Gender Gaps w/o Bias, Gender Variance History, Althea Garrison

June 22, 2018

In a recent report by PS: Political Science & Politics, self-audits of five major political science journals show that while there is significant underrepresentation of publications by women in the field, this underrepresentation is not due to systematic bias. For example, for the journal Comparative Political Studies, author’s rank, co-authorship, and methodological approach were important predictors of success, but gender was actually not a predictor. Possible explanations for the underrepresentation of women include pipeline issues, the subtopics and methodological approaches chosen by women, women not strategically submitting to the “right” journals, and “possible underconfidence among women and overconfidence among men seeking to publish.” Dawn Langan Teele, Janice and Julian Bers Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, makes the important point that even if there is no “systematic gender bias in the editorial process,” academic publishing itself is not free of bias. She suggests one part of the solution would be to welcome women “onto collaborative teams early in their careers.”

Gender Gap Without Gender Bias?, by Colleen Flaherty of Inside Higher Ed


While some people argue that being transgender is a “new concept,” “symptom of the postmodern condition,” or “identity politics on steroids,” gender-variant people have actually existed for centuries all across the world. Indian hijras—“a blanket term applied to people Westerners might define as transgender, intersex, or eunuchs”—can be traced back thousands of years; in the pre-colonial period they were associated with having sacred powers. Many indigenous tribes located in present-day North America (such as the Navajo, Mohave, and Lakota people) continue to recognize and celebrate multiple genders. According to some historical accounts, ancient Roman empress Elagabalus may have pursued sexual-confirmation surgery, paving the way for il femminiello—“individuals assigned male at birth who dressed and behaved like women in Naples, Italy”—to be considered “a blessing and good fortune” during the eighteenth century. Today, writer Lucy Diavolo notes the dual importance of recognizing the history of gender-variant people and “respect[ing] their sovereignty in defining their own identities.” She writes, “While it might be tempting to apply a label like “transgender” to all of these people…European colonialism was a major force in hurting and erasing gender-variant people. Using Western terminology to understand other cultures’ gender variance might only result in perpetuating that harm and erasure.”

Gender Variance Around the World Over Time, by Lucy Diavolo of Teen Vogue


When poet and playwright Dev Blair began researching Althea Garrison, the first transgender person to be elected to a state legislature before Danica Roem was able to do so openly, they felt instantly connected to her background. Georgia-raised and Boston-educated, Garrison was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives before being publicly outed by the Boston Herald without her consent. Despite running for public office countless times afterwards, Garrison hasn’t won any elections since—a fact that saddens Blair, for multiple reasons. While Garrison held complex political opinions that included being pro-labor union but anti-same-sex marriage and abortion, Blair notes that Garrison’s life and career “challenge the very idea that there is only one particular way of being a black trans person.” When questioning why Garrison has been forgotten by history, they conclude that “it is the way in which a racist, transantagonistic culture denies black trans individuals the space to exist as complex human beings, which results in violence that is directed toward black trans individuals who don’t fit whatever America has decided the single story of black transness is.”

The Forgotten History of the First Trans Lawmaker, by Dev Blair of Lenny Letter