We are delighted to announce that Erique Zhang has been named the recipient of the 2020 Graduate Fellow Research Award! ISGMH established the Graduate Fellow Research Award in 2017 to provide opportunities for high-level research and training for the next generation of sexual and gender minority (SGM) scholars.
Erique Zhang (they/them) is a Ph.D. student in the Media, Technology, and Society program in Northwestern University’s School of Communication. Their research investigates how transgender women and transfeminine people make sense of beauty standards and passing (that is, being read by strangers as a presumably cisgender woman), and how the imperative for transfeminine people to pass impacts their mental and emotional wellbeing.
Zhang received the award to support a study focused on how transgender women and transfeminine people conceptualize and experience passing. Zhang aims to shift the debates about passing away from moral value judgments towards an understanding of how transfeminine people utilize passing as a strategy to navigate a hostile public and how that impacts their mental health and wellbeing. Zhang conceptualizes passing as a form of labor that demands trans people invest time, resources, and physical and mental energy into “the attainment of cisgender aesthetics.”
Zhang will use the Graduate Fellow Research Award to support ongoing data collection consisting of interviews with trans women and transfeminine people. Through this research, they hope to understand both the aesthetic labor that is involved in passing as well as how trans people invest in passing as a strategy to navigate social environments that are often hostile towards them.