According to author and academic Kathryn Bond Stockton, “gender is queer for everyone.” She doesn’t mean “queer” only in the LGBTQIA+ sense — she means the dictionary definition: strange. “Gender is strange,” she writes,” even when it’s played straight.”
In her new book, Gender(s), she takes a questioning approach and encourages her readers to do the same. Stockton, a dean and English professor who teaches queer theory and theories of racialized gender at the University of Utah, asserts that gender is always racialized (“Gender norms in this country have been white norms”) and is intimately associated with money.
In Gender(s) and on this week’s Out in the Bay, she dismantles the concept of the gender binary, helps us understand the difference between “sex” and “gender” and argues that for many of us, our surfaces – from genitalia to hair and clothing – may disagree with our internal biological layers, our mysterious thoughts and behaviors and our sense of self. Essentially, she contends, everyone’s gender is queer in these ways.
“Look at the definition that is most common right now for transgender: ‘Somebody who does not feel right in their sex assigned at birth,’” says Stockton. “To be defined as trans, you need not have a hormonal regimen, … biomedical intervention or surgery. You just need to not feel right in your sex assigned at birth. That defines many of us.”
Kathryn Bond Stockton is Distinguished Professor of English, former Associate Vice President for Equity and Diversity, and Dean of the School for Cultural & Social Transformation at the University of Utah, where she teaches queer theory, theories of race and racialized gender, and twentieth-century literature and film. She wrote several books before writing Gender(s), including the Lambda Literary Award finalists Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame: Where “Black” Meets “Queer” and The Queer Child. Her recent memoir, Making Out, was a 2020 national finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Award. Find them on her home page.
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This episode was produced by Kendra Klang and edited by Lusen Mendel.