Gender Language Ideologies in Science
POSTER PRESENTED AT THE AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION MEETING (2018)
Transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) health is an often overlooked area of biomedical anthropological research. From demographic questions that only offer binary options, to the common practice of throwing out data from non-cisgender participants due to a small sample size, TGNC populations are largely absent from the current medical literature. Rather than simply critiquing this phenomenon, the current study uses linguistic anthropological theories and methods to better understand the emerging discursive barriers existing in these settings. More specifically, we explore inclusionary and exclusionary stances as they are performed vis-à-vis TGNC participants from research studies and/or consideration by researchers. Through interviews that we conducted with biomedical anthropologists, this research examines the discursive practices through which language is drawn upon to construct, contest, and refashion understandings of sex and gender. In particular, this analysis focuses on the way in which researchers actively redirect the conversation away from TGNC topics to instead discuss instances in which they did demonstrate inclusivity when discussing their previous research studies. This pattern, which emerged in many of our interviews, points to the importance of considering how these researchers use discursive practices to negotiate their identities as inclusive researchers. More broadly, this study considers the ways in which anthropologists have overlooked gender diversity and how increasing awareness of these populations can enrich our understanding of human experiences. By exploring novel ways to bridge linguistic anthropology with biomedical anthropology, this study also contributes to advancing theories and methods in these two subfields.
TALK AT THE SOUTHEASTERN EVOLUTIONARY PERSPECTIVES SOCIETY MEETING (2018)
Language ideologies related to a strict binary view of sex and gender are apparent in the way in which many researchers ask their demographic questions. This presentation will explore how structuring demographic questions as "Gender: Male or Female" conflates sex and gender, contains underlying cisnormative assumptions, as well as causes individuals who fall outside of this binary to be excluded from research or hidden from analysis when they are diluted into broader categories. Moreover, this presentation will examine how the use of "other" as a third category option is meant as a step towards inclusivity in research, however, this approach has been criticized as being a literal form of othering, or the process of identifying individuals as different from the norm with the result of reinforcing and reproducing positions of domination and subordination. When individuals or groups are referred to as “other,” it has the impact of magnifying any perceived differences between individuals and has been noted as offensive by people who are trans and gender diverse. Therefore, using the label “other,” may lead to further reinforcement of cisgender norms in research, as well as introducing bias into the data collection by impacting who is participating in the research.
POSTER PRESENTED AT THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGISTS MEETING (2017)
While the latest anthropological concepts of “identity fluidity” and “boundaries porousness” seem to be widely accepted among scholars across disciplines, biomedical researchers still show uneasiness, perplexity, and distress when asked about their past, present and future work with trans* individuals. Through analyzing field data, including oral narratives, digital material, and other linguistic materials collected from researchers as well as trans* individuals, this presentation explores the following questions: How does the conflation of sex and gender limit inquiries into the health of those who may have female reproductive systems, but do not identify their gender as a woman? Who is addressing the health concerns of those who identify as a woman, but do not have female reproductive physiology? How does this language choice contribute to a scientific definition of what a “woman” is? Linguistic anthropology can lend theories and methods to biomedical anthropology in order to unveil invisible and recurrent injustices to trans* individuals. Through a linguistic anthropological lens, biocultural health researchers can better understand how language ideologies influence their own research and the societal implications of the terms they utilize. By engaging in an interdisciplinary analysis, this presentation makes an important contribution to current anthropological debates about disciplinary boundaries and how to overcome them.
INVITED PAPER PRESENTED AT THE AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION MEETING (2016)
A biocultural medical perspective should consider the impact of reproductive systems as well as cultural factors related to gender that can affect health within society. However, many health researchers fail to differentiate between the biological category of sex and the sociocultural construct of gender. The conflation of these two terms reinforces ideologies of these constructs as strict dualisms and neglects the health concerns of many patients, including trans* individuals. In this paper, we argue that this oversight extends to the very labels that some health researchers identify under. Through analyzing field data, including oral narratives, digital material, and other linguistic materials collected from researchers as well as trans* individuals, this paper explores the implications of identifying as a “women’s” health researcher, due to an interest in female reproductive physiology. How do these dichotomous word choices limit inquiries into the health of those who may have female reproductive systems, but do not identify their gender as a woman? Who is addressing the health concerns of those who identify as a woman, but do not have female reproductive physiology? Finally, how does this language choice contribute to a scientific definition of what a “woman” is? Through a linguistic anthropological lens, biocultural health researchers can better understand how language ideologies influence their own research and the societal implications of the terms they utilize. By engaging in an interdisciplinary analysis, this paper makes an important contribution to current anthropological debates about disciplinary boundaries and how to overcome them.