Men in Place

Trans Masculinity, Race, and Sexuality in America

2019
Author:

Miriam J. Abelson

Men in Place

Daring new theories of masculinity, built from a large and geographically diverse interview study of transgender men

American masculinity is being critiqued, questioned, and reinterpreted for a new era. In Men in Place Miriam J. Abelson makes an original contribution to this conversation through in-depth interviews with trans men in the U.S. West, Southeast, and Midwest, showing how the places and spaces men inhabit are fundamental to their experiences of race, sexuality, and gender.

In Men in Place, Miriam J. Abelson foregrounds the lives of an intentionally diverse sample of trans men in the U.S. to address shifts in the look and feel of powerful intersecting systems of inequality. In this brilliantly written, theoretically sophisticated, interdisciplinary, and compassionate study, Abelson poses new challenges to research on masculinities and gender and sexual inequality that illuminate dynamics of power and inequality that reach far beyond the lives of the trans men she studied.

Tristan Bridges, University of California, Santa Barbara

American masculinity is being critiqued, questioned, and reinterpreted for a new era. In Men in Place Miriam J. Abelson makes an original contribution to this conversation through in-depth interviews with trans men in the U.S. West, Southeast, and Midwest, showing how the places and spaces men inhabit are fundamental to their experiences of race, sexuality, and gender.

Men in Place explores the shifting meanings of being a man across cities and in rural areas. Here Abelson develops the insight that individual men do not have one way to be masculine—rather, their ways of being men shift between different spaces and places. She reveals a widespread version of masculinity that might be summed up as “strong when I need to be, soft when I need to be,” using the experiences of trans men to highlight the fundamental construction of manhood for all men.

With an eye to how societal institutions promote homophobia, transphobia, and racism, Men in Place argues that race and sexuality fundamentally shape safety for men, particularly in rural spaces, and helps us to better understand the ways that gender is created and enforced.

Awards

Winner of the 2020 Distinguished Book Award from the American Sociological Association’s Sociology of Sex and Gender Section

Men in Place

Miriam J. Abelson is assistant professor of women, gender, and sexuality studies at Portland State University.

Men in Place

In Men in Place, Miriam J. Abelson foregrounds the lives of an intentionally diverse sample of trans men in the U.S. to address shifts in the look and feel of powerful intersecting systems of inequality. In this brilliantly written, theoretically sophisticated, interdisciplinary, and compassionate study, Abelson poses new challenges to research on masculinities and gender and sexual inequality that illuminate dynamics of power and inequality that reach far beyond the lives of the trans men she studied.

Tristan Bridges, University of California, Santa Barbara

What does it mean to be a man in the 21st century? Through moving interviews with trans men from across the United States, Miriam J. Abelson documents that there is no easy answer to this question. Men in Place shows us that we cannot begin to understand what it means to be a man without understanding race and space. Abelson weaves a story of manhood that is almost always just out of reach for all men, a Goldilocks masculinity that must be managed, tailored, and altered depending on the environment. Men in Place is a must read for scholars interested in masculinity and its meanings across space.

C.J. Pascoe, University of Oregon

Men in Place boldly investigates the intersections of white supremacy, economic strain, and rurality as they shape disparities in the experiences of rural trans men of color and their white counterparts. With powerful detail, Miriam J. Abelson demonstrates how the willingness of cis people to embrace trans men as men is shaped by their perception of local and external threats to their community—threats that are not just related to gender and sexuality, but also demographic and economic transformations. This book's substantial and diverse sample of trans men and its critical race and feminist theoretical orientation make Men in Place a unique and necessary contribution to trans studies.

Jane Ward, author of Not Gay: Sex between Straight White Men

The most impressive innovation for analysis is her sample, consisting entirely of trans men whose voices can matchlessly capture the experience of doing masculinity. Abelson explores the process of discerning how to become men across all contexts—but with particular attention to the challenges of bathroom behaviors and medical settings—through interviews that span rural, suburban, and urban gender norms.

CHOICE

Miriam Abelson’s book, Men in Place: Trans Masculinity, Race, and Sexuality in America (2019, University of Minnesota Press), is a masterpiece. It is an outstanding example of qualitative in-depth interviewing as well as feminist and grounded theory methodological approaches and analyses. Abelson’s work to travel the United States interviewing 66 diverse transgender men across the Midwest, South, and West resulted in her amassing one of the largest in-depth interview samples with this population conducted to date. In a technologically-mediated era, Abelson could have conducted these interviews using internet technologies. Instead, she painstakingly traveled thousands of miles, across four years, to ensure that she could develop rapport and potentially longer-lasting research partnerships and connections with participants. Her refusal to take research shortcuts reveals her careful attention to feminist research ethics and a desire to obtain the richest data possible for her important study.

Social Forces

Miriam Abelson’s book, Men in Place: Trans Masculinity, Race and Sexuality in America, is a masterpiece. It is an outstanding example of qualitative in-depth interviewing as well as feminist and grounded theory methodological approaches and analyses.

Social Forms

A complex and politically urgent text. Trans rights are under exceptional attack, and, as Men in Place makes clear, we will only be able to effectively advocate trans recognition and trans flourishing if we keep an intersectional analysis front and center. This lucid and meticulous book is thus not just a significant contribution to the scholarship on masculinity, sexuality, and race, it is also an imperative read for all of us fighting for trans livelihoods of all kinds.

Journal of Bodies, Sexualities, and Masculinities

Men in Place

Contents


Introduction: “I Don’t Have One Way to Be”


1. Masculinities in Space: Thugs, Rednecks, and Faggy Men


2. One Is Not Born a Man: Social Recognition and Situated Gendered Knowledges


3. “Strong When I Need to Be, Soft When I Need to Be”: Situated Emotional Control and Masculinities


4. Geography of Violence: Spatial Fears and the Reproduction of Inequality


5. Institutional Contexts of Violence: Heterosexism and Cissexism in Everyday Spaces


Conclusion: Contemporary Masculinities and Transgender Politics


Acknowledgments


Appendix A: Interviewee Demographics


Appendix B: A Note on Methodology


Notes