Gatekeeping is the process by which individuals or (sub)communities are excluded from or policed by the broader community to which they belong due to intersectional discrimination, horizontal oppression, respectability politics, and so on. For example, the underrepresentation of and discrimination against women of colour within feminist discourse is in part a result of white feminist (i.e., racist) gatekeeping.
Gatekeeping involves impeding individuals from participating in a discussion (e.g., excluding trans women from feminist conversations), from entering a space they are otherwise entitled to (e.g., barring trans women from women's spaces), or from claiming and expressing their own identity (e.g., gender policing). Gatekeepers are often authority figures, community leaders, who intend on improving their community, from their perspective, and making it more respectable according to mainstream norms. Although gatekeepers they can originate from outside a community as well (e.g., doctors refusing medical care to trans people).
Gatekeeping often leads to the fracturing of movements; the creation of extremely vulnerable minorities within minorities. As a reaction to gatekeeping, powerful and inspirational schools of thought and activist movements have arisen, e.g., womanism, transfeminism, etc. These ideologies and communities seek to empower the most disenfranchised and strengthen intersectoral links between and within communities of oppressed people, e.g., queer and trans people of colour (PoC), who rightfully demand their place in both the LGBT and the PoC communities, as well as society in general.
Marginalized members of any given community can face gatekeeping from more majority, more normative, or more exclusionary voices. Sex workers, trans women, and black feminists often meet gatekeeping when participating in discussions about misogyny. Such exclusion and policing results in disqualifying their experiences, subtracting from their respectability politics or noteworthiness among women's experiences.
In particular, trans women face, sometimes violent, resistance from trans exclusionary radical feminists. Non-binary trans people face gatekeeping from truscums that define being transgender as a medical disorder characterized by dysphoria. As these examples demonstrate, gatekeeping is often part and parcel of horizontal oppression among marginalized demographics.
Some gatekeeping originates not from peers but instead from outside normative voices. For example, the outcry that girl (or women) geeks must be fake geek girls often does not come from within those girls' social circles, but from external male criticism. Such boys and men hardly interact with the girls in question, except to gender police and detract from the girls' gamer status. This from of gatekeeping becomes more serious and insidious when female geekiness is causally linked to lack of girls and women within science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM). This form of stereotype threat has repercussions both in terms of being taught these subjects in school and inevitably their career choices later in life.
Another prominent example of external gatekeeping is directed towards trans people. In order to obtain any form of gender reassignment, they must face gatekeeping from the medical community, because being trans is seen as pathological; akin to how homosexuality was pathologised up until recently in the West and still is in many parts of the world. This takes the form of having to "prove" they are trans, usually by showing signs of genital dysphoria, in order to receive adequate medical care. Such gatekeeping results in excluding trans children and youth, trans people in poverty, and trans people who do not fit transmedicalist definitions of being transgender from the medical and psychological care they require. Transmisogynoir (the intersection of transphobia, racism, and sexism), inevitably, creates even more obstacles for trans women of colour who seek mental of physical health care.
Gatekeeping is not
Gatekeeping refers to the process by which rightful members of a community or owners of an identity have their access restricted to that community or identity. By this principle, someone who is not part of that community or identity is not entitled to access all spaces or participate in all discussions therein.
For example, a man being rejected from accessing a womens' space it is not an act of gatekeeping. This is because it is not his space. A trans woman being kept out of a women's space would be a definitive act of gatekeeping because she is a woman and only transmisogyny is impeding her. Similarly, white people do not face gatekeeping when they're restricted from holding authority positions in spaces run for and by people of colour (PoC). By the same token, white people do not face gatekeeping when PoC protect their culture from cultural appropriation or erasure.
- Do geek stereotypes keep women out of computer science? by Charlie Jane Anders
- The Stereotypical Computer Scientist: Gendered Media Representations as a Barrier to Inclusion for Women, by Sapna Cheryan, Victoria C. Plaut, Caitlin Handron, Lauren Hudson
- Ambient belonging: how stereotypical cues impact gender participation in computer science, by Cheryan S, Plaut VC, Davies PG, Steele CM.
- STEMing the tide: using ingroup experts to inoculate women's self-concept in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), by Stout JG, Dasgupta N, Hunsinger M, McManus MA.
- The Asian Geek Girl: A Study in Stereotyping, by JC Lau
- Girls and the Stereotypical Nerd Culture Differential, by Ann
- Nerd Stereotypes, on Bitch Media
- Breaking down geek stereotypes in open source, by Jodi Biddle
- Transgender People, Transitioning and Those Darn Standards of Care, by Sebastian
- tw] by Monica Maldonado [
- Not All Memoirs Are Created Equal: The Gatekeeping of Trans Women of Color’s Stories, by Janet Mock