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What does it mean to be socialized into a gender role? How do we learn gender identities and roles as young children? How does this article help us understand that gender is a social construction? What does it mean to “do” gender? How do gender roles reproduce inequality? short reflection paper of 2-3 double-spaced pages, times new roman point 12 font.Answer based off readings attached below.
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Article
JUST ONE OF THE GUYS?
How Transmen Make
Gender Visible at Work
KRISTEN SCHILT
University of California, Los Angeles
This article examines the reproduction of gendered workplace inequalities through in-depth interviews with female-to-male transsexuals (FTMs). Many FTMs enter the workforce as women and then
transition to become men, an experience that can provide them with an “outsider-within” perspective
on the “patriarchal dividend”—the advantages men in general gain from the subordination of women.
Many of the respondents in this article find themselves, as men, receiving more authority, reward, and
respect in the workplace than they received as women, even when they remain in the same jobs. The
author argues that their experiences can make the underpinnings of gendered workplace disparities
visible and help illuminate how structural disadvantages for women are reproduced in workplace
interactions. As tall, white FTMs see more advantages than short FTMs and FTMs of color, these
experiences also illustrate how men’s gender advantages at work vary with characteristics such as
race/ethnicity and body structure.
Keywords: gender; gender inequality; gender and work; transgender; transsexual; transgender
employment; masculinities; gendered organization theory
Theories of gendered organizations argue that cultural beliefs about gender
difference embedded in workplace structures and interactions create and reproduce workplace disparities that disadvantage women and advantage men (Acker
1990; Martin 2003; Williams 1995). As Martin (2003) argues, however, the practices that reproduce gender difference and gender inequality at work are hard to
observe. As these gendered practices are citations of established gender norms,
men and women in the workplace repeatedly and unreflectively engage in “doing
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I wish to thank Christine Williams, Ruth Milkman, Gail Kligman, and Abigail Saguy
for their insightful comments on this article. I also would like to thank the anonymous reviewers from
Gender & Society for their constructive feedback, and Sociologists for Women in Society for awarding an
earlier draft of this article the 2005 Cheryl Allan Miller Award for excellent research on women and work.
REPRINT REQUESTS: Kristen Schilt, University of California, Los Angeles, Department of
Sociology, Los Angeles CA 90095-1551.
GENDER & SOCIETY, Vol. 20 No. 4, August 2006 465-490
DOI: 10.1177/0891243206288077
© 2006 Sociologists for Women in Society
465
466
GENDER & SOCIETY / August 2006
gender” and therefore “doing inequality” (Martin 2003; West and Zimmerman
1987). This repetition of well-worn gender ideologies naturalizes workplace
gender inequality, making gendered disparities in achievements appear to be
offshoots of “natural” differences between men and women, rather than the products of dynamic gendering and gendered practices (Martin 2003). As the active
reproduction of gendered workplace disparities is rendered invisible, gender
inequality at work becomes difficult to document empirically and therefore
remains resistant to change (Acker 1990; Martin 2003; Williams 1995).
The workplace experiences of female-to-male transsexuals (FTMs), or transmen, offer an opportunity to examine these disparities between men and women at
work from a new perspective. Many FTMs enter the workforce as women and, after
transition, begin working as men.1 As men, they have the same skills, education,
and abilities they had as women; however, how this “human capital” is perceived
often varies drastically once they become men at work. This shift in gender attribution gives them the potential to develop an “outsider-within” perspective (Collins
1986) on men’s advantages in the workplace. FTMs can find themselves benefiting
from the “patriarchal dividend” (Connell 1995, 79)—the advantages men in general
gain from the subordination of women—after they transition. However, not being
“born into it” gives them the potential to be cognizant of being awarded respect,
authority, and prestige they did not have working as women. In addition, the experiences of transmen who fall outside of the hegemonic construction of masculinity,
such as FTMs of color, short FTMs, and young FTMs, illuminate how the interplay
of gender, race, age, and bodily characteristics can constrain access to gendered
workplace advantages for some men (Connell 1995).
In this article, I document the workplace experiences of two groups of FTMs,
those who openly transition and remain in the same jobs (open FTMs) and those who
find new jobs posttransition as “just men” (stealth FTMs).2 I argue that
the positive and negative changes they experience when they become men can illuminate how gender discrimination and gender advantage are created and maintained
through workplace interactions. These experiences also illustrate that masculinity is
not a fixed character type that automatically commands privilege but rather that the
relationships between competing hegemonic and marginalized masculinities give
men differing abilities to access gendered workplace advantages (Connell 1995).
THEORIES OF WORKPLACE GENDER
DISCRIMINATION
Sociological research on the workplace reveals a complex relationship between
the gender of an employee and that employee’s opportunities for advancement in
both authority and pay. While white-collar men and women with equal qualifications can begin their careers in similar positions in the workplace, men tend to
advance faster, creating a gendered promotion gap (Padavic and Reskin 2002;
Valian 1999). When women are able to advance, they often find themselves barred
from attaining access to the highest echelons of the company by the invisible barrier
Schilt / JUST ONE OF THE GUYS?
467
of the “glass ceiling” (Valian 1999). Even in the so-called women’s professions,
such as nursing and teaching, men outpace women in advancement to positions of
authority (Williams 1995). Similar patterns exist among blue-collar professions, as
women often are denied sufficient training for advancement in manual trades,
passed over for promotion, or subjected to extreme forms of sexual, racial, and
gender harassment that result in women’s attrition (Byrd 1999; Miller 1997; Yoder
and Aniakudo 1997). These studies are part of the large body of scholarly research
on gender and work finding that white- and blue-collar workplaces are characterized by gender segregation, with women concentrated in lower-paying jobs with
little room for advancement.
Among the theories proposed to account for these workplace disparities between
men and women are human capital theory and gender role socialization. Human
capital theory posits that labor markets are neutral environments that reward workers for their skills, experience, and productivity. As women workers are more
likely to take time off from work for child rearing and family obligations, they end
up with less education and work experience than men. Following this logic, gender
segregation in the workplace stems from these discrepancies in skills and experience between men and women, not from gender discrimination. However, while
these differences can explain some of the disparities in salaries and rank between
women and men, they fail to explain why women and men with comparable prestigious degrees and work experience still end up in different places, with women
trailing behind men in advancement (Valian 1999; Williams 1995).
A second theory, gender socialization theory, looks at the process by which
individuals come to learn, through the family, peers, schools, and the media, what
behavior is appropriate and inappropriate for their gender. From this standpoint,
women seek out jobs that reinforce “feminine” traits such as caring and nurturing. This would explain the predominance of women in helping professions such
as nursing and teaching. As women are socialized to put family obligations first,
women workers would also be expected to be concentrated in part-time jobs that
allow more flexibility for family schedules but bring in less money. Men, on the
other hand, would be expected to seek higher-paying jobs with more authority to
reinforce their sense of masculinity. While gender socialization theory may explain
some aspects of gender segregation at work, however, it leaves out important
structural aspects of the workplace that support segregation, such as the lack of
workplace child care services, as well as employers’ own gendered stereotypes
about which workers are best suited for which types of jobs (Padavic and Reskin
2002; Valian 1999; Williams 1995).
A third theory, gendered organization theory, argues that what is missing from
both human capital theory and gender socialization theory is the way in which
men’s advantages in the workplace are maintained and reproduced in gender
expectations that are embedded in organizations and in interactions between
employers, employees, and coworkers (Acker 1990; Martin 2003; Williams 1995).
However, it is difficult to study this process of reproduction empirically for
several reasons. First, while men and women with similar education and workplace backgrounds can be compared to demonstrate the disparities in where they
468
GENDER & SOCIETY / August 2006
end up in their careers, it could be argued that differences in achievement between
them can be attributed to personal characteristics of the workers rather than to
systematic gender discrimination. Second, gendered expectations about which
types of jobs women and men are suited for are strengthened by existing occupational segregation; the fact that there are more women nurses and more men
doctors comes to be seen as proof that women are better suited for helping professions and men for rational professions. The normalization of these disparities
as natural differences obscures the actual operation of men’s advantages and
therefore makes it hard to document them empirically. Finally, men’s advantages
in the workplace are not a function of simply one process but rather a complex
interplay between many factors, such as gender differences in workplace performance evaluation, gendered beliefs about men’s and women’s skills and abilities,
and differences between family and child care obligations of men and women
workers.
The cultural reproduction of these interactional practices that create and maintain
gendered workplace disparities often can be rendered more visible, and therefore
more able to be challenged, when examined through the perspective of marginalized others (Collins 1986; Martin 1994, 2003; Yoder and Aniakudo 1997). As Yoder
and Aniakudo note, “marginalized others offer a unique perspective on the events
occurring within a setting because they perceive activities from the vantages of
both nearness (being within) and detachment (being outsiders)” (1997, 325-26).
This importance of drawing on the experiences of marginalized others derives
from Patricia Hill Collins’s theoretical development of the “outsider-within”
(1986, 1990). Looking historically at the experience of Black women, Collins (1986)
argues that they often have become insiders to white society by virtue of being
forced, first by slavery and later by racially bounded labor markets, into domestic work for white families. The insider status that results from being immersed
in the daily lives of white families carries the ability to demystify power relations
by making evident how white society relies on racism and sexism, rather than
superior ability or intellect, to gain advantage; however, Black women are not
able to become total insiders due to being visibly marked as different. Being
a marginalized insider creates a unique perspective, what Collins calls “the outsiderwithin,” that allows them to see “the contradictions between the dominant group’s
actions and ideologies” (Collins 1990, 12), thus giving a new angle on how the
processes of oppression operate. Applying this perspective to the workplace,
scholars have documented the production and reproduction of gendered and
racialized workplace disparities through the “outsider-within” perspective of Black
women police officers (Martin 1994) and Black women firefighters (Yoder and
Aniakudo 1997).
In this article, I posit that FTMs’ change in gender attribution, from women to
men, can provide them with an outsider-within perspective on gendered workplace
disparities. Unlike the Black women discussed by Collins, FTMs usually are not
visibly marked by their outsider status, as continued use of testosterone typically
Schilt / JUST ONE OF THE GUYS?
469
allows for the development of a masculine social identity indistinguishable from
“bio men.” 3 However, while both stealth and open FTMs can become social insiders at work, their experience working as women prior to transition means they
maintain an internalized sense of being outsiders to the gender schemas that
advantage men. This internalized insider/outsider position allows some transmen
to see clearly the advantages associated with being men at work while still maintaining a critical view to how this advantage operates and is reproduced and how
it disadvantages women. I demonstrate that many of the respondents find themselves receiving more authority, respect, and reward when they gain social identities as men, even though their human capital does not change. This shift in
treatment suggests that gender inequality in the workplace is not continually reproduced only because women make different education and workplace choices than
men but rather because coworkers and employers often rely on gender stereotypes
to evaluate men’s and women’s achievements and skills.
METHOD
I conducted in-depth interviews with 29 FTMs in the Southern California area
from 2003 to 2005. My criteria for selection were that respondents were assigned
female at birth and were currently living and working as men or open transmen.
These selection criteria did exclude female-bodied individuals who identified as
men but had had not publicly come out as men at work and FTMs who had not
held any jobs as men since their transition, as they would not be able to comment
about changes in their social interactions that were specific to the workplace. My
sample is made up of 18 open FTMs and 11 stealth FTMs.
At the onset of my research, I was unaware of how I would be received as a
non-transgender person doing research on transgender workplace experiences, as
well as a woman interviewing men. I went into the study being extremely open
about my research agenda and my political affiliations with feminist and transgender politics. I carried my openness about my intentions into my interviews,
making clear at the beginning that I was happy to answer questions about my
research intentions, the ultimate goal of my research, and personal questions
about myself. Through this openness, and the acknowledgment that I was there to
learn rather than to be an academic “expert,” I feel that I gained a rapport with my
respondents that bridged the “outsider/insider” divide (Merton 1972).
Generating a random sample of FTMs is not possible as there is not an even dispersal of FTMs throughout Southern California, nor are there transgender-specific
neighborhoods from which to sample. I recruited interviewees from transgender
activist groups, transgender listservers, and FTM support groups. In addition, I participated for two years in Southern California transgender community events, such
as conferences and support group meetings. Attending these community events
gave me an opportunity not only to demonstrate long-term political commitment to
470
GENDER & SOCIETY / August 2006
the transgender community but also to recruit respondents who might not be affiliated with FTM activist groups. All the interviews were conducted in the respondents’ offices, in their homes, or at a local café or restaurant. The interviews ranged
from one and a half to four hours. All interviews were audio recorded, transcribed,
and coded.
Drawing on sociological research that reports long-standing gender differences
between men and women in the workplace (Reskin and Hartmann 1986; Reskin
and Roos 1990; Valian 1999; Williams 1995), I constructed my interview schedule to focus on possible differences between working as women and working as
men. I first gathered a general employment history and then explored the decision
to openly transition or to go stealth. At the end of the interviews, I posed the question, “Do you see any differences between working as a woman and working as
a man?” All but a few of the respondents immediately answered yes and began to
provide examples of both positive and negative differences. About half of the
respondents also, at this time, introduced the idea of male privilege, addressing
whether they felt they received a gender advantage from transitioning. If the concept of gender advantage was not brought up by respondents, I later introduced
the concept of male privilege and then posed the question, saying, “Do you feel
that you have received any male privilege at work?” The resulting answers from
these two questions are the framework for this article.
In reporting the demographics of my respondents, I have opted to use pseudonyms and general categories of industry to avoid identifying my respondents.
Respondents ranged in age from 20 to 48. Rather than attempting to identify
when they began their gender transition, a start date often hard to pinpoint as
many FTMs feel they have been personally transitioning since childhood or adolescence, I recorded how many years they had been working as men (meaning
they were either hired as men or had openly transitioned from female to male and
remained in the same job). The average time of working as a man was seven
years. Regarding race and ethnicity, the sample was predominantly white (17),
with 3 Asians, 1 African American, 3 Latinos, 3 mixed-race individuals, 1 Armenian
American, and 1 Italian American. Responses about sexual identity fell into four
main categories, heterosexual (9), bisexual (8), queer (6), and gay (3). The remaining 3 respondents identified their sexual identity as celibate/asexual, “dating
women,” and pansexual. Finally, in terms of region, the sample included a
mixture of FTMs living in urban and suburban areas. (See Table 1 for sample
characteristics.)
The experience of my respondents represents a part of the Southern California
FTM community from 2003 to 2005. As Rubin (2003) has demonstrated, however, FTM communities vary greatly from city to city, meaning these findings
may not be representative of the experiences of transmen in Austin, San Francisco,
or Atlanta. In addition, California passed statewide gender identity protection for
employees in 2003, meaning that the men in my study live in an environment in
which they cannot legally be fired for being transgender (although most of my
respondents said they would not wish to be a test case for this new law). This legal
471
Age
28
42
34
25
31
42
30
38
20
32
30
45
48
42
24
26
44
24
39
37
Aaron
Brian
Carl
Christopher
Colin
Crispin
David
Douglas
Elliott
Henry
Jack
Jake
Jason
Keith
Kelly
Ken
Paul
Peter
Preston
Riley
Race/
Ethnicity
Black/White
White
White
Asian
White
White
White
White
White
White
Latino
White
White/Italian
Black
White
Asian/White
White
White/Armenian
White
White
Sample Characteristics
Pseudonym
TABLE 1:
Queer
Bisexual
Heterosexual
Pansexual
Queer
Heterosexual
Bisexual
Gay
Bisexual
Gay
Queer
Queer
Celibate
Heterosexual
Bisexual
Queer
Heterosexual
Heterosexual
Bisexual
Dates women
Sexual
Identity
5
14
16
3
1
2
2
5
1
5
1
9
20
1
2
6 months
2
4
2
1
Approximate
Number
of Years
Working
as Male
Semi-Professional
Semi-Professional
Higher Professional
Semi-Professional
Lower Professional
Blue-Collar
Higher Professional
Semi-Professional
Retail/Customer Se …
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