This article is a case study of practicing in the applied social sciences and explores vital methodological questions at the intersection of sex work, gender identities, sex, and police policy in the context of criminalization. Specifically, how do we conduct research via public, quantitative data on transgender individuals who are not able to self-identify? The project arose from the observation of what were potentially transgender sex-workers’ mug shots on a police website used to publicize the arrests of johns buying commercial sex. Our findings complement the literature on sex work in the United States and suggest that the Chicago Police Department is not only misidentifying transgender arrestees on the website but engaging in a form of entrenched gender delegitimization—or structural misgendering. The aim of this paper is to bring attention to this potentially harmful practice and encourage discussions and developments for conducting research with and about transgender individuals.
By Rachel Lovell, Misty Luminais, and Karen Coen Flynn, 2018