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Art Critique Essay Humanities Journal/Diary Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

Body Modification and Trans Men: The Lived Realities of Gender Transition and Partner Intimacy

By Katelynn Bishop, 2015

Through an empirical analysis of YouTube videos, blogs, and interviews, this article explores how partners experience intimacy and desire in relation to trans men’s body modifications. Building on Salamon’s conception of trans bodies as emerging within relations of desire, I argue that partners’ experiences of trans men’s bodies are crucially shaped by their intimate bonds with trans men as people, rather than reducible to generic parts. Partners continue to experience trans men as essentially the same people through gender transition, despite fears that testosterone might alter their personalities. Their intimate bonds with trans men also open up space for new relations of desire to emerge, including attraction to bodily changes they might otherwise find unattractive. These partnerships work to expand ideas about which bodies can be desired as male or masculine, and undercut the literalness of sexual identity labels. Thus, the lived realities of gender transition, as they materialize within this context, challenge hegemonic conceptions of gender, sexuality, and desire. Keywords: body modification, desire, gender, male body, sexuality, transgender, transexuality

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