Blending Genders: Contributions to the Emerging Field of Transgender Studies

Richard Ekins, Dave King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


This paper discusses the limitations for social scientists of the medical categories of transvestism, transsexualism and gender dysphoria. These categories presume pathology, limit our gaze to a narrow range of cross-dressing/sex-changing phenomena and hide from view the behavior of all except those who are seen as problematic, for example transvestites and transsexuals themselves.

The concept of a process of blending gender is considered useful in that it allows a concern with those who - in the sense of mixing or combining, and in the sense of harmonizing - attempt to, or succeed in, blending various aspects of the culturally established components of gender, either in respect of themselves (e.g. transvestites, transsexuals) or in respect of others (e.g. medicine, the mass media).

The paper is divided into five parts and focuses on key areas in the emerging field of transgender studies: the experiences of those who cross-dress and change sex; the way in which these phenomena have been socially patterned over the past few decades; the significance of the medicalization of gender blending; the enormous popularity of gender blending in the mass media and the various debates concerning the political role of those who blend various aspects of gender.

Each part provides a summary of key aspects of earlier research and reports on current developments in the field. In each part, a shift is traced from the idea of blending genders in the sense of mixing together elements of some preexisting gender categories to the idea of living 'beyond gender' altogether. This shift is hardest to discern in the more conservative areas of medicalization and the mass media, and most obvious in the radical political and cultural literature.

The status of the shift is, perhaps most problematic in the areas of 'experiencing' gender blending and its social organization. The paper concludes by summarizing the usefulness of the term 'gender blending'. The particular advantage of the term is that it enables a polyvalent stance to be taken on the study of both those who themselves gender blend, and those who blend the gender of others. In particular, the concept of 'blending genders' allows for a sensitive treatment of individuals who are attempting to harmonize gender and it opens up for inquiry the medical profession's attempt to do likewise.

The naming or identifying of things is, then, a continual problem, never really over and done with. (Anselm Strauss, 1977: 25).
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe International Journal of Transgenderism
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Jul 1997


Dive into the research topics of 'Blending Genders: Contributions to the Emerging Field of Transgender Studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this