By C. Riley Snorton

About C. Riley Snorton

C. Riley Snorton is Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Cornell University. He is the author of Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity (2017) and Nobody Is Supposed to Know: Black Sexuality on the Down Low (2014).


Derived from the Latin word genus, which refers to a race, class, or kind of something, “gender” shares its root word with concepts such as “genre,” “genealogy,” “genetics,” and “genius,” among others. Its etymology provides a partial context for how the term is frequently deployed to describe a finite system of types that are indexical of a bipartite model of sex to confer either a masculine or feminine designation. Among humans, and with an implied binaristic model of gender intact, gender is conceptualized as the product of a patriarchal ordering of difference invested in maintaining a relation of male dominance to female subordination. Although gender is colloquially used to refer to a generalizable typology to designate species into “men,” “women,” and sometimes “transgender” or nonbinary categories, such usage for black and blackened people is, at best, imprecise and, at worst, obscurant given gender’s arrangement with race and other modalities …

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