Centering Gender Euphoria

Speaker: Professor Quill Kukla (they/them)

The concept of gender dysphoria, typically understood as an experienced mismatch between one’s ‘inner’ gender identity and one’s body, has been central to defining and ‘diagnosing’ transness. As a result, trans lives are understood as essentially tragic and pathological. The concept of gender euphoria, which roughly can be understood as embodied joy, excitement, or pleasure at how one’s body expresses gender, is an important one in trans communities, and is central to trans experience for many, but it has received very little attention from academics, health care systems, or mainstream culture. I explore the idea that gender euphoria, and gender dysphoria understood as the complement of gender euphoria, are not specifically trans experiences. They can be experienced by anyone, although they are only named and pathologized for trans people. Centering euphoria rather than dysphoria helps break down inappropriately rigid distinctions between trans and cis people and the ossification of the gender binary. I argue that centering gender euphoria rather than gender dysphoria as a basic concept gives us a more accurate and more helpfully directive understanding of trans experiences and needs, as well as a less distorted understanding of gender itself. It also makes trans joy visible and lets us value trans embodiment on its own terms.

prof quill kukla
Speaker bio:

Quill Kukla is Professor of Philosophy and Director of Disability Studies at Georgetown University, and currently a Visiting Research Professor at Queen’s University Belfast. From 2021 to 2023, they also held a Humboldt Stiftung Research Award at the Institut für Philosophie at Leibniz Universität Hannover. They received a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh and an MA in Geography from the City University of New York, and completed a Greenwall Postdoctoral Fellowship at The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Their most recent book is City Living: How Urban Dwellers and Urban Spaces Make One Another (Oxford University Press 2021) and their forthcoming book is entitled Sex Beyond ‘Yes!’ (W. W. Norton & Co. 2024).