Date of Award

Spring 6-12-2019

Author Requested Restriction

Open Access (no embargo, no restriction)

Work Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Interdisciplinary Studies (MA)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Natalie Jolly

Second Advisor

Larry Knopp


Until recently the power to classify people by gender in the U.S. resided exclusively with the state and federal governments, both of which previously used the two binary gender options, female and male, and no others. Since 2017 this has begun to change as more states and cities have begun making third gender options available to those who do not identify as either. This represents a step forward towards greater acceptance of transgender, and particularly nonbinary identities within society. It is revolutionary in how the state administers “sex designations,” along with your name as the foundation of an individual’s legal identity in society. Trans people in both private and public spaces have to prove who they are as well as correct wrong assumptions, at times exposing themselves to public humiliation, exclusion, marginalization and even violence. These everyday situations give private citizens the power to analyze and pronounce judgment on everyone’s identity acting as agents of the state. How do third gender options work, how did we get here and what does this mean for the ongoing debate about gender and how it relates to identity politics, public policy, feminist and queer theory?