Raewyn Connell (1944), born Robert William Connell, is the most influential Australian sociologist. Her research fields go from large-scale class dynamics, poverty and education, sociology of knowledge, sexuality and AIDS prevention to social change and gender relations. Her book “Masculinities” (1995) was one of the founders of this research field. She is currently university professor at the University of Sydney.
In the ILGA Trans Secretariat’s web page it’s written that it’s a paradox that the most important intellectual of masculinity is now a woman. First of all do you feel you are a woman?
No, I don’t feel I’m a woman. I know it. I don’t think that’s very different from the kind of knowledge other women have (and men too, about being men). For transsexual women, of course, the knowledge has definite complexities; yet there are gender complexities at some level in almost everyone’s life.
Do you feel you are a man?
For large parts of my life I tried to live as a man, but always with the underlying contradiction. That is the situation many transsexual women find themselves in. There is no simple resolution of that contradiction, and no outcome without serious costs – including costs to other people in our lives. It’s not a glamorous situation and should not be romanticised.
Do you think it is necessary to belong either to one gender or the other?
No, it is not necessary for everyone to be subjectively either a man or a woman. There are some people who try consistently to live without gender commitments. For instance, they live in de-gendered households, have emotional or sexual relations not determined by gender, present themselves with a mixture of gender symbolism, and demand that the state not classify them in gender terms. This is a brave project and these people have my admiration. But their project is incredibly difficult, because gender is a massive social reality, embedded in institutions as well as personal life. For the great majority of people, having a definite place in the gender order is a routine condition of life, a ground of everyday action.