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8 Seattle J. Soc. Just. 515 (2009-2010)
Breaking Ground on a Theory of Transgender Architecture

handle is hein.journals/sjsj8 and id is 533 raw text is: Breaking Ground on a Theory of
Transgender Architecture
Lucas Cassidy Crawford1
By now, the Brandon Teena story is well archived . In 1993, John Lotter
and Marvin Thomas Nissen discovered that their friend had been born
female. The two men learned about Brandon's genitals-those bodily bits
which prompted the men's brutality-because of one seemingly simple fact:
after committing a minor misdemeanor, Brandon was held in a cellblock for
females. After sexually assaulting Brandon, the men were eventually
questioned but never detained. They murdered Brandon days later. If it
wasn't obvious why institutional sex-segregated architectures (from public
washrooms to shelters) are dangerous for transgender people before 1993, it
should have become obvious thereafter.
It is easy to make an argument that it is exclusively transphobia and
ignorance about trans-embodiment that grounds this often dangerous lack of
access. However, as architectural theorist Joel Sanders notes, architecture is
not a simple or neutral aesthetic category to which gender is merely
applied.4 Like any art form or cultural production, he suggests, architecture
is shaped as much by contemporary gender norms as contemporary
aesthetic ones. As Sanders puts it: Western architects and theorists from
Vitruvius to Le Corbusier . . . attempt to locate and to fix architecture's
underlying principles in a vision of transhistorical nature [by] recruit[ing]
masculinity to justify practice.5 To Sanders, the seeming gender neutrality
of architecture is merely a product of modernist architecture's attempt to
appear transhistorical6--as a timeless style of architecture above and
beyond fashion. This quotation from Sanders traces out a dizzying cycle of
influence: in his view, architectural forms and gendered bodies mutually

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