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Out in the Bay

Univ. of Utah dean: ‘Gender is queer for everyone’

Kathryn Bond Stockton, a dean and English professor at the University of Utah, wrote "Gender(s)" published by MIT Press, 2021.
Lisa Duggan
Kathryn Bond Stockton, a dean and English professor at the University of Utah, wrote "Gender(s)" published by MIT Press, 2021.

"Gender is queer for everyone,” says scholar and author Kathryn Bond Stockton. She doesn’t mean “queer” only in the LGBTQIA+ sense — she means the dictionary definition: strange. “Gender is strange even when it’s played straight.”

In her new book, Gender(s), Kathryn Bond Stockton takes a questioning approach and encourages her readers to do the same. Stockton, a dean and English professor who teaches queer theory and theories of racialized gender at the University of Utah, asserts that gender is always racialized (“Gender norms in this country have been white norms”) and is intimately associated with money.

In Gender(s) and on this week’s Out in the Bay, she dismantles the concept of the gender binary, helps us understand the difference between “sex” and “gender” and explains how, for many of us, our surfaces – from genitalia to hair and clothing – may disagree with our internal biological layers, our mysterious thoughts and behaviors and our sense of self. Essentially, she contends, everyone’s gender is queer in these ways.

“Look at the definition that is most common right now for transgender: ‘Somebody who does not feel right in their sex assigned at birth,’” says Stockton. “To be defined as trans, you need not have a hormonal regimen, … biomedical intervention or surgery. You just need to not feel right in your sex assigned at birth. That defines many of us.”

Kathryn Bond Stockton is Distinguished Professor of English, former Associate Vice President for Equity and Diversity, and Dean of the School for Cultural & Social Transformation at the University of Utah, where she teaches queer theory, theories of race and racialized gender, and twentieth-century literature and film. She wrote several books before writing Gender(s), including the Lambda Literary Award finalists Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame: Where “Black” Meets “Queer” and The Queer Child. Her recent memoir, Making Out, was a 2020 national finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Award. Find them on her home page.

Please help us keep bringing queer air to your ears. Out in the Bay is an independent non-profit production. Your gift will help keep LGBTQ voices and stories coming to you and others who might not be able to give. (Donate tabs on our website will take you to a Media Alliance interface. Media Alliance is our non-proft 501(c)3 fiscal agent. Your gift will be earmarked for Out in the Bay.)

This episode was produced by Kendra Klang and edited by Lusen Mendel.

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Eric Jansen is a long-time broadcaster and print journalist. A former news anchor, producer and reporter at KQED FM, San Francisco; KLIV AM, San Jose; and Minnesota Public Radio, Eric's award-winning reports have been heard on many NPR programs and PRI's Marketplace. His print work has been in The Mercury News, The Business Journal, and LGBTQ magazines Genre and The Advocate, among other publications. He co-produced the June 2007 PBS documentary Why We Sing!, about LGBTQ choruses and their role in the civil rights fight.