recognized sexual minority groups. Data reveal the interactive social processes that often determine “rightful” social inclusion and exclusion across gender and sexual identity categories as well as their capacities to generate and limit possibilities for social movements and political solidarity.

Carla A. Pfeffer completed her Ph.D. in Sociology and Graduate Certificate in Women's Studies at the University of Michigan in 2009 and is currently an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the North Central campus of Purdue University. Pfeffer's most recent work has been published in the American Journal of Sociology, Gender & Society, and the Journal of Marriage and Family. Pfeffer is currently working on a book, Postmodern Partnerships: Cisgender Women, Transgender Men, and Twenty-First Century Queer Families, under contract with Oxford University Press. Her work on women's partnerships with transgender and transsexual men considers social actors' disruption of existing sociolegal notions of identities, bodies, and families. Pfeffer is also working on a study examining fat-acceptance advocates in the era of the "obesity epidemic" to consider how weight management attempts, and disclosures about these attempts, simultaneously reflect and fissure notions of "responsible" social citizenship, health, and sociopolitical group membership.