Starting with trans*: The effects of methodological violence through gender categorization in higher education research

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


Gayle Rubin (2011) wrote, “No system of classification can successfully catalogue or explain the infinite vagaries of human diversity…. However, human beings are easily upset by exactly those ‘existing things’ that escape classification, treating such phenomena as dangerous, polluting, and requiring eradication” (p. 248). Rubin’s words are a reminder that identity-based institutionalization is a potentially violent proposition, a point echoed by trans* activists (Gossett, 2015; Spade, 2010). In this sense, administrative regulation is intertwined with administrative and material violence that largely delimit possibilities of trans* existence. Reflecting the violent erasure of trans* people via institutionalization, increased visibility and gender-based surveillance, this chapter draws on data collected from an ethnographic study alongside trans* youth in higher education contexts in the United States, in an attempt to elucidate how methodological moves to operationalize trans* as a category do more harm than good. I show how delimiting a category that means ‘across, ' etymologically speaking, mirrors the violence enacted on trans* bodies, enacting a form of methodological violence that has grave implications for trans* lives. Furthermore, I discuss how trans*ing research by holding gender open as a possibility is a necessary, yet messy proposition for higher education research, along with strategies for doing so.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationStarting with Gender in International Higher Education Research
Subtitle of host publicationConceptual Debates and Methodological Considerations
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781351587501
ISBN (Print)9781138294776
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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