Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 702–712 | Cite as

Emotion Work in the Public Performances of Male-to-Female Transsexuals

  • Douglas P. SchrockEmail author
  • Emily M. Boyd
  • Margaret Leaf
Original Paper


Much research has shown that entering the public sphere is emotionally taxing yet key to male-to-female transsexuals’ status passage. Yet, little is known about how transsexuals actively manage their emotions during this important transitional phase. Taking a dramaturgical approach to emotions, we explored how some male-to-female transsexuals managed their emotions in ways that helped generate self-confidence and commitment to their paths. Interviewees engaged in three primary forms of emotion work: (1) preparatory emotion work mitigated anxiety and bolstered confidence, which motivated them to enter public arenas as women; (2) in situ emotion work transformed negative emotions as they arose when performing womanhood in public; and (3) retrospective emotion work reinterpreted past public performances to neutralize negative and accentuate positive emotions.


Transsexuals Emotion work Gender performativity Passing 



We thank Daphne Holden, Irene Padavic, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Margaret Leaf and Emily Boyd contributed equally to this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas P. Schrock
    • 1
    Email author
  • Emily M. Boyd
    • 2
  • Margaret Leaf
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyMinnesota State UniversityMankatoUSA

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