Europe and beyond: comparing countries

Mapa 1aThe choice of the five European countries in the study − Portugal, France, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden – was an option underpinned by two principles. On the one hand, a comparative study on trans-people in the European context permits to observe the trans phenomenon right at the centre of production of dominant categories on the subject, though each country has a different position, with some (such as Portugal) being part of an western European semi-periphery. On the other hand, each one of European countries selected is, even if in different ways, a recipient society for trans migrants. In short, if Europe (and its internal diversity) is our empirical terrain and we have elected the nation as a unit of analysis, a transnational perspective is mobilized.

Transnationalization processes are thus operative in the research as we aim to capture the whole-range of movements that are part of present day societies and encompass flows of different types: things, people, commodities, social movements, ideas and concepts, all of them important to the understanding of trans-people. Migration issues are centre-stage to the above-mentioned questions. The debate generated around migration flows led us to formulate a rather critical view on assimilation and the nation-state. Migrations, and in the case trans-migrations, can hardly be linearly conceived as the dislocation of people from one national context to another, where they will be assimilated. Quite the opposite, the deterritorialization of people must be connected to a deeper reflection on the politics of belonging, being and absence. The dislocation of people must also be related to power and more specifically to gender power. As a result, the circulation of ideas and concepts, and their consequences, must be carefully analysed as it is particularly important in the case of trans-people coming from different parts of the world.

Bearing the importance of this debate in mind, we will carry out comparative empirical research on trans  individuals in five western European countries chosen a priori on the basis of their different institutional frameworks with regard to gender and sexuality (e.g. welfare policies and practices, sexual and trans-rights, sex work laws), their levels of trans sex work and their different migration profiles.