What makes a man? Thomas Beatie, embodiment, and ‘mundane transphobia’
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Critical scholars have long examined the ways in which identity categories are forcibly written upon bodies through the functioning of social norms. For many marginalised groups, such critiques have been central to challenging pathologising understandings of identity categories, often by uncoupling bodies from identities. Yet despite this, normative accounts of embodiment are still forcibly written upon the bodies of many groups of people, albeit often in mundane ways. Nowhere is this perhaps more evident than in the lives of trans people. This paper explores one instance of this by examining in close detail some of the key discursive strategies deployed by Oprah Winfrey in her first interview with Thomas Beatie. It is argued that Beatie is constantly drawn into a logic of ‘bodily evidence’ that demands of him an aetiological account of himself as a man, and from which, Winfrey concludes, he is always left lacking.
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