Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current

Preferred Name - First Author

Johnson, Madeline

Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Department

Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Advisor(s)

Dr. Matt Ezzell

Abstract

Operating from the premise that physical space becomes a gendered reality through social interaction, this study examines the social formation of self for gender nonconforming college students. Through ethnographic observations of an LGBTQ+ student organization and interviews with self-identified trans students, this research highlights the negotiation of campus space from a queer participant perspective. First, I present the trans student description of cisnormative space, the process of queering space through forming a queer community, and the experience of perceived safe space. This study finds that students experience all on-campus space as pervasively and fundamentally cisnormative, but upon the erasure of their gender identity in interaction, engage in acts of small acts of resistance to ‘queer’ the situation. Second, I find that the interlocking pressures of college life provide specific contingencies that exhaust trans students, such that many turn to an explicitly queer space. Thus, many trans students hold that ‘queer space’ is synonymous to ‘safe space’, defining and creating a “queer community” through shared language and ideals of queer identity. This equivalence leads to a split narrative of safe space as some define ‘queer space’ as ‘safe space’ , while others hold ‘queer space’ to be a reification of the cisnormative public space, and argue that the normative goal should not be safe space, but rather inclusive public space.

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