Transgender Women and the Male Gaze: Gender, the Body, and the Pressure to Conform

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Transgender women may feel pressured to achieve certain societal standards for women that are largely created and reinforced by a society that prioritizes male perspectives. The male gaze, as it is termed, has been found to be associated with appearance anxiety, body shame, and insecurity for cisgender women. To date, the experience of the male gaze has not been examined exclusively with transgender women. It is a particularly important topic to explore as transgender women often face additional discrimination and pressure for being transgender. The current study aimed to answer the following research question: How does the male gaze influence the experiences of transgender women with their body? Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to analyze interviews with eleven transgender women. Four themes emerged from the data: (a) male gaze as potentially harmful and dehumanizing, (b) internalization of the male gaze, (c) male gaze as affirming, and (d) absence or rejection of the male gaze. Subthemes were also identified and explored. This research is significant for several reasons. Understanding the experiences of transgender women and the male gaze allows for more targeted interventions and guidance for mental health practice. On a larger scale, this study informs on advocacy, and challenges cultural expectations and stereotypes for transgender women, while emphasizing self-expression, authenticity, and acceptance.
male gaze, transgender, transgender women, body, interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA)
Lefebvre, D. (2020). Transgender Women and the Male Gaze: Gender, the Body, and the Pressure to Conform (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from