TRANSRIGHTS is a Consolidator Grant ( Grant agreement no.: 615594) research project financed by the European Research Council (ERC), one of the most prestigious and competitive international financial institutes for scientific excellence in Europe. TRANSRIGHTS is coordinated by Sofia Aboim and hosted at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon (ICS-ULisboa). The project involves a team of seven researchers and will be carried out over a period of five years (2014-2019).
TRANSRIGHTS is a project that aims to rethink and reflect upon gender and citizenship by focusing on trans-people (namely, transsexuals, transgenders, crossdressers and other forms of gender identifications, expressions and lives) as subjects whose voices and diversity must be understood as one of the most challenging boundaries for framing contemporary debates about rights vis-à-vis an institutional apparatus that, all in all, still reproduces a dualist gender order, opposing male and female, men and women as discrete beings.
Against this backdrop, rather than proposing a monograph, the TRANSRIGHTS angle of analysis allows further understanding the workings of gender through the ‘voices’ of trans-people (within and beyond Europe), and their complex forms of self-identification vis-à-vis the institutional apparatus (whether legal, medical, political or even social-scientific). Our compromise involves respecting the voices of all individuals while disentangling the social meanings and political significations of ‘trans’ as a form of naming and representation.
Indeed, over the past few decades, gender and citizenship became deeply intertwined as a consequence of social and political struggles aiming at the redefinition of the rights of women and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual/transgender) individuals against the hegemonic orders of male and heteronormative supremacy. These movements are a central feature of the social and political dynamics initiated in the 20th century, which rose to a peak when the notion of a gendered self conformed to binary categories of femininity and masculinity started to be challenged. The rights of trans-people represent thus a fracturing problem to be addressed from the standpoint of social justice insofar as they pose resistance to the inclusion in the old and stable categories of gendered selfhood. From the project’s perspective, trans-people, or even transgender, are provisional umbrella terms to name those who in a variety of ways challenge the naturalness of gender as emanating from the sexed codification of bodies, whether they are transsexuals (both male to female, and female to male), transgenders, transvestites, ‘travestis’, cross-dressers or other forms of gender variance.
The TRANSRIGHTS project compares the lives of trans-people in five European countries – Portugal, France, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden – in order to attain an overview of how institutional frameworks impact on these lives. However, though operating in Europe, our research will take into account the immigration of trans-individuals to Europe, whether in search for recognition or as a way of survival often leading to sex work. Such a perspective implies examining conceptualizations of selfhood that do not necessarily confine to the European context and can, therefore, help us to gain more depth in our genealogical and deconstructionist analysis of the power processes involved in the operations of naming the category ‘trans’.
Project outputs will contribute to the fields of gender and feminism, sexuality and citizenship as well as post-colonialism by providing a grounded theoretical debate, discussing the gendered categories of citizenship from the standpoint of social justice. By connecting grounded ethnographic work (who are the trans?), the involvement of stakeholders and a wide-range reflection on gender citizenship, TRANSRIGHTS will also make contributions to the field of trans-scholarship.