Home > Catalogue > Annali di Ca’ Foscari. Serie orientale > Supplemento 59 | 2023 > Secondary Pathology: ‘Cisgender Fragility’ and the Pandemic Body Politic

Secondary Pathology: ‘Cisgender Fragility’ and the Pandemic Body Politic

Lyman Gamberton    SOAS University, London    



The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has seen an international explosion of anti-transgender sentiment being elevated to the level of law. Legislatures from Idaho to Hungary have banned transgender student athletes from competing as their true genders; revoked existing protections for trans people; and mandated the addition of ‘sex assigned at birth’ to state-issued ID cards. This spike in anti-transgender laws would be alarming in any year, but carries extra force and urgency as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold. The fact that so many different municipalities worldwide have used the opportunity of COVID-19 to enshrine anti-trans animus in law, or to propose its enforcement, or to prolong its effects, is not accidental. This raises the question of why now? I propose that transphobia and the concomitant championing of ‘traditional gender roles’ are intended to function not only as a distraction from mismanagement of pandemic responses, but as an attempt to create national cohesion by casting transgender people as subverters of the natural health and order of the body. Drawing both on the particular vulnerability of transgender people as a demographic in times of crisis, and on the critical concept of ‘cis fragility’, I argue that these anti-transgender policies function as attempts to reaffirm the ontological securitisation of the body politic.

Dec. 1, 2023
May 9, 2023
Nov. 24, 2022

Keywords: PrecarityOntological securitisationCOVID-19Moral panicsFragilityTransgender

Copyright: © 2023 Lyman Gamberton. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.