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Experiences of Trans Scholars in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Abstract

Trans individuals experience disproportionately high rates of victimization, discrimination and disparate treatment by the criminal processing system, as well as misrepresentation by the media. The importance and validity of studying transgender people’s experiences in the criminal processing system is beginning to be highlighted in criminology and criminal justice (CCJ), while the experiences of trans academics—who are among those leading the push toward the amplification of this line of research—remain largely unexplored. The authors, four transmasculine scholars in CCJ, draw from auto-ethnographic methods to shed light on the experiences of trans scholars within the academy and, in particular, within CCJ. We highlight how being trans has affected our experiences in various capacities as academics. We conclude by presenting suggestions for transgender scholars and their cisgender colleague and administrator allies.

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Notes

  1. Throughout this article, we use “transgender” and “trans” interchangeably to indicate both binary and nonbinary individuals whose gender does not match the one they were assigned at birth.

  2. Throughout this article, we use “LGBTQIA + ” to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and other marginalized identities related to sexuality and/or gender modality. Occasionally, however, we switch to other acronyms (e.g., LGBTQ) when discussing scholarship or organizations focused on a specific subset of these identities.

  3. We use the phrase, “criminal processing system,” rather than “criminal justice system,” to convey the lack of justice in our legal system—a system designed to punish those we label “criminal” rather than heal and transform communities.

  4. Upon switching to an autoethnographic study, we started by using the interview-based data we had assembled originally to create a framework and then each of us added our own experiences. Author order was agreed upon based on individual time spent on this article.

  5. We use these terms to group together the four authors, who identify more toward the “center” or the “masculine end” of the gender spectrum. We also use this term to denote that our experiences are different from transfeminine individuals, who are subject to transmisogyny on top of transphobia.

  6. Throughout this article, we capitalize “Black,” but not “white,” following the example of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) communities. This choice is, in part, to recognize a shared history of discrimination experienced by Black individuals, which is not shared by white people.

  7. While different people’s usage of multiple pronouns can vary, Ash and Brodie use different pronouns throughout this article to refer to themselves. As they are comfortable with both pronouns and they use them interchangeably.

  8. In order not to inflate the citation count of transphobic work, we have decided not to cite examples. For those curious about work regarding transphobic views, however, a search for the term “gender critical” will provide plenty, including a lengthy 2020 article in Feminist Criminology.

  9. A Unit Coordinator is an academic leader in Australian universities responsible for the development of an individual learning and teaching unit and overseeing its delivery, including coordinating teaching staff for the unit. Depending on the size of the unit, they may also be the unit’s Lecturer.

  10. An honor’s degree is a one- or two-year research program in Australia, usually representing the highest level of training in an undergraduate degree. It is also often considered postgraduate, as it is obtained as a separate qualification to the pass degree (Graduate Careers Australia 2016).

  11. Further complicating this issue, research produced by people with marginalized identities about people with marginalized identities is often trivialized, considered self-serving and dismissed as “mesearch,” (e.g., Buchanan 2020). We, too, have heard this feedback and we have found ourselves being required to justify engaging in this work.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the organizers and attendees of the “Centering the Margins: Addressing the Implementation Gap of Critical Criminology” conference held in Ypsilanti, Michigan, at Eastern Michigan University, for providing an outlet for and feedback on the presentation that led to this article. Thanks especially to Rita Shah. The authors would also like to thank the reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

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Walker, A., Valcore, J., Evans, B. et al. Experiences of Trans Scholars in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Crit Crim 29, 37–56 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10612-021-09561-5

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