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Breaking The Binary: Understanding concerns and realities of queer persons assigned gender female at birth across a spectrum of lived gender identities

There have been many far reaching discussions on the complexity of gender and sexuality within not just the queer movement, but also other movements, most notably the women’s and human rights movements. At the same time, we feel that even within the queer communities, those who are assigned gender female at birth but are constantly negotiating it, remain the most marginalised in terms of presence and rights.

Our study seeks to understand the lives and experiences of those who have been assigned the female gender at birth but whose life trajectories reflect a constant tension with the binary definition of gender as just female or male. This is often reflected in the discomfort one may feel with the pressure to fit into the category “woman” in multiple ways –  within a person’s clothes, language, gender expression, gender roles, and such like. We wish to understand the circumstances and situations of those who are made to, or expected to, fit into the female gender but who see themselves as different in terms of their gender identity, perform different gender roles, possess or cultivate different gender attributes from those imposed by societal norms and conventions, and who may have a different relationship to their bodies.

How have they mapped their lives through these several domains; how do they continue to negotiate private as well as public spaces; what have been the struggles and searches, the lacks and needs? The aim of this study is to both understand the lives of persons in gender locations marginalised by society as well as to articulate areas of concerns and interventions.

We feel our study will be a much-needed exploration into the lives of the spectrum of people who are assigned the female gender at birth but are charting different, and often complex, trajectories of gender in their lives. We embark on this study with the dual aim of visibility and of advocacy for those who occupy this vexed, largely ignored and much-misunderstood terrain.