Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chairperson

Joan Woolfrey, PhD

Committee Member

Daniel Forbes, PhD

Committee Member

Simon Ruchti, PhD


This master’s thesis applies concepts in phenomenology and psychology to social justice, fictional works, and lived experiences. I argue that the marginalization of different gender identities is systemic, affecting people at both the individual level and society. I employ Shulamith Firestone’s contention that this oppression is rooted in the division of men and women into biological sex classes as a feature of Western society. For Firestone, the capacity of a person to give birth is tied to societal expectations ranging from but not limited to parenting, professional careers, and the culture of romance. To support the notion that these expectations are not merely a pressure, but an oppression, I provide phenomenological accounts of non-cisgender identities, i.e., identities that do not align with gender as it is assigned at birth. To affirm the legitimacy of these identities, I look to Smokii Sumac, providing evidence of these identities as predating the United States to further validate them in the face of the Western gender binary. Drawing upon Julia Serano, I provide different formulations of sexism as they exist under Western patriarchy, and relate them to real-life cases of injustice against non-cisgender people. Looking to the present-day, I give phenomenological analyses of members of these communities like actor Asia Kate Dillon, and looking to the future, I discuss what Western culture without a binary patriarchal paradigm could look like using the works of Marge Piercy. My goals in writing this are to contribute to the literature that argues that a binary gender system as ultimately damaging to individuals and to society more generally, and to validate varied gender expression as appropriate and necessary for the LGBT+ populace of the United States.