Gender, Ethnicity, and Transgender Embodiment: Interrogating Classification in Facial Feminization Surgery

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1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Facial feminization surgery (FFS) is a set of bone and soft tissue procedures intended to feminize the faces of transgender women. In the surgical evaluation, particular facial features are identified as ‘sex specific’ and targeted for intervention as such. But those features do not exhibit ‘maleness’ or ‘femaleness’ alone; they are complexly entwined with morphologies of ethnic classification. Based on clinical observation, I show how the desired feminine ideal conflicted with facial characteristics identified as ‘ethnic’. In FFS practice, ‘masculinity’ and ‘ethnicity’ were entangled as the constitutive outsides by which desirable ‘femininity’ was articulated. I argue that surgery that self-consciously enacts a patient’s move away from physiognomically identifiable ethnicity in order to achieve an ostensibly unmarked and neutral femininity becomes not only a process of feminizing the face but of whitening it, regardless of whether ‘white’ features are the express desire of the patient or aim of the surgeon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-28
Number of pages26
JournalBody and Society
Volume25
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019

Keywords

  • ethnicity
  • facial feminization surgery
  • femininity
  • transgender medicine
  • whiteness studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Cultural Studies

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