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Bathrooms, Boundaries, and Emotional Burdens: Cisgendering Interactions Through the Interpretation of Transgender Experience

Symbolic Interaction

Published online on


Building on findings demonstrating that social institutions may cisgender realities by creating and enforcing binary notions of gender rooted in cisgender experience, this study examines the ways cisgender people reinforce cisnormative gender binaries in their ongoing interactions. Utilizing interviews with 99 cisgender people, I show how respondents react to a vignette about a gender nonconforming person seeking to use a public bathroom by “cisgendering interactions,” which I define as the process whereby people reassert binary understandings of gender to make sense of transgender experience while placing an unequal emotional burden on transgender and gender nonconforming people to mend the interactional disruption of the gender panic. Additionally, my analysis extends transgender scholarship by demonstrating some ways cisgender people make sense of transgender people in public spaces. In conclusion, I draw out insights for understanding (1) the ways people cisgender their realities in the face of conflicting stimuli, (2) the ways in which emotions are a mechanism of inequality reproduction, and (3) the consequences these actions have for the perpetuation of gender inequality.