sprinkle: an undergraduate journal of feminist and queer studies


Josie Wenig


Gender play as a mode of exposing hegemonic gender norms has become over determined and circumscribed within queer discourse. Subversion becomes only possible through hyperbole, drag, and performance. We play with gender, we fuck with it, and that’s that. What would a different framework, one that accounts for the very real labor of gender, look like and how would this redefine resistance? Discussions of “gender play” leave some things to be desired: an intersectional understanding of how people negotiate gender presentation, and a way to talk about how gender can be intentional, strategic, and still subversive. These considerations become even more pressing for queer and trans youth who perform extensive labor to navigate through and between hostile spaces. With these gaps in mind, I introduce the term gender work. Gender work describes the often unseen negotiations with gender that LGBTQ youth are constantly managing in order to balance identity and queer subjectivity with systems that seek to eradicate them. Culture, race, and class create differing and shifting hurdles for queer and trans youth; often, “invisibility” can be an intentional, agentic decision. This paper argues that gender work, despite its subtlety relative to gender play, is a crucial form of survival and subversion for LGBTQ youth.

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