This essay explores a number of historical and anecdotal resources in an attempt to construct an ethnography around transgender individuals of the American 1950s and 60s. Situating my study in the context of a rising national interest in the quasi-scientific field of sexology as well as the nuclear family-centered sociopolitical climate of the post-WWII United States, my analysis seeks to understand the varying lived experiences of transgender Americans and conjecture about the quality of their lives. Because the focus of my study concerns a group living before the use of the term "transgender" to describe gender identity and, indeed, before the establishment of any cohesive non-heteronormative community-as many historians will accredit the Stonewall Innriots of 1969 withthe inception ofthe Gay Rights Movement inAmerica- this explication, written in the vein of the anthropological ethnography, looks at the proto-transgender community as a kind of diasporic subculture. In particular, my study pays close attention to the ways in which transgenderism was the subject of ambivalent prejudice, a term coined by Irwin Katz that recognizes benevolent (passive) forms of prejudice as well as malevolent (active) forms of prejudice. My brief essay examines a number of spaces, like the portrayal of transgenderism in the media, its treatment in the military and its reception by the public, but recurrently it looks to the entertainment sphere, considering the dissonance between transgender performance as a comedic act and the conduct afforded to transgender individuals in actuality.
"Transitioning: An Ethnographical Study of Mid-20th Century Transgender Americans,"
Augsburg Honors Review: Vol. 9
, Article 7.
Available at: https://idun.augsburg.edu/honors_review/vol9/iss1/7