Limitations of Spatial Data Infrastructure for LGBTQ Bodies and Identities

Authors: Cassandra Follett*, DePaul University
Topics: Geographic Information Science and Systems, Gender, Social Geography
Keywords: lgbtq, lgbt, transgender, spatial data infastructure, GIS, database, nosql
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As transgender bodies and identities become recognized bureaucratically, the limitations of current spatial data infrastructures in the realms of state, federal, medical, and corporate sectors to handle these bodies and identities becomes apparent. From the changing of names on Facebook to the rigid coding of bodies according to sexual characteristics, transgender persons face in many forms the inability of GIS and other information systems to properly accomodate changes in one's gender identity and other related signifiers. This paper explores the pre-digital historic issues facing the tabulation and recording of transgender bodies and identity going back to the german Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, bringing us to the present in the age of NoSQL databases, national conversations about bathroom privileges and third genders on passports, and the increasingly high profile malicious database breaches that threaten to showcase the financial history of cisgender people, but in transgender people the long (and typically documented) changes in previous and current identities. Beyond discussing the history of these developments and how current technologies and paradigms in GIS and spatial data infrastructure shape and influence the ways that transgender people access, shape, and present their identities in public and private, this paper investigates ways that this paradigms can change to be more reflexive and have capacity to reflect queer and transgender bodies. This paper suggests changes both in terms of best practices and design, as well as philosophical shifts in the way we know and categorize what is known about each other's bodies and frame such conversations.

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