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Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 639–656 | Cite as

‘For Fun’: (De) Humanizing Gisberta—The Violence of Binary Gender Social Representation

  • Maria Manuel Rocha Baptista
  • Rita Ilse Pinto de Loureiro Himmel
Original Paper

Abstract

In 2006, Gisberta Salce Júnior died inside of a pit, in an abandoned building, after being tortured for 3 days by a group of teenagers, in Porto, Portugal. Gisberta was a transgender woman who had moved to Portugal from Brazil in the 1980’s. In this paper, we explore the media coverage of her death as an illustrative case of existing social representations of gender, resulting in two main findings: that even those who are seen as communities of support and recognition perpetuate discourses of gender binary norms, and that the only apparent possibility to humanize and transcend these norms is materialized in artistic performance and production, which allows for a more emotional connection to the ‘subject’ as a human individual rather than a mere transgression. The analysis of articles about Gisberta revealed that there is a very strong social representation of gender as a binary, consisting rigidly of female and male poles. As such, the social representation of those individuals who transgress this binary, embodying alternative performances of gender, as was the case with Gisberta, is reduced to their sexuality, their embodiment of something other than the gender binary. Different perspectives were identified: media, the courtroom, the teenagers, LGTB activists and the arts. Through this analysis and division, it was possible to conclude that these binary norms are embedded to the extent that they permeate even the discourses of those who tend to speak for trans people, in such a way that it seems almost impossible to escape them, with one powerful exception: that of artistic expression, which seems to be the only topos from which true recognition is achieved. This case is an extreme example of the necessity to transcend gender norms and allow for recognition of individuals as such.

Keywords

Gender norms Social representations Media Performativity Transgender 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Manuel Rocha Baptista
    • 1
  • Rita Ilse Pinto de Loureiro Himmel
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Línguas Literaturas e CulturasUniversidade de AveiroAveiroPortugal

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