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Accepted Paper:

50+ transgender women’s unruly performances of gender, sexuality, and (older) age on online dating platforms  
Nika Looman (Ghent University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores 50+ transgender women’s performances of gender, sexuality, and (older) age on online dating platforms in Belgium. The paper centralizes these performances to reveal and/or challenge ageist and cissexist normativities of sexiness, dating, and (online) intimacy.

Paper long abstract:

Little is known about the experiences of 50+ transgender women that are active on dating apps and websites. On these dating platforms, women are expected to live up to societal norms of beauty. At the same time, there may also be room for agency with regard to one’s own performance of gender, sexuality, and (older) age. In this paper, I adopt a new materialist approach to gain insights into how these counter-hegemonic performances are embodied in Belgium's digital spheres. I move beyond a sole focus on the human experience in order to include images, sounds and visual effects that are important in digital spheres.

In dominant, heteronormative notions of ageing, longevity, generativity, and heteronormative sexual attractiveness are central. When it comes to beauty, there are certain expectations that are thought to fit 50+ women. These are connected to maintaining a youthful appearance. When signifiers of an ageing body can no longer be masked, some beauty and body management practices are considered ‘too sexy’ rather than sexually attractive. These expectations apply for 50+ transgender women as well. Moreover, trans women are expected to render their gender performances intelligible in dominant discourse. Hence, while feminine, sexy clothes are deemed inappropriate for their age, presenting more androgynously may be unhelpful in ‘passing’ as women. By looking into 50+ trans women’s performances, I explore dominant notions of sexuality, sexiness, attractiveness, and how (online) dating and intimacy are challenged and redefined.

Panel Speak13
The bodies of older adults: media imageries, (in)visibility and public discourses on older persons’ gendered embodiment and physicality
  Session 1 Monday 29 March, 2021, -