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Identity and Sexuality – Stories from Individuals who Identify as X-Gender in Japan

Identity and Sexuality – Stories from Individuals who Identify as X-Gender in Japan

The categories that individuals use to understand themselves are positioned in specific socio-historical contexts, and are not fixed but rather fluid, changing as social discourses do. This presentation focuses on the case of individuals who identify as x-gender (x-jendaa) in Japan. X-gender emerged in the 1990s, and refers to a non-gender conforming identity (similar to, for example, gender-queer used in the Anglosphere). Using Ken Plummer’s work on sexual stories, I examine the stories through which x-gender individuals come to understand their gender identity, focusing specifically on the issue of sexuality.

This presentation demonstrates how understandings of gender identity and sexuality are changing in Japan, and how the line between gender identity and sexuality cannot be conclusively drawn.

Methods: In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 25 individuals who identify themselves as x-gender. Informants were found through online recruiting. Each interview took place in person, and lasted between one to four hours. Initial interviews were conducted in 2011, follow-up interviews between July 2013 and January 2014 and additionally in early 2015.

Results: Some informants describe their gender identity in terms of their sexuality, e.g. describing their desired relationships in terms of gender roles (being treated as a “woman,” desiring as a “man”). It was also through gender roles that some informants distinguished themselves from homosexuality. Current understandings of gender (shaped by the discourse of gender identity disorder – GID as well as traditional gender roles) and sexuality (e.g. homosexuality as gender normative or sexually reciprocal) play into how individuals understand their sexuality and in turn gender identity.

Conclusion: Changing social discourses lead to the formation of new gender identities and understandings of sexuality. The line between gender identity and sexuality is ambiguous, and how individuals understand their gender identity is intertwined with how they understand their sexuality and desires in relationships.

Speakers: Sonja P.F. Dale
Areas of Interest / Categories: Sexuality, WAS 2015

WAS 2015

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