Countering transphobic stigma: Identity work by self-employed Keralan transpeople

Publication Name

Gender, Work and Organization


Transpeople in India forge identities at the confluence of contradictory social forces. Interviews conducted in the state of Kerala suggest that the experience of transphobic stigma results in self-employed transpeople being abjectified. Social abjectification, in turn, triggers their identity work within liminal social spaces located between the everyday lifeworld and postcolonial legal institutions. Through this work, the participants in this study navigated the contradictions between two identity-constituting external structures: culture and law. Culture is a source of identity threat, but it also supplies a socially legitimated identity template—the hijra—used in the vital self-formative work of mirroring and witnessing. Similarly, trans-supportive social policies and laws provide institutional scaffolding for identities. Yet, despite the agential nature of the participants' identity work, the inherent limitations of the law and the vulnerability of embodiment render them susceptible to the ongoing threat posed by the transphobia emanating from ambient cultural norms.

Open Access Status

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