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We Walk Among You: Trans Identity Politics Goes to the Movies

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    Rights statement: © Cowan, S. (2009). We Walk Among You: Trans Identity Politics Goes to the Movies. Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, 21, 91-118.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-118
Number of pages27
JournalCanadian Journal of Women and the Law / Revue Femmes et Droit
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


Recent legal and social acknowledgement of (some) trans citizenship claims demonstrates the continuing evolution of trans politics and identity, and the relationship between socio-political identities and popular culture. This article examines current debates over trans citizenship and identity, and argues that certain kinds of identity and citizenship claims have cultural currency in contemporary representations of sex/gender. In order to address these issues, this article highlights key disputes and tensions in contemporary debates about transgender identity, citizenship and claims to legal rights, by examining the ways in which sex/gender identity is portrayed in three films – Cabaret, Transamerica and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Each film demonstrates various ways of interpreting and reworking the constraints of heteronormative binary notions of sex/gender, and these struggles over meaning are also reflected in the ways in which different articulations of trans identity and citizenship claims have been legally and culturally recognised. The article explores the ways in which particular accounts of trans identity are given primacy within law, and how film can help us to reflect upon questions about which sexed/gendered people get to count as legal citizens. The paper concludes by reminding us that despite discourses of recognition, it is important to remember the exclusionary as well as inclusionary tendencies of law.

    Research areas

  • transgender, film, rights, identity

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