Gender Panics

Gender panics occur in moments when biology-based ideologies of gender are disrupted, and cis people struggle to understand where real and imagined trans people fit in gendered categories. A form of policing trans bodies, gender panics are frantic reassertions of a “natural” male–female binary. Across different social environments, including workplaces, restrooms and locker rooms, athletics, prisons, shelters, and feminist communities, these panics are, at their core, about upholding the logic of gender segregation.

Because gender-segregated spaces depend upon definitions of gender to determine who does or does not belong, these panics serve to reinforce, as well as restrict, access to gendered spaces, as determined by biology, legal identification, and/or self-identity. Such panics are particularly heightened regarding trans women’s access to women’s spaces. In this moment ...

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