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Critique Essay Humanities Nonfiction Theory

Doing Gender, Doing Heteronormativity: “Gender Normals,” Transgender People, and the Social Maintenance of Heterosexuality

By Kristen Schlit and Laurel Westbrook, 2009

This article brings together two case studies that examine how nontransgender people, “gender normals,” interact with transgender people to highlight the connections between doing gender and heteronormativity. By contrasting public and private interactions that range from nonsexual to sexualized to sexual, the authors show how gender and sexuality are inextricably tied together. The authors demonstrate that the criteria for membership in a gender category are significantly different in social versus (hetero)sexual circumstances. While gender is presumed to reflect biological sex in all social interactions, the impor- tance of doing gender in a way that represents the shape of one’s genitals is heightened in sexual and sexualized situations. Responses to perceived failures to fulfill gender criteria in sexual and sexualized relationships are themselves gendered; men and women select different targets for and utilize gendered tactics to accomplish the policing of supposedly natural gender boundaries and to repair breaches to heteronormativity

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