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SJ DillonCohort 2020


  • BA, Anthropology, University of Georgia


Transgender and gender diverse people[1] are garnering more attention within the United States and on a global level than ever before (Chen 2019): the 140 pieces of anti-trans legislation proposed in the United States in 2022 make this clear (Jones 2022). Dysphoria, currently defined as “clinically significant distress or impairment related to a strong desire to be of another gender, which may include desire to change primary and/or secondary sex characteristics” (Turban 2020), is considered foundational to transgender experience (American Psychiatric Association 2013). Yet, there is no full-scale research project focused specifically on dysphoria as an embodied experience that theorizes what dysphoria is and how it is contested in different spaces. This diagnosis is understood through standards of care as entirely binary according to notions of manhood and womanhood, and therefore only allows for certain legible notions of distress that accord with that binary. Manifold gender experiences, such as those that are nonbinary or are not embedded in specific cultural notions of gender that make up the standards of care are therefore illegible and untreatable as transgender. In order to develop medical, legal, and activist frameworks that can support and enable transgender people in pursuing their health and wellbeing, dysphoria must be a topic of analysis. Further, studying dysphoria as an embodied experience and side effect of engendering itself will open up new frameworks to analyze gender as a product of specific historical lineage and not neutrally universal: my research fundamentally questions, is dysphoria an affectual creation of the historically contingent project of gender in the United States and an embodied discomfort with the white supremacist foundations of that project? [2] My dissertation will provide an ethnographic account of a diverse group of trans communities in contemporary Atlanta, Georgia, and will compare discourses on gender dysphoria in national medical and state-level legal discourses to that ethnographic data. By focusing on discourses of dysphoria in medical and legal spaces, in comparison to those in Atlanta, Georgia this project seeks to shed light on the various understandings of dysphoria that proliferate across spaces and racialized experiences of gender in the U.S.

Advisor: Dr. Atshan