Research on transgendered individuals has tended to come from medical, psychiatric, or deviance perspectives, with little attention to the social context in which these individuals exist or their efforts to resist normative expectations of sex and gender. Based upon in-depth interviews with 65 masculine-to-feminine transgendered individuals, this research examines gender as a social institution. Focusing on the pressures experienced by individuals to maintain binary enactments of gender, we demonstrate how the institution of gender is taken for granted as a presumably natural aspect of social life. Social pressures to conform, experienced as desires for relationship maintenance and self-preservation, as well as the overwhelming need to actualize an identity that does not fit within the binary system of sex and gender, illuminate the gender resistance and conformity exhibited among the individuals in our sample. Our analysis is rooted in an expanded Foucauldian perspective incorporating the theoretical insights of contemporary feminists who consider social actors as active agents in the development and enactment of everyday resistance. Transgenderism is a discursive act that both challenges and reifies the binary gender system. As such, it provides important lessons about the power dynamics of gender and how such systems may and may not be resisted.
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