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Just Be(ing) Yourself: Transgender Women of Color in Los Angeles’ Everyday Public Spaces


The ability to express one’s self, or simply ‘be yourself’ in public space remains a predominant concern among historically marginalized groups, and should be an important consideration in public space planning. Among those groups whose right to self-expression has failed to materialize in the public realm, the LGBTQ community is conspicuously absent from planning literature and discourse. Verbal harassment, bullying, service refusal, and physical violence are only a few of the ways LGBTQ people, particularly homeless youth and transgender women of color (TWOC), continue to experience public discrimination. By examining how TWOC perceive and interact with ‘everyday’ public spaces in Los Angeles, this thesis attempts to better understand the physical and social characteristics of everyday, public places that contribute to TWOC feeling more or less comfortable being themselves. The research uses qualitative methods, that include 1) a preliminary set of semi-structured interviews; 2) visual documentation, and 3) a second set of semi-structured interviews. Participants were invited to photograph the public spaces they use on an everyday basis, and were asked to consider how their feelings of comfort vary across these spaces. The research shows that everyday public spaces reflect social norms around gender identity, sexual orientation, and race, leading to compounded experiences of discomfort among TWOC individuals. At the same time, the degree of comfort varies depending on the social and physical conditions of public spaces.

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