Author and USC professor Judith Halberstam, an expert on Gender Studies. (Todd Bigelow)

Author and USC professor Judith Halberstam, an expert on Gender Studies. (Todd Bigelow)Author and USC professor Judith Halberstam, an expert on Gender Studies. (Todd Bigelow)  Author and USC professor Judith Halberstam, an expert on Gender Studies. (Todd Bigelow)

As most any photojournalist will tell you, it’s the subject matter that draws us to the profession. And I’m no different. By and large, the subject matter is what makes a job interesting or boring. Meeting new people, exploring new cultures or segments of society with our cameras and learning about new subjects is a huge reason I remain in the field. I had a recent assignment to photograph a professor who teaches Queer Studies at USC (yes, they actually call it Queer Studies) who is a perfect example of why I enjoy what I do. The professor is a model for individuality and a great example of being true to yourself. In my opinion, a real asset to any USC student.

Professor Halberstam has researched and produced a body of work including several books that questions, among other things, a society’s perception of gender. I certainly won’t attempt to summarize a complex body of research here, but I can say that the work delves deeply into the idea of masculinity and gender. What does it mean to be “masculine” and what impact does that have on “gender.” Is it acceptable to be masculine only if you’re male? What does it mean to be a “male?” Does it mean that you have a particular genitalia or does it mean that you also look and behave in a “masculine” way?

The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote a profile on Professor Halberstam that I urge you to read. But before you click on the link below, take a look at the photos and tell me if you think Professor Halberstam’s first name is “Judith” or “Jack”. To put it another way, what gender is the professor? Is the professor a transgender? Leave a comment if you’d like and tell me what led you to your conclusion?

The story is here at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website:


























3 comments on “Gender Bending Assignment
  1. Conrad Honicker says:

    If you read this person’s work, I’m sure that you would not be asking that ridiculous question.

    It doesn’t matter what I think — it matters how your subject identifies. Hopefully, you cleared it with them and made sure it was ok for people to be taking hacked guesses about their identity. Otherwise, you’re definitely treading on unethical waters, Todd.

    • Todd says:

      Conrad, not only have I read her work, but I spent considerable time speaking with Judith personally. It’s plainly obvious that the question of her gender (as perceived by others) causes others to question if it’s okay for a woman to be “masculine.” Obviously, she’s perfectly comfortable in her look (and is a terrific person), but clearly society is not. How else do you explain her “Bathroom Test” reference to her being questioned about using the ladies room? Her work is about how society determines and perceives gender, not just about being comfortable in your own skin. Questioning what a masculine look is and how it influences a persons perception of gender is why I’m curious about what gender readers think she is. Do the tattoos influence your perception of masculinity? How about the “tough” poses, the short hair or the rolled up sleeves? If she had stood in a more “feminine” way, would that have influenced your perception of gender?

      Unethical waters? That’s a wild stretch.

  2. serwis canon says:

    Good ideas, good post.

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