Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Mary Beth Mader

Committee Member

Thomas Nenon

Committee Member

Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson

Committee Member

Michael Monahan


The dissertation presents a philosophical analysis of social possibilities in connection with gender. Specifically, the dissertation concerns how people take up social possibilities for different ways of living gender and how these possibilities emerge. The goal of the dissertation is to construct a philosophical framework that can be used to analyze social possibility in connection with trans (transsexual, transgender and gender non-conforming) existence. The dissertation argues that it is salutary to analyze the how concepts, practices and embodiment affect access to gendered social possibilities. The dissertation draws first on Heidegger in order to develop an ontological account of possibility as a feature of human beings, along with an account of how people access gendered social possibilities through everyday and theoretical understandings of the world and through practices. Next, the dissertation draws on Foucault in order to analyze how power affects peoples access to social possibilities through its operations in the social field. The dissertation then turns to an analysis of medical and psychological knowledge production practices in connection with transsexuality in the mid-20th century in the United States with a view to how these knowledge production practices conceptualized trans existence. Lastly, the dissertation turns to trans theory in order to analyze conceptual developments in that field that can serve as alternatives to the earlier medicalized conceptualizations of trans life. The dissertation argues that while some social possibilities are made apparent or disclosed in the social world in ways that make these possibilities seem obvious, other possibilities remain concealed or not obvious. Alternative, non-obvious possibilities for living gender, possibilities that trans people take up, fall into the category of these non-obvious possibilities. Thus intersubjective relations, or solicitude in Heideggerian terms, become an important way in which trans individuals are able to identify and take up non-obvious ways of living gender. The dissertation also argues that power relations condition the (1) disclosure of possibilities and (2) the formation and maintenance of social possibilities through their operation. Finally, the dissertation argues that attending to these considerations can serve as the basis for developing a rubric for analyzing specific theoretical developments in connection with trans existence.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest