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Leah Reichstetter
ANTH270
Ethnography
Transgender in America
Introduction:
A subgroup that consists of approximately 770,000 Americans tends to be unheard of, even in its
own community unless there is a debate specifically about them. These people identify as
transgender, a term that covers more than just someone changing sex, and while this group of
pioneers are gaining more light in the media, they are still under represented and their stories are
often misused creating unjust stereotypes that can lead to horrible endings. Those who identify
under the transgender umbrella are strong and becoming more willing to tell their side of the
story for the sake of educating the masses.
Terms used in the interviews and throughout this ethnography:
Transgender: an umbrella term used to designate those who do not identify with their assigned
sex
Cisgender: a term used to describe those who identify with their assigned sex
Trans*: another way of denoting transgender
Gender Identity: how a person identifies their gender
Out: If a person is out they openly reveal their transgender status
LGBTQA: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual
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Section I
Methods:
I chose three informants to perform formal interviews via GoogleDoc. GoogleDoc was chosen,
because all three interviews were done not in-person, and there is a chat bar on the side to
discuss questions. This also allowed the informants to see that their answers were not changed in
any way. Jenna Crouch is a classmate of mine at Michigan Technological University and was
interviewed on 6-30-2013 from 1:35PM to 2:50PM. She is 19 years old, grew up in Grand
Rapids, Michigan, and identifies as genderqueer. Kris Berrios is an acquaintance of mine through
a mutual friend and was interviewed on 6-10-2013 from 11:04PM to 12:26AM. Kris is 23 years
old, lives in New Jersey, and identifies as transmale. Erin Taylor volunteered via an online forum
to participate, because my original transfeminine informant could not participate and was
interviewed on 7-15-2013 from 3PM to 4:19PM. Erin is 26, lives in Salem Wisconsin, and
identifies as female.
I could not attend any meetings, because most transgender support groups are college based and
only meet during the regular schoolyear. I interviewed Kris Berrios a second time on 7-09-
2013 to gain insight on an event that he attended called the Philadelphia Trans Health
Conference. I asked him before he attended if he could take mental notes for me, and he
explained the conference to me in answers to the following questions.
1. What is the gathering?
2. When did you go?
3. How often does this conference happen/how many times have you gone?
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4. Why did you go? Did you go with friends?
5. Would you have gone if it wasnt for your company?
6. Are you glad you went, and would you go again if you did not go with The Self Made
Men (previously mentioned company)?
7. What were your thoughts on the conference before attending, and how did you find out
information about the conference?
8. Where was the conference held?
9. Was the overall feeling accepting, or harsh?
10. How were the interactions at the conference with others different than in your everyday
life, since you arent normally surrounded by trans* folk?
11. What was there to do?
12. What types of people attended?
The following is the list of questions in the interviews with the three informants.
1. How do you identify in respect to your gender?
2. How do you identify in respect to your sexual orientation?
3. Has your sexual orientation changed with your gender identity?
4. When did you realize you were not cisgender?
5. Are you out?
6. How do your relatives feel about your trans* status?
7. How do your friends feel about your trans* status?
8. In what ways have your thoughts on trans* individuals/culture changed since you have
began taking part in trans* culture?
9. How do you feel that the T is represented in LGBTQA?
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10. How do you feel that trans* folk are represented in TV/movies/media?
11. What do you do on a regular basis that allows you to conform to traditional gender
stereotypes? ex: binding, shaving legs, wearing certain clothes, etc.
12. What do you do on a regular basis that may break traditional gender stereotypes? ex:
continuing sports/dance
13. What steps are you/will you be taking towards allowing your physical self to represent
your identity?
14. Kris/Erin: Why did you choose your current name? Jenna: Why do you prefer your
pronouns?
Summary of Data:
As I previously mentioned, I could not attend a service, but I did have an informant explain a
gathering to me. The gathering Kris attended was the Philly Trans Health Conference which
occurred July 13
th
-15
th
, Kris attended the 13
th
and 14
th
. This was Kriss first time attending this
annual event. He attended with his company, The Self Made Men, who had a table set up with
some products to sell. He said he would not have attended if it was not for his company
attending, but he was glad he went and plans on going again with or without the company. The
event had a website, but other than a list of seminars and groups attending, he had no idea what
to expect. Like many trans* people, he was excited to be emerged in a group of people of his
subgroup and supporters. Kris reported I have never been surrounded by so many accepting and
loving people in my life. More so than any pride parades I have been to. There were gender
neutral bathrooms, and everyone attending knew the correct terminology to use as opposed to
offensive terminology that trans* people are bombarded with in their daily lives. There were
many seminars and tables anyone could attend. The seminars talked about how to deal with
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being transgender in a cisgender dominated country, and many other topics relevant to
transgender life. The tables sold many products that are useful for a transgender person to own,
and many of these tables profits support trans* friendly organizations including fund raisers for
transgender surgeries which are often not covered by insurance. The conference was attended by
trans* people and their partners, parents, even siblings. People who are cisgender attended and
people of all ages attended.
The most common answer from the three informants was that they do not feel that the LGBTQA
community supports the transgender part of the acronym enough. The three informants also
shared feelings that the media does not cover transgender individuals fairly, and portrays them as
lesser than cisgender individuals. They all said that they were not educated in trans* culture until
they realized how it applied to themselves, but now they have a lot of respect for transgender
people. Generally, these people have not come out to their relatives, and in part do not expect to
ever come out to certain relatives. This is due to them expecting poor reactions from relatives.
The friends of the informants have generally been supportive and welcoming of each persons
gender identity. The difference between relatives and friends is most likely due to a generation
gap in what is socially acceptable.
Section II
Reflection on Data Collection
My interviews went extremely well, and exactly how I expected them to. The main difficulty
was finding a time in which the informants were available. Having prior relationships with two
informants, rapport was readily available, and the helpful and volunteering attitude of the third
informant was appreciated by me. I wish that I could have attended a support group with one of
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the informants, and that I could have personally interviewed each of them. I prepared my
questions before interviewing, and I am very satisfied with the information that I received from
the questions I asked.
Overall Reflection of Experience
The overall experience of this was great. I really enjoyed looking into a subgroup that interested
me, and getting away from the normal coursework. I really liked getting to see what
anthropological fieldwork is like. Its definitely different than engineering work, which is what I
focus on most of the time. I enjoyed this project, but would not want to do it for my profession.
Section III
Kris Berrios Interview
Date: 6/10/2013
Start Time: 11:04pm
Finish Time: 12:26 AM
Type of Interview: GoogleDoc with IM
Background:
Name: Kris Berrios
Age: 23
Residence: New Jersey
Questions:
1. How do you identify in respect to your gender? I identify as transmale.
2. How do you identify in respect to your sexual orientation? I am straight.
3. Has your sexual orientation changed with your gender identity? I did. It took a while for
me to be okay with the term "trans" being referred to me. I wanted to just be cismale. I
thought I was bi first, then lesbian, and when I became comfortable with trans I started to
identify as straight.
4. When did you realize you were not cisgender? Never identified as genderqueer. I was
pretty well coddled up until my senior year of high school and I hate admitting that ha.
I've always felt that I wasn't in the right body but up until I was 12 I figured out why. I
came across a trans documentary on discovery health and it changed my life forever.
Wish it was earlier or later in life? I've never actually thought about that. I think I would
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have acted the same if I had that experience earlier. AS for later in life I don't think that I
would be where I am today. President of the Straight And Gay Alliance on my school
campus and Social Media Lead for The Self Made Men, a transmale founded and run
company for education towards the transmale community.
5. Are you out? I'm out to a select members of family. As for my friends, they all know
and they all use male pronouns. My friends get more annoyed when people use female
pronouns towards me than I do. I do live as male on a daily basis, not on Testosterone
yet. Though I did find a doctor that is willing to work with me without having to go to
therapy first. Sealth later in life? I've played with the idea of going stealth. I don't think I
would be able to do it. At least for me it wouldn't feel right to be able to jump though
hoops to get to where I want to be and not remember that. I'll go shirtless and wear my
battle scars with pride.
6. How do your relatives feel about your trans* status? My parents didn't take it well when I
came out to them as bisexual. I just don't think that coming out to them with a different
gender would be any better. My sister is completely supportive though. Telling parents in
future? I don't talk to my father whatsoever anymore, so that won't happen. As for my
mother, I probably will once I get my own place and start T. Reliance on mother slowing
process of transition? Completely and utterly. Though I am back at school and working
towards an associate's in criminal justice to go to a four year school for a Bachelor's in
Forensic Psychology with a minor in Gender Studies. And I'm hoping to start a t-shirt
company soon so money shouldn't be too much of an issue.
7. How do your friends feel about your trans* status? I'm one of the lucky ones that hasn't
lost a single friend. They managed to collect over $300 for my birthday to go towards my
top surgery. I'm truly lucky to have them in my life.
8. In what ways have your thoughts on trans* individuals/culture changed since you have
began taking part in trans* culture? Of course, I wasn't very aware of the process of how
everything worked in terms of hormone therapy. I was just as ignorant as the next person
until I was around the age of 12. Since I accepted the term trans towards myself I have
done so much research that I respect every single trans person that I encounter. Note:
Kris did not ever look down on trans* folk.
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9. How do you feel that the T is represented in LGBTQA? I feel that people aren't educated
enough on the trans community. And with that said its needless to say that those who are
ignorant just go on stereotypes. That is just asking for trouble if we continue on this path.
Why arent people educated? We are a quiet community. Its more socially acceptable to
be a cisgender queer individual but when you say that I am a trans gay guy, or tans
lesbian, its a completely different entity entirely. People are too afraid to come out. Or
when they do they'll eventually go stealth and set the clock backwards again.
10. How do you feel that trans* folk are represented in TV/movies/media? Like freaks. Ace
ventura alone has made that clear. It gets me so mad when they depict trans people in
that way. Referring to them as "it" as opposed to their pgp's (preferred gender pronoun).
Its not that difficult of a concept to understand that a person is not an object. Do you
think there has been more positive coverage in recent years as opposed to years previous
to this past decade? I feel that its been getting better slowly. With all the coverage that
trans* individuals have gotten there seems to be hope yet. Fallon Fox, a professional
MMA fighter, has been a great example of this as well.
11. What do you do on a regular basis that allows you to conform to traditional gender
stereotypes? ex: binding, shaving legs, wearing certain clothes, etc. I don't use the men's
bathroom solely because I don't bind during hot seasons. I don't mind using the bathroom
for what its intended for and then getting out quickly. I don't shave my legs and I don't
shave my arm pits everyday, I do it every once in a while to appease my girlfriend. I also
shave my face from time to time.Having blonde facial hair doesn't work well in my favor
right now
12. What do you do on a regular basis that may break traditional gender stereotypes? ex:
continuing sports/dance Well I only wear men's clothes. All the women's clothes that I
had I already donated. I don't really worry about what strangers think about me because
they'll be forgotten soon enough. I behave how I want without caring if someone
question's my gender.
13. What steps are you/will you be taking towards allowing your physical self to represent
your identity? I hope to be on T (testosterone) either towards the end of this year, or the
beginning of the next year. Plans on top surgery, not sure about bottom surgeries.
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Why did you choose your current name? Its just a shortened version of my birth name. I wanted
to be called Keith but only a few people would be capable of catching on. I'm good with Kris and
then changing my middle name to the masculine form.
Jenna Crouch Interview
Date: 6/30/2013
Start Time: 1:35pm
Finish Time: 2:50pm
Type of Interview: GoogleDoc with IM
Background:
Name: Jenna Crouch
Age: 19
Residence: Michigan (Grand Rapids and Houghton)
Questions:
1. How do you identify in respect to your gender? Well, for awhile I thought it was more of
a gender neutral thing. I didn't really feel like either a girl or a boy--just that I was me.
Above all else, I really hated being called a girl. It made me squirm. So I figured that
neutral, or agender, was the way to go. But after thinking about it for awhile and getting
more into the genderqueer part of... what, the trans* umbrella, I guess? It felt better.
Most of the time it's just mix of girl and boy, leaning one way or the other some days.
2. How do you identify in respect to your sexual orientation? Queer. The word I've always
liked is queer. I know that some people really don't like it, but it's been an alright term for
me. At first it really helped with the 'I don't have a set gender at any given time and that's
how most people identify their sexuality so how do I do this' thing, but now I just like it. It
sometimes feels a little... I don't know, snooty? To say that I just like who I like. But that's
what it feels like. And I think queer does a good job of explaining that.
3. Has your sexual orientation changed with your gender identity? Not too much. I was
pretty aware of it before I figured out I wasn't a cis girl. The GQ revelation just allowed
me to refer to all of me as queer and that ended up being super convenient.
4. When did you realize you were not cisgender? Near the end of last summer was when it
started to really sink in. I'd met some people who were either agender or somewhere
between FtM and GQ and that kind of just opened my eyes that all of this existed.
5. Are you out? In real life? Nope! Not at all. There are about 100+ strangers on the
Internet that know, though. And a few people in real life, I guess.
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6. How do your relatives feel about your trans* status? And if relatives don't know, how do
you think they'd feel? The two relatives that know are very cool about it. My sister was a
little confused when I first told her, but when I talked to my cousin (who is the other
relative that knows) about it, she said it was probably because of the being away at
college thing than actually coming out. As for the rest of my family... well, I figure it'll be
a little rough at first, but okay in the end.
7. How do your friends feel about your trans* status? Everyone has been super cool about
it! I mean, the ones I've directly come out to. There have been people I've met, like, on the
Internet that must have seen it somewhere on my blog, but it hasn't come up directly
between us. But then they still talk to me and haven't sent any hate mail when I make a
post about it, so either they're really good at keeping all their hate bottled up or it's really
not that big of a deal.
8. In what ways have your thoughts on trans* individuals/culture changed since you have
began taking part in trans* culture? I don't really think it's changed that much. I didn't
think that much about trans* culture before. Although I think I probably would have been
kind of uncomfortable with the cishet hate that some people have. Just the general feeling
of it wouldn't be productive, you know? But now I know that isn't the point. If they aren't
going to want to support your rights because you're angry and mean sometimes, then
they're not worth it.
9. How do you feel that the T is represented in LGBTQA? Pretty poorly. Like I said before,
I was certain I was a part of LGBTQA, but I didn't really think or know about, well, the
last three letters, I guess.
10. How do you feel that trans* folk are represented in TV/movies/media? Well, considering
I am among several people I know who will create trans headcanons for every fandom
they're in, not well enough at all. I can't really think of a show that has a trans*
character at all right now. When trans* people are brought up, it's usually a joke. And
really, really annoying.
11. What do you do on a regular basis that allows you to conform to traditional gender
stereotypes? ex: binding, shaving legs, wearing certain clothes, etc. Not a whole lot,
usually. I've found that I'm really very lucky in the sense that I'm dfab, so if I wanna wear
just a tshirt and jeans, it's fine. That's usually as far as I get with feeling masculine, since
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I don't own a binder. Usually my gender dysphoria in general isn't so bad, so even on my
more masculine days I don't feel too bad about having a somewhat curvy figure. Which
make me INCREDIBLY lucky and I'm very glad for it. As for more feminine things,
usually when I'm at home I feel more inclined to shave because I'm not really out.
12. What do you do on a regular basis that may break traditional gender stereotypes? ex:
continuing sports/dance I guess the fake facial hair is the only thing I really do that
breaks the gender stereotype. Unless you count being an engineer. Um. I guess I just
don't consider a lot of what I do to be either feminine or masculine, so it's hard to feel
like I'm breaking gender stereotypes much at all. I do like suits a lot, though, so I guess
that would count, too.
13. What steps are you/will you be taking towards allowing your physical self to represent
your identity? At this point I'm not really planning on doing anything at all. I've thought
about making changes before, but right now they're just not for me. I'll change my hair as
I please and put on make up if I feel like it, but that's it.
14. Why do you prefer your pronouns? And what pronouns do you prefer with being more
genderneutral? I don't really know. Pronouns have always been a weird thing with me.
For awhile I was trying ve/ver/vers because... I don't know, they were close to the
feminine pronouns that I was always used to. Now I'm finding it harder to really care at
all. I assume the people who were actually using ve/ver/vers will probably continue to
use them, and everyone who has used she/her/hers will continue to use them, too. So, I
guess what I'm trying to say is pronouns don't really matter that much to me. Except it. It
will never be acceptable.





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Erin Taylor Interview
Date: 7/15/2013
Start Time: 3:00pm
Finish Time: 4:19pm
Type of Interview: GoogleDoc with IM
Background:
Name: Erin Taylor
Age: 26
Residence: Salem, WI
Questions:
1. How do you identify in respect to your gender? I identify as female
2. How do you identify in respect to your sexual orientation? Pan, or bi depending on who
I'm talking to. I tend to claim bi to people who don't know about trans people and pan to
those who do. I avoid a lot of explaining that way.
3. Has your sexual orientation changed with your gender identity? Yes actually it has, my
discovery of being trans has lead to a lot of questioning about myself. It's lead to my
orientation moving from slightly bi curious to pan. But, it has more to do with being more
open with myself because of the questioning and almost nothing to do with being trans.
Do you think if you weren't trans you would be as open to yourself about being
pansexual? If I weren't trans I would probably be less open with myself in general. I was
always trying to fit in the role that I was told I was. So orientation, hobbies, movies,
feminism, and quite a few other things may not have been incorporated in how I behave
and think.
4. When did you realize you were not cisgender? About 3 years ago, when I was asleep I
had a dream where I was a teenage girl on the phone with a guy I liked. It felt so natural
and very very different from how I felt awake.
5. Are you out? Yes and no, I'm out at home and in my private life, mostly. But not at
work because I'm no where near ready for going full time
6. How do your relatives feel about your trans* status? My dad likes to pretend its not
happening. Mom is actually being the most proactive about it and is using the correct
pronouns and name. She's also attempting to get my first few therapy sessions covered by
her insurance. My brother is using the right name and for now that's fine. My Aunt won't
allow me to dress as or anything in her house so I don't plan on visiting.
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7. How do your friends feel about your trans* status? Most of them are great about it. After
they see how I behave and think "it's obvious" according to most of them. Then there are
the few who are no longer my friend trying to "save" me with the lord.
8. In what ways have your thoughts on trans* individuals/culture changed since you have
began taking part in trans* culture? Mostly that I now know they exist, I didn't find out
until about 4 years ago and at that point I didn't know any. I do think that most trans
people who want to help other trans people discover who they are tend to be quite a bit
overzealous. When I was starting to feel my way around the trans community I went on a
forum to ask for a little advise on what other trans girls did to cope when they didn't have
much in the way of clothes, make-up, and other feminine things. What I got was: Let me
contact my person in your area and we will see if we can find you a therapist, maybe
some hormones, clothes, and so on. It was way too much for me to handle at that point. I
had just come out and I wasn't ready for huge leaps forward mentally or financially.
Most of the people I've met though are fantastic!
9. How do you feel that the T is represented in LGBTQA? Poorly at best, actively pushed
aside at worst, same goes for the Q and A
10. How do you feel that trans* folk are represented in TV/movies/media? For the most part,
like we are freaks. The media actively enforces the trans* stereotypes aside from the rare
glimmers of hope where we are portrayed as normal people. I just wish that the roles
would go to a trans actor every now and then.
11. What do you do on a regular basis that allows you to conform to traditional gender
stereotypes? ex: binding, shaving legs, wearing certain clothes, etc. I shave, use make-up,
take up less space, and dress up (I love dressing up!) among other things. In the future, I
may bind to keep from outing myself at work until I'm ready. To be honest the only things
I don't like doing that conform to the female gender role is shaving and make-up. I don't
like shaving, but I like not having body hair. I just plain never liked most make up. That
said I do a lot that's not considered girly as well and I'm also aiming to be a teacher in a
male dominated field (math or physics).
12. What do you do on a regular basis that may break traditional gender stereotypes? ex:
continuing sports/dance Basic vehicle maintenance, computer troubleshooting, and play
games of various kinds.
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13. What steps are you/have taken towards allowing your physical self to represent your
identity? I will be getting Laser Hair Removal done EVERYWHERE, HRT, Facial
feminization (maybe depends on HRT results), tracial shave, SRS, maybe lypo. My first
goal is to pass, then its SRS. So depending on how well I feel I'm passing at any given
point the list may change.
14. Why did you choose your current name? Originally, because I wanted to change my
name to something that could be taken for either gender. I've stuck with it because it fits
and its only a one letter difference from my legal name.

Kris Berrios Interview
Date: 7/9/2013
Start Time: 9:40 PM
Finish Time: 10:25 PM
Type of Interview: GoogleDoc with IM (informal)
Background:
Name: Kris Berrios
Age: 23
Residence: New Jersey
Questions:
1. What is the gathering? Philly Trans Health Conference
2. When did you go? I was there for the 13th and the 14th, I left on the 14th after it was
over but it continued for another day.
3. How often does this conference happen/how many times have you gone? Its once a year
if I recall correctly, this was my first time attending.
4. Why did you go? Did you go with friends? I went for my company, The Self Made Men,
we had a table set up with some products that we sell. I went by myself but I met up with
other employees and made some great friends while I was there
5. Would you have gone if it wasnt for your company? Probably not, I only attended one
seminar (I somewhat forgot to check the schedule ha) but I had an amazing time working.
Even managed to do an interview for GenderCast.
6. Are you glad you went, and would you go again if you do not go with The Self Made
Men? I am glad that I had the chance to go. I would definitely go again even if its not
with The Self Made Men.
7. What were your thoughts on the conference before attending, and how did you find out
information about the conference? I was excited, nervous, and anxious all at the same
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time. It was a really weird sensation. I was a transguy who had no interaction with other
trans people in the real world and I get thrown into an environment with nothing but
trans people. Thankfully the conference has a website so I somewhat knew what to
expect. But even that was not enough
8. Where was the conference held? It was held at the Pennsylvania Conference Center in
Philadelphia.
9. Was the overall feeling accepting, or harsh? I have never been surrounded by so many
accepting and loving people in my life. More so than any pride parades I have been to.
10. How were the interactions at the conference with others different than in your everyday
life, since you arent normally surrounded by trans* folk? Everyone was completely
respectful of using the correct pronouns. There were gender neutral bathrooms. Every
one was interested in asking about packers and binders. It was an amazing experience
that I truly needed.
11. What was there to do? (buy things, talk to people, listen to speeches?) There were a lot of
different seminars that anyone could attend, buy products such as packers, harnesses, t-
shirts, even books and brownies (the brownies had peanut butter on them and they were
amazing). There were a lot of people that came up to our table and I had some very
interesting conversations. I made three really good trans guy friends there. Do you think
those friendships will last a long time now that you've been away from the conference? I
have managed to stay in contact with all of those guys. One lives on the west coast
unfortunately, another lives about 40 minutes away from me, and the other lives in Philly.
I have already made plans to meet up with the guy from Philly next month
12. What types of people attended? Trans, cis, certain ages, from all over or mostly near
Philadelphia? Any type of person that you could think of was there. I saw trans* people
with their partners, parents, siblings. There were kids there and people that looked like
they were retired.