Penultimate Group Meeting Recap

As presentation day looms ever closer, we felt it would be both productive and useful to schedule in a supplementary meeting this week. As such, we met again on Saturday in what proved to be an especially efficient and reassuring discussion.

Since we had devised the barebones structure of what our presentation would entail in the previous meeting, we now focussed upon honing down the details of its format, content, and structure, as well as assigning individual roles and contributions. We decided that our court would be presented as a kind of moral court of appeals, situated externally from any singular culture context or legal parameters, existing in a kind of purgatory, wherein cases that could possibly be deemed to have been failed by real-world legal structures are re-examined within a broader ethical framework. With this in mind, we decided that three of us would provide evidence and testimony -quoting academic reading and various legal precedent- in aid of the appellant, while the other acts as judge. The inclusion of this role within the actual presentation, as opposed to inviting our peers to act as a jury, gives us the opportunity to provide more nuanced explanation of concepts and ideas, as the judge will interject into each individual appeal in order to ask for additional information, point out a counter-argument, and also to simply orchestrate the smooth transition between elements of the presentation. The judge will also provide the opening and closing statements of the case.

In addition to this, various specific yet more minor details of the presentation were also ironed out, including the order in which we will speak, the decisions upon who will assume which role, and also the question of what stylistic elements to include.

The job from here then, is for each of us to use our already extensive bibliography in order to construct our own scripts for the case. After they have each been created, we will peer edit them with a google doc in order to create a singular and coherent script for us all to follow throughout the presentation.

I feel like we are now in an especially solid position, with a manageable workload to be completed before the presentation on Monday. Most questions about what format the presentation will take and in what way it will be presented have been answered, and we already have compiled more than enough academic research to flesh out the presented appeals. What remains then, is to bring everything together into our now fully established mode of presentation, to rehearse, and finally: to present.

Week 9 Meeting Summary

In last weeks meeting we finalised the creative framework of our presentation, deciding that a ficitonalised courtroom would be the main feature of the project. In sharing our ideas from last weeks script writing task, we realised that we would need analyse the courtroom script, and spoke about whether it would be best to provide an integrated analysis or to designate a separate analytical segment.

Since the main objective of our project is now a process of creative writing, we felt that the most streamlined way of approaching this would be to write individually and appraise our work as a group. This weeks meeting was used to make ourselves aware of the variety of stylistic choices we might make. This discussion included whether the courtroom would be a parody of the legal system in order to critique it or whether we opt for a more documentary style, whether we would play the part of our references ‘voices’,  whether we would use audio-visual tools to present witness statements or evidence, and whether we would include our ‘audience-examiners’ in the framework of the presentation in line with immersive political theatre techniques.

While this weeks meeting was more textually thin than some previous ones, I felt that it was no less productive. Finalising the creative framework of our presentation has provided a focus for our individual work, as well precision for our arguments overall.

Next week we plan to think about what route to go down theatrically, and plan to contact performance scholars at kings who have written on the intersection between theatre and law, such as Dr Alan Read, who can provide insight into what a ficitonalised courtroom might look like.

Week 8 – Meeting

This week we decided to focus mostly on finding a creative framework for the presentation.
We came up with the idea of creating a court transcript inspiring ourselves from other cases and especially Coy’s.
We said we could use our script as quotes and present scholars’ arguments based on our readings as responses to the jury.

We then thought at this creative option in terms of methods. Fictionalising the case would enable us to fill the gap of what a real court would have missed. Also, we decided to base our court case on the story of a trans girl who is no more allowed to use the girls’ bathroom. We chose to focus on the debate surrounding the access to toilets for trans because we already had many readings on that topic, and it was also a key theme of the documentary Growing Up Coy. We also made the decision to fictionalise our story around a trans girl who sees her access restricted to women’s bathroom since it seems to pose a problem to a broader majority when someone with male genitals uses women’s bathroom than when it is the other way around.

Plus, we said it could be interesting to imagine that the school always thought of the kid from our case as a girl, and just recently realised that she had male genitals. It would create a clear contrast from Coy’s story whose parents had first registered their child at school as a boy. In that sense, our case would highlight the gender fluidity of a child whose sexual anatomy is not yet fully developed (see The Theory and Practice of Childhood: Interrogating Childhood as a Technology of Power – J. Breslow, 2016). We also discussed whether we should specify if the kid of our story is willing to do a sex reassignment surgery when an adult or not.

Finally, we ask ourselves how our presentation would be displayed: Would we shoot a short video where we could see the different opinions of the jury? Would we be the jury of our own case or would we ask other students to join our project? Would we only show on the powerpoint some quotes from the brief we created and directly react from them? By the end of the session, we did not come up with a clear answer, and we will have to decide on that next week.

Our task for next week: write a 200-word text narrating the story from which our case will be based on, and share it on the google drive. Think about the circumstances of the case, the school and the family’s reactions, the specific characteristics of the child, the request made by the plaintiff, etc.

Some readings on Public Bathrooms and Trans Identity

  • Which gender is more concerned about transgender women in female bathrooms? – Rebecca Stones (2017)
    • ” The presence of a transgender person in a public bathroom that matches their gender identity may be viewed as crossing a societal boundary, and can cause other bathroom users to question which other boundaries that transgender person might cross, raising questions of safety and privacy.”
  • Trans subjectivity and the spatial monolingualism of public toilets – C. Nirta (2014)
    • ” The built environment and the organisation of public spaces reflect the normative notions of male and females “
    • ” Recent scholarship has focused on public toilets in relation to sex-segregation and accessibility, highlighting issues of citizenship, social justice and social inclusion.”
    • ” The two-dimensional spatial configuration of public toilets has over the years remained unaltered: they reflect and shape the binary division between men and women in everyday’s urban experience on both a personal and public level. “
    • ” public toilets are important sites for the reinforcement of gender roles, sexuality and power relations”
    • ” these facilities were initially only designed for men, which limited women’s presence and mobility within the urban space. It was not until the first decade of 1900 that a fully functioning public lavatory for women was first introduced in London after many years of opposition by local inhabitants who claimed that women would only leave their homes for short walks within their neighbourhoods and therefore there was no need for such places.”
    • ” Trans subjectivities that do not identify with ‘Ladies’ or ‘Gents’ are then constantly mediating their identity to fit into the public space which, as it appears, is only public for those who conform to its rigid shape. ”
  • Public bathrooms are gender identity battlefields. What if we just do it right? – Simona Castricum (2018)
    • “The familiar signage silhouettes of male and female that mark our public bathrooms reduce gender identity down to our bodies and clothing. Not only do they reinforce outdated gender stereotypes, they erase non-binary people “
    • The Trans Pathways project – a 2016 survey by Telethon Kids Institute of gender nonconforming people aged 14-25 years – revealed 48% of those surveyed were non-binary. “
    • Need to create INCLUSIVE space
    • “The common assertion that gender non-conforming people who use bathrooms present a threat to the personal safety of cisgender people is rubbish. To confront the realities of this debate, and more importantly the violence enacted upon gender non-conforming people in these spaces, one only has to look at the disturbing incident in a Los Angeles Denny’s restaurant in May 2018, where a former US Republican candidate filmed herself abusing a transgender woman using a female toilet as she was evicted by security.”
  • Supporting transgender young people – Guidance for schools in Scotland (2017)
    • ” Because of being uncomfortable about using school toilets, some transgender young people resort to going home to use the toilet, or they refuse to drink during the school day. This has obvious implications for their health and wellbeing, as well as their attendance and attainment. “
    • ” There is no law in Scotland, or in the UK, which states that only people assigned male at birth can use men’s toilets and changing rooms, or that only people assigned female can use women’s toilets and changing rooms. Discrimination case law has established that transgender people who have started living in accordance with their gender identity must not be banned from using the facilities matching their gender identity. “
  • The Transgender Bathroom Debate and the Looming Title IX Crisis – Jeannie Suk Gersen (2016)
    • ” a push to make those spaces open to all genders comes up uneasily against feelings of female sexual vulnerability and their effect on an equal education or workplace. To make things more complicated, the risk of sexual assault and harassment of transgender females in male bathrooms is a salient reason for providing access to bathrooms according to gender identity, while many worry about transgender males being sexually bullied in male bathrooms. ” –> ” The common denominator in all of these scenarios is fear of attacks and harassment carried out by males—not fear of transgender people “
  • Everything You Need to Know About the Debate Over Transgender People and Bathrooms –  KATY STEINMETZ  (2015)
    • ” In a study from UCLA’s Williams Institute, nearly 70% of transgender people said they had experienced verbal harassment in a situation involving gender-segregated bathrooms, while nearly 10% reported physical assault.” 
  • Gendered Restrooms and Minority Stress: The Public Regulation of Gender and its Impact on Transgender People’s Lives – Jody L. Herman
    • ” The concept of two separate and opposing genders – men and women – is entrenched in our society and reflected in our built environment. “
    • ” Gender-segregated facilities -> serve to determine who is and is not allowed to use a particular space” –> could be linked to the notion of the right to the city?
    • ” In the largest survey of trans people to date, transgender and gender non-conforming people reported being fired due to anti-transgender bias (26%), being harassed (78%) and physically assaulted (35%) at school, suffering double the rate of unemployment, and attempting suicide at alarming rates (41%) (Grant et al. 2011).”
    • ” In Queering Bathrooms: Gender, Sexuality, and the Hygienic Imagination, sociologist Sheila Cavanagh presents findings from 100 interviews with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people on their thoughts and experiences regarding public restrooms (2010)”
    • ” The survey assessed people’s experiences accessing or using gender-segregated public restrooms by asking specifically about denial of access to facilities, verbal harassment, and physical assault. Overall, 65 respondents (70 percent) reported experiencing one or more of these problems. Eighteen percent of respondents have been denied access to a gender-segregated public restroom, while 68 percent have experienced some sort of verbal harassment and 9 percent have experienced some form of physical assault when accessing or using gender-segregated public restrooms. “
    • ” Thirty-one respondents currently attend or have attended school in Washington, DC. Forty-two percent of these respondents reported being denied access to and/or verbally harassed in restrooms at their school in DC. Ten percent of the 31 respondents reported that incidents of denied access to and/or verbal harassment in restrooms negatively impacted their education in some way. One respondent had excessive absences due to problems with using restroom facilities. Another respondent reported that problems with restrooms caused poor performance as well as excessive absences. One former DC student reported that she had performed poorly in school and had to change schools; she finally dropped out of school due to problems with restrooms. “
    • ” This situation distracted him in class both because of his need to remain continent in the face of physical discomfort and his anxiety about finding an available restroom at the end of the class period”
    • ” Problems or expectation of problems with gender-segregated public facilities can impact a person’s participation in public life, causing him or her to refrain from going to public places or attending public events. “
    • ” In considering the role gender segregation plays in our environment, we should consider whether gender segregation is necessary to organize our public spaces. “
  • I just add here an extract from the movie Hidden Figures that shows well the anxiety and social injustice surrounding the segregation of public toilets. Of course, in the video, it is about segregation between black people and white people in the USA, but I thought it resonated pretty well with our case-study.

Reading Week Meeting

We met this week in the sun on the Somerset House riverfront embankment to further look at honing and focusing our work. There are some anxieties around having direction and focus that we attempted to remedy, but ultimately agreed that they would be resolved in the coming weeks.

We recapped on our aims from the end of the last session by checking in if anyone had found some new materials and discussing the documentary “Growing Up Coy“. Rory began some interesting discussion around the presentation of Coy’s mother in the film and how it doesn’t really present the legal aspects of the case, with more of a focus on the media attention. There was a feeling that more input from the school district would have made it more interesting. It was noted that the film doesn’t present very much material to quote for our research, but it does trigger some worthy debate and analysis of the topics we are looking at.

I wondered out loud if it were useful to consider the activity of trying to harmonise the identity politics around those who do not conform to the gender binary and neoliberal capitalist democracy, or a debate around this as our presentation. I considered that a move to thinking of formulating some sort of manifesto to harmonise or rally against oppressive structures could be a useful way of thinking about the project, but this was not liked by the rest of the group and our direction will be dictated by the research material we focus on next week.

Freddie came to the session with some quotes and readings from the work of Jacob Breslow. He gave us two quotes that could help us formulate a clearer directional research question, they were as follows:

‘the man be considered in the man, and the child in the child’ Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. (1762) Emile. Nugent (trans.) London: Nourse and Vaillant. (pg.80)

childhood is still in the process of becoming dispersed among non-hegemonic populations through unresolved legacies of, and contemporary enactments of, what Foucault sweepingly calls “conflicts” (1978: 126).‘ Jacob Breslow. (2016) The Theory and Practice of Childhood: Interrogating Childhood as a Technology of Power. A thesis submitted to the Gender Institute of the London School of Economics and Political Science for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Leah presented some very interesting readings on toilets as a potential case study to unify our interests. They are spaces that inculcate the gender binary in children, as when at school they are directed to use male OR female toilets, usually dictated by their birth gender. There are studies that show an improvement in school work and well-being when the pressure of choosing which gendered space the child has to use is removed, making it the choice of the child which space they use (sources to follow). Historically, toilets have also been spaces of racial segregation alongside that of gender; and somewhat of a haven for gay males when homosexuality has been illegal with the practices of cottaging and cruising.

The meeting of public and private space, which involves public and private bodies is a worthy cross section that reveals structures of power and bias that often go unnoticed. By analysing this space of public toilets (with a focus on those in schools) it gives us the opportunity to subvert traditional notions and make visible some of what the social and state law hides. It fits well into our current working bibliographies, and topic of the conflict between state and individuals; which is distilled into exploring legal approaches to and interactions with gender non-conforming youth.

The decision was made to refine our terms of trans and non-normative to gender non-conforming. This allows us to be less prescriptive with projecting identities, genders, and body politics onto subjects and individuals. As a term, it allows us to be respectful and inclusive for those who operate outside and against the gender binary, but also those who identify in contrast to the gender they were assigned at birth.

We need to find out if a discussion of our methodology will be needed in our presentation.

Our task for next week is to mine for useful quotes and sound-bites that can focus our question and critique moving forward.

Week 4 Summary (backdated due to technical issues w/ blog)

Through Week 3’s seminar discussion we found that a uniting topic in our areas of interest was the ways in which the identity is socialized in children, leading us to devise our research question: 

Conflict between normative and non-normative identities through childhood. 

The nature of the conflict taken as our focus is therefore between dominant and marginal cultural scripts and narratives. We brainstormed contemporary examples of where this conflict can be identified in order to find a case study for our presentation, and the four possibilities that seemed most appropriate were 

  1. Disney and childhood 
  1. Charlottesville and toxic masculinity 
  1. Genderquake television show 
  1. Mermaids (a charity devoted to helping trans children come into their identity and fund transitioning) 

While this method of brainstorming proved useful in gaining a wide perspective on the possible case studies available to us, in Week 4’s seminar we decided to analyse the applicability of each case study to our relevant major disciplines in order to keep our research succinct. A table comparing the relevance of our case studies can be found here: <https://emckclac-my.sharepoint.com/:w:/r/personal/k1626863_kcl_ac_uk/_layouts/15/Doc.aspx?sourcedoc=%7BF04D80EA-9799-41E3-A0D0-B99EF2380EFD%7D&file=List%20of%20case%20studies%20with%20relevance%20to%20discipline.docx&action=default&mobileredirect=true> 

Charlottesville and Mermaids were relevant to all three disciplines making them the forerunners for our research. We decided that since mermaids related to the topic of childhood more, trans childhood should be our primary research area. 

Zack and I attended a talk on the subjectivity of trans children given by Gender Studies scholar Jacob Breslow, titled ‘Troubling Trans Precocity:  Narratives of Trans Childhood and the Temporalities of Sexuation’ which entailed ‘drawing upon media representations of trans children, a court case involving a six-year old trans girl, and narratives of trans childhood’. The talk provided an insight into how children, trans or otherwise, become sites of political normalization at the hands of adults through a process of psychological projection. Zack suggested watching a documentary on Netflix called ‘Growing Up Coy’, which follows the same court case detailed in the talk. 

After streamlining our topic we decided that for Week 5 we would each look at the topic of trans childhood through the lens of our major discipline, looking at trans legislation for politics, international differences in cultural approaches to trans rights for geography, and more normative and identity-based discussions for English.  

Toxic Masculinity

About toxic masculinity:

  • The Celluloid Closet (1995): A documentary that could be interesting to watch. It is about the depiction of homosexuals throughout film history.
  • https://youtu.be/Gha3kEECqUk : An interesting short video about toxic masculinity.
  • https://www.ted.com/talks/justin_baldoni_why_i_m_done_trying_to_be_man_enough/transcript : TED Talk, Justin Baldoni “Why I’m done trying to be ‘man enough'”

Week 3 Summary

Following from last week a selection of research areas and questions were presented. They were as follows:

  1. How do representations of masculinity in Disney films display heteronormative, patriarchal ideals? Does this influence formation of identity, and views of gender politics throughout childhood?
  2. With the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 what is the relationship between male rights and privilege? Could these events be a reaction to the loss of either/both?
  3. In the Channel 4 show Genderquake, what role does the media play in polarising discussions around gender politics? How does this influence perceptions of gender and identity in the wider public? (Focus on the conflict between second and third wave feminism)

With these prompts we went on to discuss the links and viability of each of these areas as possible sites for research:

The exploration of feminist theory critiquing the bodied-ness of masculinity, which it works against and moves away from. This is a potential source for the conflict between second and third wave feminism.

The formation of identity and self in childhood through the influence of Disney media. The potentiality for a unified theory to unite our disciplines, such as a “prince charming” theory being one of hetero-normative patriarchal gender performance. How Disney is performed in the playground?

A connection was made last week’s discussion with the possibility of talking to journalists writing about trans and non-binary gender identity politics. This would explore trans identity in childhood and the narratives surrounding this. It was suggested this could be a way of connecting with Mermaids UK for research and interviews.

Around each of these we noticed common influences could be compartmentalised into media, school, and family.

We worked on these areas seeking links between them and declared where each of our interests lay. Then we moved to focus these into a working research question/area;

CONFLICT BETWEEN NORMATIVE AND NON-NORMATIVE IDENTITIES THROUGH CHILDHOOD

With the sub genres as mens rights & toxic masculinityDisney & childhood, and trans rights. With these in place we each took a sub genre to read around and bring a brief bibliography with us to the next session.

It was flagged that some caution should be held in mind in this research with a possible problem of falling into a hole of prescribing identity to childhood where the self is very much in formation. With a danger of pathologizing the slightest non-gender conforming behaviours. An interesting moment at the end of our session was a brief discussion around the political utility of populations to have normative identity.

Group meeting summary 23/01/2019

Last week we found that our essays were similar in that they all featured the ways in which dominant forces, such as governments, social normalcy or media conflict with marginal selves or communities. Gender was highlighted as a particular focal point within this realisation.

In response to this we decided to search online for different examples of current gender issues in order to decide our case study. These examples included:

  • Trumps decision to exclude trans people from the military (and the legal implications of this)
  • The recent controversy between supporters of the Mermaids organisation and how this highlights conflict between mainstream feminism and the trans community
  • The recent change to the grey-area ‘up-skirting’ laws
  • How toxic masculinity figures within the political issues and the part that toxic masculinity played in the rise of Trump

Following this we had a brief discussion about the comment sections of these articles, and how their anonymous and masculine qualities figure within these issues.

The objective of this weeks session was to make ourselves aware of variety of possible subjects for our presentation. Our task for next week is to write a number of research questions in our own time and share them with each other in order to begin to focus our discussions to one area.