Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award

Fall 12-13-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Katie Acosta

Second Advisor

Dr. Wendy Simonds

Third Advisor

Dr. Veronica Newton


While Trans Studies analyzes, critiques, and rethinks the epistemological, ontological, and material mechanisms through gender shapes and is shaped by the social world, few studies in the Sociology of Trans Studies have thoroughly theorized and analyzed what exactly constitutes cis-ness. As such, I ask what constitutes cis-ness vis-à-vis sexuality, and how do the desirability discourse of cisgender-heterosexual men and cisgender-lesbian/bi/queer women enact necropolitical boundaries around Black trans women and trans women of color’s subjectivity? Utilizing semi-structured, in-depth interviews with a sample of 32 predominantly Black, cisgender-heterosexual men and cisgender-lesbian/bi/queer women, in addition to a focus group with four white/white-passing participants, and photo elicitation methodologies, I elucidate how Western ontologies of “body reasoning” (Oyěwùmí 1997) and gender essentialism remain prevalent. I argue that participants constructed trans bodies as surplus to the binary logic of cis-ness and as not only undesirable but unnecessary. I explicate rankings of photos of trans women of various races and expressions and detail my finding that cisgender-heterosexual men participants’ viewed a photo of a white, “cis-passing” trans woman as more desirable than photos of other women. I additionally conceptualize cis-ness as necropolitical by showing how violence becomes the justified vehicle for the symbols that circulate around “trans-ness” and functions to reconstitute masculinity, heterosexuality, and lesbian identity. Finally, I flesh out cis-ness as a multidimensional ideology. In doing so, I theorize cis-ness as an ideological, political, and social manifestation rooted in whiteness that disburses beyond the individual body.


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