BOOK REVIEW: NO OUTLAWS IN THE GENDER GALAXY

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The book No Outlaws in the Gender Galaxy is based on a research study conducted by LABIA to understand gender through the lives of queer persons assigned gender female at birth (PAGFB). The book looks at the wide spectrum of gender beyond the strict gender perception as binary, either man or woman.

Looking into LABIA’s 2013 research study, ‘Breaking the binary: understanding concerns and realities of queer persons assigned gender female at birth across a spectrum of lived gender identities,’ this book looks to challenge the strict idea of binary gender and introduces a larger spectrum.

Besides one being announced and assigned as a boy or girl at birth, gender is also largely construed. It opens the reader into the complexities of a world with binary rules making those who are trans’ feel the need to conform to either of the gender binaries or have them face the consequences of non- conformity. There is little, if non accommodation of people who do not identify as either.

The narrated experiences of queer PAGFB reveal more on undefined different genders beyond the socially accepted and celebrated binaries. All fifty of the respondents interviewed were assigned gender female at birth but have chosen to live non- heteronormative lives using different definitive gender phrases from ‘woman with a difference’, ‘society made me feel a woman but I have denied and challenged it’ to ‘between transgender and lesbian’ etc. The book also looks into the various factors that the respondents waded through to survive societal norms, family expectations, public and work spaces among others. For most, it was easier to adopt their specified gender preferences freely in anonymous urban locations, however, not all spaces allow this room for negotiation or access to the queer PAGFB compared to the cismen.

The authors and researchers open up room for us to question societal tendencies to assign people into the largely accepted gender binary signs and nods. The reader is introduced into an open minded thinking of not only themselves but others by looking into the respondent’s choice to defy the binary system and having to choose their ‘self- assigned identities’. These choices give room for wide possibilities opening into permeable multi- gendered identities if society changes its perspective on the existence of the same in institutions and public spaces.

We are introduced into a new term, gender ‘plasticity’ to replace ‘fluidity’. It is seen as a characteristic of gender where it can be expressed differently in various stages or circumstances based on external structures and prevalent social trends that influence one’s internal desires. The authors’ emphasize on a re- think into gender as an identity influenced by several forces working together with a person’s class, sexual orientation, race, caste, education and have you. One may choose not to identify with a gender preferably because of the expectations of it or the influences of its structure but may agree with it based of the non- conventional ideas of it. It may be because of external influences or perhaps because of what the person feels at the time of identity.

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