Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Chip on My Shoulder: A Trans Girl's Lessons in Pain & Power


"Mourn the dead
fight like hell for the living"

Mother Jones
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Bruises: A Roadmap to My Girlhood

"Look at her arms," my mother instructed the Principal of my elementary school. I was asked to roll up my sleeves to show the room full of adults the welts and bruises that dotted my wrists, forearms, and shoulders. The school officials looked down their noses with studied expressions of concern and weariness. They each briefly glanced at the assorted damage then turned back to the my mother. "This is really unfortunate, Mrs. Bychowski," they said earnestly but slowly, giving the sense that their sympathy had a comma or a semi-colon at the end. "However, there is not much more that we can do," finished the Principal, "since we have sat Gabby down with the other student..." My mother interrupted, "students. It's not just the one." The Principal nodded, recognizing but not condoning the interruption. "Yes, the other students," she amended, "and the teacher is well aware of what has been going on throughout the year. However, without directly seeing the incident there is really not much that we can do." The other school official, someone I didn't know in the meeting, clarified, "it becomes a he said, she said situation." My mother sat back in her seat with an audible breath. "Do the other kids have these bruises?" my mother asked, gesturing to my arms again, which I had since covered again with my sleeve. The Principal and the other woman looked at each other with a since of practiced helplessness. "To be honest, Mrs. Bychowski," the Principal said in a quieter more confidential tone, "there is not just much that we can do in this situation. This is one of those things that the kids will just have to resolve themselves." The Principal gave my mother a look heavy with some meaning that I could not decipher but which set my mom off. "So," my mother said at last, "if Gabby were to punch back and they ended up in this office with bruises, you also wouldn't do anything?" The school officials raised their hand with a more deliberate helplessness. "I see," she said. Finally I saw as well. I began to see what this whole meeting had been circling.

On the drive home, my mother was livid. "That school," she huffed, "that school just doesn't want to piss off that boys family. They are far too important to the whole school system. They have more powerful friends than us. They would rather deal with our anger than theirs. Cowards." I looked over at her, nervous from the rage rippling through my mom. For a small quiet and chirpy Polish woman, her rage was not something I was accustomed to seeing. Usually a little went a long way in our conflict avoidant family. After my lack of response, she looked over at me. "Im sorry, Gabby. I really am." "I know mom," I said looking out the window. The rest of the drive home occurred in silence. We didn't have far to go because we lived so close to the school. But on the way, we passed the boy's house. He lived on our block. That is what first put me on his radar; him and his friends. We walked home along the same route. Him and the guys. Me and my sister. Early in the semester, they had even invited me over a couple times. But it was evident from early on that we were very different sorts of children. He was the leader of the school football team, tall and muscled for a fifth grader, a charismatic boy who laughed loudly and played rough. He was the type of boy that other boys circled around because he had traveled the furtherest down the road of a certain type of masculinity which all of them were expected to venture. It was a road of boyhood that despite my best efforts, most everyone expected me to travel. But I held back, yearning openly for a different road. Until two years prior, I had a set of girl friends with whom I would walk home and surround myself. Together we had played with nail polish, easy-bake ovens, and read young reader crime novels. Then we moved away for a year to Wellesley, Massachusetts, so my father could try his hand at a new job venture which ended up being discontinued before we had even arrived on the East Coast. We came back as soon as we could but soon found that much had changed between 3rd grade and the entering of 5th grade. All my old girl friends no longer wanted to get together to play. Without coming out and saying it, their parents had communicated that at this age girls and boys just didn't play together like that anymore. I was told to make friends with the boys. Over and over again, I was sent over to their houses and pointed in the direction of their games at recess. That is how I found myself time and again on the radar of the boy down the street.

Everyone it seemed was getting their kids ready for middle school and becoming teenagers, meaning that the girls were being sent down one road and boys were being directed down another road. Then there was me: a child continually put in the company of those all too eager to prove themselves as boys becoming men yet also a child who shared no such interests and made little efforts at hiding my alternative longings. This meant two dangerous things for me. First, it meant that I was alone except for the company of my sister. Despite being younger than me, my sister had already become very protective and defensive of me. But in the politics of the school yard and the long walk home, there was little a 3rd grader could be expected to do to protect her older trans sister either from the societal disdain for children like me or from the older peers whose bullying enforced this disdain so the parents didn't have to address the situation themselves. Not all the adults were as oblivious or helpless as they pretended to be. But many of them seemed to think that eventually the bruising and belittling would push me to mimic the desired masculinity. Or else they regarded my effeminacy and disdain for the normal boy things as a nerdy intellectual egoism that made me deserving of being knocked down a few pegs. That is one reason why the more articulate I was about what was going on, the more I looked school officials and parents in the eye and explained to them that I understood the gender politics at play, the more many saw me as an effete sissy who needed to learn lessons in what sort of people really have the power in this world. And so I read the books about astronomy I brought home to keep me company on the long lonely weekends, preparing for the week that summer in which I could go to Space Camp and the day beyond that in which I could literally leave this world behind. But I also digested the lessons from the school, the parents, and the other kids. I learned where I ranked in the hierarchy of boys all too ready to prove their boyhood, all too ready to travel down that road, and who did so by demonstrating that power on those lower on the scale of masculinity. Each bruise was like homework which I carried home in my body, reminding me even when I wasn't at school that in this world of boys, the trans girl was just a powerless body on which they would prove to the world their manhood.


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Divisions of Pain

"Look at my arm," I told the teacher in charge of monitoring recess, "I can't move it and I don't think it is supposed to hang that way." I was standing on the black top, having run some distance from the crowd of boys that stared after me. The teacher's face went pale looking at my mangled side. Oddly enough, I didn't quite feel the pain yet. My pain and the paleness would come in just a few minutes. Instead, I was full of adrenaline that carried me faster than I had ever run out of the hands of those who had just been on top of me. Walking me, at a pace that increasingly felt way too slow, to the nurses office, I hadn't had time to even process what had happened. Yet as one teacher became two and two adults became three, I was forced to recollect into narrative the last few minutes. I had been standing on the side of the field when the shove had come. The boys had been playing tag foot-ball. I was told to go with them. Not interested in the sport or in being around the boys who daily made me their bitch, I mostly watched from a position at the edge of out of bounds. Then suddenly, the ball had gone wild, almost out. It landed at my feet. The boy behind me shoved me, telling me to pick it up and run. Well, running was really the only physical activity that I knew how to do well and felt very natural at this moment when suddenly the whole crowd of boys turned on me. I took the ball and ran wildly, as fast as I could (but sadly not as fast as I did a moment later to the teacher) towards the other end of the field where the goal was supposed to be. I hadn't gotten far at the shove, however, when suddenly I felt somebody on top of me shoving me to the ground with the force of a loud snap. It wasn't until he rolled off of me and ran off with the ball that I realized that the snap sound was not just the sound of him hitting me but the sound of something inside me breaking. Getting to my feet, my shoulder was bent at an odd angle and my arm hung in a way that I never could get it to go if I had tried; not without rearranging my skeleton, which is what had just happened. By the time I had gotten to the nurse, the adults had agreed that it was my shoulder bone and not my arm that had been snapped. As I lay down on the nurses couch, I finally felt the pain coursing through me like my muscles were on fire.

In the center of the fire that burned inside me, I lost awareness of most of what was happening around me. Someone was on the phone with my mom, recalling the events. "No, no it wasn't a game of touch football," the teacher on call explained, "there shouldn't have been any tackling." At this point, my left side didn't feel like it belonged on a human body but seemed to me like the shattered metal of a car crash, with a sharp electric smell and bits of glass churning around my abdomen. "Yes," the teacher on the phone confirmed, "the kids say it was that boy. Yes. Yes. Well it happened so fast no one had time to prevent it." During this time in which time itself seemed bent, there seemed to be multiple selves present inside my body. Or rather, I could perceive one of my selves in and as the body, broken and moaning on the couch in a whirlwind of internal fire. Then there was another self, slightly outside my body, perhaps above and to the right, which looked down on the body-self with pity and grave concern. For her who stood just outside, the pain-body-self was a thing that could be observed and with some work, managed. I don't recall any words passing between my selves in this moment but seeing how the flames on my left side were collapsing the body-self around that point, the slightly-outside self directed some of the fire to move down to the other side and into my right leg. A conduit was created by which I learned I could redirect an amount of the unbearable pain in my left shoulder somewhere else. And so my right leg began thrashing as it filled with the incoming pain, confusion, and anger. The nurse and the teacher on the phone came over to see if my leg was also hurt. "No," was all I was able to choke out. Such communication was a sign that the redirection was working because for however long I had been on the couch before this I had been unable to communicate and barely able to register what was being said to me or about me. Although the sharing of pain between my shoulder and right leg meant that more of my body now felt out of control, a part of me (the part of me which was slowly coming back in line with my body) knew that I had regained a form of control. I could cut off the pain from my right leg, I knew, but I decided I did not want that. Because my right leg was strong and healthy. It was helping bear the weight of suffering from my left side which was too broken to contain it. At this point I became aware of my mother in the room speaking to the nurse, commenting on my leg, my arm, and how pale I seemed. Maintaining the distribution of pain between parts of my body, I was able (with help) to get up off the couch and into a wheelchair. Only then did I realize that the Principal was present. She took the handles of the wheelchair as my mother went to go bring the car around, then silently, without a word to me, she wheeled me down to the circle drive.

Amidst all of the chaos, the part that I recall as oddest was the sound of the doctor popping my shoulder back into place when I arrived at the hospital. Whereas the shock, pain, and adrenaline had knocked the events of the break out of order and consciousness, the setting of the bone back into place occurred with too great consciousness. I faintly remember a smell that went along with the sound of crushed plastic water bottles which was the repositioning of my collar-bone. The smell was something of sour milk. The sound was a sound I had never heard my body make before this day. It was a different sort of sound and different sort of hearing because it reverberated through my skeleton in a disconcerting wave frequency. It was the sound of my bones speaking in bone language to the other bones. What my bones were saying to one another I can't say because the consciousness that I had regained upon arriving at the hospital was fluttering away as the snap made me feel dizzy and far away. A nurse handed my mother a wet rag to put on my forehead, commenting how pale I seemed. The rest was again a blur. I was x-rayed. I was moved around the hospital. I was given pills. I was told to wait. All this occurred without me doing much on my own. I was a body being passed around between people used to managing bodies. For a while at the hospital and afterwards, I was content to merely let them manage this body-self. People would sometimes say things to my body and say a lot about it but I wasn't listening much. I'm not sure where I was but I wasn't there. I wasn't on the school yard either. I briefly remember tears running down my face when my mom was answering a question that I had apparently asked about whether or not I could still attend space camp in a few weeks. The next moment I distinctly remember being fully present was when the doctor was sitting in front of my mother and me. He positioned himself directly in front of me and was the first person to really speak directly to me, waiting however long was necessary until I responded. Maybe it was this or maybe it was something else but I finally was able to hear and really listen to what was being said. "You see Gabby," he was telling me, "you will make a full recovery but even then you will never be quite the same. There will always be a little chip, a little bump, where the break happened. It won't be noticeable to anyone except maybe you. I need you to be prepared for that. Things will feel different."


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Shouldering the Weight

People looked at me differently the next day when I showed up to school in a sling. I was told that I didn't have to go. But I felt that if I didn't show up to the last day of 5th grade, the last day of elementary school, I would be admitting defeat somehow. It was strange however, the way that all the boys kept a far distance from me. A few tried to come up and explain how the boy down the street hadn't intended to hurt me like that. But when I didn't respond they would just wander away with looks of uncertainty. The strangest looks came from the teachers and the Principal who made a point to say farewell to me and good luck in Middle School next year. Everyone looked at me like I was broken. Granted, I felt pain and burning still in my arm but this was a different kind of brokenness. This brokenness had something to do with them. The look had multiple parts. It seemed to begin by looking at me. Then the look would shift and they would seem to be looking at something inside their own heads. Then they would finish their look at me by seeing all of me as something else. What this something else was I couldn't read or express at the time. Whatever it was, the thing they saw seemed to make them uncomfortable, made them antsy, and perhaps, made them afraid. Not long later, I would see these looks again. I saw it the next time I would have one of my bones broken by a boy when his fist hit my jaw. I saw it again with other bruises and injuries. Perhaps I got that look at other times too. Eventually, I learned to stop looking. Another reason I saw the looking less, was that when such meetings between myself, my mother, and the school system happened, they would go much faster. I could feel the looks on me but I no longer raised my gaze up to meet them. In elementary school, I had paid more attention at these looks because I had hoped to see something in them: recognition, shared pain, resolve. What I had seen instead was fear, discomfort, disgust, curiosity and a kind of power which performed as powerlessness but which really the most common expression of power I've yet to witness. It was a look of power that marked me as dangerous but which was powerless to help me. It was the look of people who are waiting for the worst to happen but unwilling to prevent the worst from happening.

That is how the chip on my shoulder taught me two things. I learned that systems - whether they are school systems or systems of gender - are not built to protect me although they might avenge me if I (or someone else) forces them to take responsibility. Never in all my schooling do I recall any acts done to create increased safety for me. Rather, when these systems acted, if they acted, they only created increased anxiety around me. Never were my boundaries between the boys who bullied and beat me honored, even by adults. I found myself again and again put into dangerous situations with them, from organized games, group projects, and locker rooms. Sometimes a word of warning would be given to the boys and young men involved but all this did was increase a sense of dread for when authorities were not watching: such as during organized games, group projects, and locker rooms. Likewise, my words of desire and affinity were not honored. I was made to feel like my craving for female friends was some sort of developing sexual drive. This kept former and potential girl friends at a distance. It also taught me to confuse the deep-seated need for female fellowship and mutual recognition with those feelings which had begun for a deeper sort of companionship and intimacy. By rejecting an affinity with women as a deviant form of desire for women, I learned to keep silent and desire my own isolation. Because showing people my raw truth and raw hurt made people give me that fatalistic look. I was taught to see myself with that look as well. I learned to see my raw self as a thing destined for the worst happenings. Each time something bad did happen, this only reignited the looks around me and reaffirmed the necropolitical despair which haunts so many trans youths and adults. I learned to see the violence and a violent end as pretexts which only required certain unpredictable contexts to become readable in the text of my body. Each time something violent happens, I register these looks on my body as a kind of expected but disappointing resolution to a story that long ago was written for me. People see this story as sad and upsetting but little will be done to change the story, the pretext, or the context; or at least it won't be done until the worst finally happens.

Growing up amidst the power of violence and the powerlessness of these looks, I learned to expect systems not to protect me but perhaps to avenge me. That is the buried power within my broken body, which came to the surface when I lay on the nurse's couch. That is the power and threat that I embodied which compelled the Principal to personally wheel me out to my mother's car. Only later did I realize how afraid the school was of me at that moment, or any of the subsequent moments in which visible damage had been done to my body. Because unlike the unseen damage to my psyche and soul, the misinformation and isolation that divided my self against my self, the physical signs of hurt could have been leveraged against the school system. Had my parents decided to sue the school system, they would have had pictures, meetings on the books, reports, and witnesses all attesting that the abuse had been documented as it escalated. We had physical and textual evidence that the school system had failed and even encouraged the violence in various ways. Had I been born among folk who knew how to fight these sorts of fights or if my parents had been given better consultation, we might have played those cards. As it was, there was too much ingrained shame and self-disgust to see my trans life as worth protecting beyond keeping the body, the shell of the cisgender persona, alive. As it was, my nerdy Catholic Eastern European family was trained for generations to suffer long in the face of injustices and violence. The central image of our Church, the crucifix, was an embodiment of what this world does to good people. Even today, knowing what we know as a lawyer, a scholar, and an activist who regularly engage in compelling social change, my siblings and I regularly get called stoic for our ability to suffer long violences without complaint. Yet this stoicism is not just culture and history. This quietude is the resignation of people who know that in the systems as they still exist today, there is little protection provided that would keep me safe from violence. Even recently as an adult I have been made to feel violence and also the threat of this violence as unavoidable. When I am out with my kids for a walk, I am reminded by a passersby and even police how I might be assaulted as a sort of threat to the community. When I leave campus after teaching, clothed in conservative retro teacher's garb, I am reminded that my body might be taken and used by people who regard trans women all as sex workers, traps, or attention seeking rape targets. I am reminded on public transit, in airports, on trains, in cars, and on planes. I reminded at conferences in medieval studies. I am reminded on vacation. I am reminded in churches at which my spouse has worked as Pastor. No matter who I am, what I am marks me as a target. No matter how well people regard my subjectivity, this is no protection from people who only think of my body. If I am to be killed, it will likely be by someone who does not know who I am and does not care. They may learn about the me that no longer exists in that body or who exists just outside that body, but only afterwards. I may be remembered and avenged after the story is over but have been given lessons in pain and power to expect little to be done to change that story. Who we are as trans people is no protection, so long as the pretext of necropolitics dictates that what we are marks us as objects of violence and death. 

That is not all of the story of me or my body but that is the story that lives in the little chip, the bump, the brokenness, the weight, the stoicism on my shoulder.


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Monday, October 1, 2018

A Shelf of One's Own: An Argument for Transgender Literature


"I could not help thinking, as I looked at the works of Shakespeare on the shelf, 
that the bishop was right at least in this; 
it would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any woman 
to have written the plays of Shakespeare in the age of Shakespeare."

A Room of One's Own
Virginia Woolf
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Introduction

Sitting at my desk, I set down my copy of A Room of One's Own and look over at the shelves of my library and ask myself the question: where is the transgender amidst all this literature? I think about Virginia Woolf's shelf where she saw no plays by women and where she had to search hard for women and the fiction they write, the fiction written about women, or the texts where women, their fiction and fiction about them are all entangled together. And I ask, how can I constitute such a shelf of trans literature? Among what books should I find about trans stories? Among what books should I find trans people telling their stories? What books could make up a shelf of the theories that bind transgender and literature together? I ask this question not just because Woolf asked her question but rather her question gives language for a question, or more than a question, already inside me. 

Like the dysphoria that at once made my own lack of a shelf unlivable and made the striving for a shelf of my own a necessity, I feel such a dysphoria living also in my library. I feel the weight of fatalism, grave silence, and ghosts at the present lack of a shelf unbearable and also a euphoria at the prospect of a shelf of our own coming-to-be. This dysphoric need for trans literature, for a transition in the fields of transgender and literary studies, is as critical and consequential as the dysphoria felt in the chest of many a trans person. I see this need among the living, among individual trans people who are compelled to narrate and re-narrate their families, friends, jobs, doctors who recommend therapists, therapists who might sign their verifying letters, lawyers who might help translate those letters into name and gender marker changes, judges who approve those name and gender marker changes, the department of motor vehicles who make those changes to one's license, the department of social security who make those changes to one's social security card, the federal government who make those changes to one's passport, the therapist again to recommend an endochronologist or surgeon, the endochronologist, the sergeon, the pharmacist, the insurance company to cover all these expenses, and then and then and then more. 

I also see this in all those who never got the chance to tell this story even once or when they did tell their story then had their story untold: the Leelah Alcorns and all those trans people who are buried under the dead-names, names that killed them dead and now mark as dead the trans life that could have been. 

I see this in all the trans lives that still might be if only they knew how to tell their story, if only their family and school and doctor and church could hear and understand their story. And I see how often those transgender futures are denied like so much of our transgender past, how a recent 2018 study found that between 38-44 percent of trans people will attempt suicide in their lives. I see one in three transgender futures dissapear without anyone to tell their story. I see one in two transgender futures dispear without anyone to tell their story.

That is why I call the need for trans literature dysphoric. Because dysphoria is about disatisfaction with the present, about grief for what has been denied in the past, and about hope for the future. I call the need for trans literature dysphoric because I see the shelf of our own that may yet come to be and I see the library of shelves which might have existed but which were never allowed to exist. And so with these shelves of ghosts and shelves of dreams, I return to the question that Virginia Woolf showed me how to ask: where is the transgender literature? How might we have a shelf of our own and how might this shelf grow bigger, book by book, as we slowly try to make the library that is come close to the library that might have been. Perhaps one day we will find balance between the told and untold stories. Perhaps one day the living stories will outnumber the dead. But for now, today, I begin with a question, or something more. As I once did when I began striving for a shelf of my own, I will assess and plan, research and write, listen for and narrate the way trans literature might have a shelf of its own in our libraries and our classrooms.


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Five Hundred a Year
and a Room with a Lock

Virginia Woolf concluded that to make her desired shelf of women come into being, women needed five hundred a year and a room of one's own, with a lock on it. As a writer and mother myself, I can affirm the good sense of this. But as a trans woman who feels the dysphoric need for a shelf of our own, I would add a few more conditions. In the following sections, I will mark what I believe we need to not just ask the question but to establish a shelf called trans literature: (1) first, we will need to identify and liberate ourselves from some of the toxic tropes in which transgender has been defined within cisgender literature, or else we may never resurrect the trans figures and stories buried among other people's books and stories, (2) second, we will need to understand the stories we already tell and have already told for centuries, or else we may never know what trans literature looks like in order to recognize it on a shelf, and (3) third, we will need to examine what it means to read and write while transgender, or else trans lives will continue to be reduced to and by the theories of cisgender literary analysis. All this we need. Also, the stable pay-check and office with a lock which comes with jobs and job security would also be nice. Please and thank you.

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Trans Literature: Transgender as Literary Theory


"How, then, might the transsexual read?"

The titular question to an essay by
Alexander Eastwood
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Introduction

Thus far we have seen the distortion of reality and systems of abuse built into some of the most prominent tropes of transgender found in cisgender narratives, as well as a few forms of narratives that organized transgender literature which offer critical alternative constructions. Yet the danger in this contrast of thesis and anti-thesis is that a divide should form between cis and trans literature so that transgender becomes ghettoized to its own corner of the book shelf. As transgender often intersects with other forms of marginalized identity (race, disability, class, sexuality, religion, etc.) this separation has benefits as well as dangers, such as isolation and tokenism. One begins to fear that trans literature will become only a niche market and reading trans literature will become an identity marker that alienates or others non-trans demographics. While trans literature has good reasons to privilege trans voices, these voices and the ears with which to hear them should not be locked away in an echo chamber. To fight this impulse to isolate and marginalize, trans literature needs to amplify and incorporate trans voices and perspectives into the wider literary ecology. By promoting trans literature not just as an archive but as a method of literary analysis, trans voices can be brought to bare on the many texts, genres, and questions which are essential to the wider world of literary discourse. By developing trans theories of literature and trans ways of reading, one can trans literature (as a verb or action) that was formerly constructed as exclusively cisgender. One can read Pride and Prejudice in a trans way. One can trans War and Peace. One can see the dysphoria in the film Ted. One can examine the trans-operations at work in Game of Thrones. Thus trans literature becomes not only a discrete and insular noun but to trans literature can signify a critical verb that can transform the way one moves through the world of language arts.


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Dysphoric Ways of Reading

Dysphoria defines or contributes to many ways of being trans. Gender dysphoria is a term borrow from the medical industry, specifically the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). For this reason, many trans people identify with the diagnosis for professional and personal reasons. It is an institutional marker which provides access to a variety of services. For the same reason, many trans people disidentify with dysphoria because they do not want to be associated publicly with a condition under medical management and with a book that has the term, "mental disorders," in the title. Yet gender dysphoria is an improvement, in many respects, over the now defunct diagnosis, "gender identity disorder" from the DSM-4. One of the key victories was the removal of "disorder" from the title, as the DSM-5 reflects a change in the medical field from considering transgender a disorder to considering it a condition. As part of this shift, gender dysphoria locates the primary distress and suffering of the condition in an external locus rather than an internal locus. The short definition of gender dysphoria reads, "there must be a marked difference between the individual’s expressed / experienced gender and the gender others would assign him or her, and it must continue for at least six months" (DSM-5). A careful read of this diagnosis will not that dysphoria occurs not because someone is born transgender. The cause of suffering is not internal. Rather, dysphoria arises because there is a conflict between their internal identity or mode of expression and the external environment that assigns another gender. The conflict is not between self and self, sane self and insane self. Rather, the conflict is between self and society. Thus, because it is based on social discourses and conflicts, dysphoria can become a way of reading and analyzing texts. How does the text embody or generate dysphoria? If one approaches texts from a dysphoric lens, one begins to see how countless texts and narratives depend on the tensions of the dysphoria it produces. These tensions and dysphoria may even affect people who are not transgender. In this case, the dysphoria is in the environment and not in the person.

Yet dysphoria is more than the sum of self and society. The longer definition of dysphoria from the DSM-5 does acknowledge a list of desires and disgusts that may rage within a transgender mind and body. For this reason, dysphoria does not represent the mere battle between a rigid social roles and a chaotic freedom that wants to go everywhere all at once. Usually, in the ocean of dysphoria there are tides and even whirlpools, where the dysphoric mind is drawn by larger forces (internal and external) towards specific loci of gender. These loci may be broad, such as womanhood. Or highly specific, such as pressed suits and short hair. As in the case of tides and whirlpools, there may be competing desires and disgusts that reflect ambivalence and gender fluidity. Other times, dysphoria is less like the ocean and more like a river, moving full force away from one place and towards another. Many trans men and women, especially those who live lives within traditional binaries, articulate their dysphoria in these terms. For instance, a trans man may have physical disgust at being made to embody or perform elements of femininity and may have an overwhelming need to embody or perform element of masculinity. In this respect, dysphoria is a conflict between self and non-self, one that does not necessarily extend very far into society. Non-self may be understood as those parts of one's body, genitals or hair style, that cause one great distress and disgust. Thus, dysphoria as an internal tension and trajectory of self and non-self often motivate transformation. Transformation is one of the visible functions of this aspect of dysphoria. In the first case, because change and transition mark the movement away from the non-self and toward the self. Or, in cases of oppressive social conditions or tidal backslides, from self to non-self. Additionally, transformation may also be read as trans-formation or the formation of the trans self. This may occur unencumbered as the formation of a self which happens to be trans. Or it may occur out of a rejection of the non-self. The trans formation arises out the failed and dysphoric cis formation. Thus, as a method of reading, readers can identify how texts reflect these competing tensions between self and non-self, between disgust and desire, whether the conflict is like a tide, whirlpool, or river. Because narratives frequently depend on tensions and conflict in order to motivate character change, the dysphoric reader begins to appreciate how closely tied storytelling and dysphoria may be.

Even in ideal conditions of access and acceptance, transitioning often takes time and may be incomplete in the mitigation of dysphoria. Most trans people and care givers are aware that transitioning can less dysphoria but will likely never may it totally go away. In part, this may be because dysphoria in society and the body cannot fully erase the affects and effects of the past. For instance, a trans woman who transitions in young adulthood still has the dysphoria caused by having to undergo a sort of imposed boyhood. When speaking about the past, this boyhood returns in the form of pictures, names, and memories even as they conflict with the current gender identity and presentation. This dysphoria across time may also be felt in the body, a body which may have had the marks of boyhood and adolescence which medical transitioning can mitigate but never fully remove. To use a metaphor from an article I've written on the dysphoria of medieval manuscripts: even after you turn the page, the writing and images from the other side can still bleed through to the present. Our experience of time is more fluid, non-linear and contested than we like the think. Thus, even the most directional river of dysphoria will find ways in which the tidal past causes momentary blocks, diversions, and backwash. Thus, as a method of reading one can analyze dysphoria in the way that time and narrative progression become jumbled by conflicting iterations of the self, whether the internal self of psychology and biology or the external self of identity and expression. Furthermore, one sees how narratives, especially about transgender, reflect and generate dysphoria through the difficulty they have in discussing the same person before and after transition. How do we talk about the non-self which was presented as the self for so long? Do we use deadnames and defunct pronouns or do we correct the past by naming the person more accurately? Often, texts don't have one way of answering these conflicts. The past affects the present and the present will affect our pasts. Recognizing and analyzing how this happens and how it is reflected in the text is another key element of reading dysphorically.


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Trans-Operative Ways of Reading

Transgender narratives often mark the boundary lines between identities, affinity groups, and associations. Operations (i.e. surgeries) emblematically mark the movement from one affinity group to another. Besides psychiatric diagnosis, "gender identity disorder" and now "gender dypshoria," transgender has long been represented and defined by such operations. Indeed, transgender is often presented as an embodiment of the power of operations. Following transition narratives of full change, with a definite before and after dived by the event of the surgery, trans people's narratives and identities become defined as pre-op (pre-operation) and post-op (post-operation). Yet dysphoria and other forms of trans narrative has since pushed against the full change story structure. Often the post-op self is present and active before transition and the pre-op self (or unself) is present and active after transition. This creates the dysphoria of narrative discussed in the last section. It might then be more accurate to say that most trans people are trans-op (or trans-operative) in some or many respects. Trans-operative means operating somewhat in multiple affinity grounds, multiple selves, and multiple timelines at once. Indeed, suspicion that operations will not provide a clear-cut pre-/post-op divide and a fully change lead many people to distrust trans people as potential traitors, spies, or trojan horses in their identified affinity group. The logic goes, "you turned your back on one gender, proving you are a turn-coat, so how can we trust you not to betray us?" Whether or not this is true, the narrative of suspicion in dominant in transphobic and trans-excluding discourses. This has led in part to the proliferation of "trap" tropes. And this mistrust is echoed by other groups, not just the one with which the trans person identifies. The identity which the trans person formerly occupied, by assignment or choice, can feel a degree of betrayal when the trans person transitions. One may see a bit of the spurred lover or spurred team-mate in lesbian feminist communities where one they formerly called their own, as a butch lesbian, comes out as a heterosexual trans man. The feeling is somewhat grief and somewhat a sense of betrayal that their friend would flip the script not only of gender (butch woman to trans man) but also sexuality (lesbian to straight man). In many respects, the person is still the same person and still loves the same person but they are not marked as a traitor by both the community they leave and the community they join. A trans-operative way of reading thus charts the systems of kinship alliances and associations which are crossing and conflicting in narrative.

Yet trans-operative ways of reading are not only about mapping power but about manipulating power. Because trans people are often mistrusted to some degree by their allies and kin, past and present, the change in circumstance can never be considered full, complete, and secure. We see this in a vast number of trans texts where potential and former allies turn their back on the trans person or when catastrophe hits in the form of sudden violence or backslides in progress. A lover turns abusive. A friend cuts off contact. An ally says they cannot help any more. An institution changes its policy or fails to fulfill their promises once real conflict emerges. A government overturns legislative wins. In these precarious circumstances, the trans person who has been considered a turn-coat or double-operative for so long may begin to examine other possible alliances. This does not necessarily mean a change in gender identity but may mean playing with the fluidity and trans-operative capacities that made them appear so dangerous. The trans-operative woman files for marriage to her wife as a man in order to circumvent a government that does not allow for same-sex marriage. A trans man uses a women's restroom or changing room in order to avoid the potential or active transphobic violence found in the men's room. A non-binary trans person presents as binary during travel so as to avoid some of the regularly harassment. Even beyond gender presentation, the trans-operative becomes aware and active across the many affinity groups in which they have experience. A trans woman utilizes knowledge of male culture and privilege as a may of combatting toxic masculinity. Trans men utilize their experiences growing up alongside girls to motivate and inform a dismantling of the patriarchy from within it. Thus, the trans-operative way of reading looks for the ways in which different lines of power, association, and alliance intersect within the life of a trans person. It allows for the considering how embody and utilize the pressure points of systems of sexism, homomphobia, transphobia, classism, ableism or more in order to enact power, especially in situations where they are put in a position of vulnerability or solitude. The trans-operative approach always asks to what extent does a trans person have their foot in the door and to what extent they must or may keep one foot in another room; as well as asks what other rooms might or does the trans-operative pivot when necessary?

The question can also turn back on the reader, asking them to consider to what extent they identify with the trans figure and to what extent they dis-identify with them? How does the text diminish, maintain, or further the contingency of ones affinity for the trans person? What factors outside the text (experience, prejudice, cultural assumptions) or inside the text (tropes, narratives, language) contribute to this relational distancing?



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Genres of Embodiment

Whereas dysphoria and trans-operation centers the conflicts or tensions often present in trans literature, genres of embodiment accretes around the creative impulse of transgender. Drawn from the theories of Sandy Stone, Jacques Derrida, and Judith Butler, genres of embodiment is a way of approaching gender as a co-creative enterprise with a diverse ecology of lives. Using genre over gender plays upon the etymological root that genre shares between French and English, meaning gender but also a set of texts, especially those of creative literary or artistic works. This highlights the ways that gender is creative while also existing within patterns, tropes, narratives, and other discursive limitations. I distinguish genre-analysis from performance analysis to put a greater emphasis on construction over enactment. Perhaps this is the writer and technical theater nerd of me (I don't necessarily think like an actor or performer) but genres of art give a greater emphasis on the physical construction that goes along with the performative deployment of tools and space. As a genre, sculpture forces us to consider the materials and tools needed to construct the art as much as it makes us consider the social and cultural discourses that inform the art. As such, genres of embodiment double down on the way that art constructs the body (not just identity) and the body informs, limits, and frames the construction of artistic enterprises such as gender. A trans woman performs womanhood but has different materials to start with than cisgender women just like different sculptors with different types or shapes of stone with construct different forms of womanhood. Likewise, access to tools affects genres of embodiment. A trans man who has access to hormones but not surgery will embody manhood differently than an intersex or another trans man who has access to surgery (perhaps against his will in the case of the intersex man) but not to hormones. Likewise, a wood carver who has only a chain-saw will make a different sculpture than the wood carver who has only a chisel and hammer.

Beyond helping us consider the role of materiality in the co-creative relationship between body and identity, genres of embodiment also draw us towards the way that the literary informs the construction of one's life. A trans woman (like Caitlyn Jenner) who uses the full-change transition narrative will define herself and construct her life differently than a trans woman who uses the no-change narrative of transition. Following this example, after transition Jenner completely redid her wardrobe and house, claiming that they were the things of Bruce and Bruce is gone. She says that Caitlyn is only a few years old and she needs her own things. This contrasts with a trans woman who sees her whole life as one story and identity, who might not be so quick to let go of her old things because even though she was called by a deadname when she bought or received them, they are still a part of her story. Likewise, because the full-change narrative of transition focuses so much on surgery and operations as a central event, those trans people who consume mostly literature of that genre are more likely to pursue surgery as part of their transition. Whereas the trans person who develops in a context in which the no-change, born-this-way narrative of transition is dominant is less inclined to undergo surgery. Just as the absence or present of certain technologies (such as surgery) will affect what forms of trans life are composed within a certain context, so too the absence or presence of narratives that typify the tool and logic of the tool will affect what forms of trans life emerge. One can even say that the technology (surgery, hormones, diagnoses, clothing) and the narratives are parts of the same social operations. The technology promotes and allows for the narrative and the narrative promotes and normalizes the technology. One can thus trace the evolution of these operations over time, as technological changes affect literature and literary changes affect technologies and their use. Thus, genres of embodiment form what Andrew Solomon (in Far From the Tree) calls "horizontal identities," which are identities shared within a certain context. In an area where hormone replace therapy (HRT) is present, accepted and narrated, one are more able to create an identity of peers who likewise undergo HRT as part of their trans genre of embodiment. Horizontal Identities are like the books that sit next to you on a shelf. Yet across time, as the technologies and narratives grow and adapt, they form generation genealogies, or "vertical identities," which are genres of embodiment formed and shared from parent to child. While Solomon's work is more concerned with literal parents and children, genealogies of trans genres can be traced, for instance, from the sex change operations (castration) that formed eunuchs and which over centuries developed as a technology and narrative of gender change to later inform gender affirming surgeries for transsexual identities. A transsexual woman may not consider themselves peers (sharing a horizontal identity) with an eunuch who lived in different contexts and communities, but one can see how culturally they share a vertical identity that cuts across historical shifts in society, literature, and medicine.



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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Trans Literature: Transgender as a Literary Archive


"When you hear the same stories over and over again, from people from all over the world, you start realizing that transgender is not an anomaly. 
It’s a part of the spectrum of people’s realities."

Susan Kuklin
Beyond Magenta
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Introduction

As a recognized archive, transgender literature remains largely on the horizon. There are no "trans lit" sections of most major book stores. Yet in recent years, feminist and LGBTQI book stores are beginning to have shelves or at least special displays that host a variety of books on transgender: history, medicine, self-help, family stories, memoirs, and fiction. As a field of academic study, trans literature is even further behind. This is ironic, given the number of transgender studies scholars who have degrees in English or at least have used trans films in their work. Yet even as transgender studies begins to break away from being a mere sub-set of queer or gender studies, trans literature remains largely subordinate to other fields of trans research: psychoanalysis, sociology, history, and media studies. Of them all, media and film studies has come perhaps the closet to describing transgender film as an archive worthy of study in its own right. As more trans films begin to win awards or at least get nominate, film may continue to lead the way in public awareness of the wider literary archive.

Yet once one begins to ask the question, the number of trans literary texts and narratives that begin to appear are massive. On the surface are those books and films that have begun to get some distinction. When one expands beyond those books marketed as "transgender" by publishers, marketing firms, or stores, one sees how trans literary archives have long existed. One finds trans narratives categorized in genres and archives defined more broadly as women or queer literature, as well as disability, post-colonial, and African-American literature. Looking further for trans narratives, genres, and literary forms, suddenly one arrives at medical, legal, religious, and historical texts that tell trans stories as pieces -- even center pieces -- of other agendas. At this point, one needs to begin to learn other methods of research, other professional and linguistic languages, in order to locate these trans narratives. But once learns how to find them in places not readily marked by the category "transgender literature here," the flood-gates burst open. Suddenly one begins to see trans literature all over the place, from media and books, to medical and government documents, to blogs and suicide notes, to historical manuscripts and saint's lives.

With such a massive and widely distributed archive, it is difficult to give a mere reading list. Such lists are available and reflect mostly recent English language publications currently sold in local book stores or films available on Amazon or iTunes. What I wish to provide in place of giving a "Top 10" or potential candidates for a new literary canon, is a method of categorizing and patterning trans literature as types of narrative. Through such an approach, my goal is to help you dig into the broad, interdisciplinary, and buried archive of trans literature so you will be able to grow the canon rather than merely reiterating the same handful of books and films on sale in specialty markets. So let's dig in and see where and when these narratives lead us!


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The Transition Narrative

As a formal genre, I argue that the transition narrative fits into the example (or exempla) genre. The example (or exempla) are defined by a doctrine (or dicta) that provides a theoretical concept for proof and facts (or facta) that provide the evidentiary grounding. In the case of most transition narratives, the visualization and narration of the facts of altering one's gender signifiers are supposed to fulfill the doctrine of one's trans identification. This doctrine may be as simple as "I am a woman, not a man," or may be as complex as "I have gender dysphoria." While other genres may utilize the transition narrative, the example is the genre most often used and most closely tied the rhetoric used for many transition stories.

Historically, the discursive context that produced and consumed the most number of transition narratives in the modern era is the medical field. In this case, the facts of case studies are given to prove whatever medical and psychological doctrines the researcher is trying to prove. For authors seeking to explore the histories and literary archives of trans persons undergoing transitions, one will spend a lot -- if not most -- of one's time reading such case studies from books written and consumed within a medical context. In some cases the dicta being proven are affirming of these transitions, offering advice for procedures, and others are critical warnings against transitioning. This tension is more pronounced the further one goes back in the study of medicine. If one pushes back even further, prior to the modern medical interest in transition narratives, a researcher will find them present within religious texts that also take the form of exempla. In this case, religious exempla are interested in using these histories and folk stories to prove doctrines of faith and philosophy. As in the early medical exampla, the dicta that accompany the trans facta are often not affirming of transitions, although there are some surprising examples of sympathy for the facts of the case.

The examples of transition narratives take on three dominant forms. These forms present the facts in different ways which correspond to different doctrines of change. The three dicta of change I highlight here are greatly influenced by Carolyn Walker Bynum's work on Metamorphosis. The three forms of transition narrative are: absolute change, hybrid change, and no change:


  • The Doctrine of Absolute Change
    • Facts are presented within a structure of before and after. There is often a defining event (such as surgery or a name change) which represents the transition. The narrative often diminishes the time given to this period of change because it represents the ambiguity that Absolute Change is trying to diminish.
    • In this form, the narrative will often refer to the person's time before transition using the name and pronouns that accompanied that gender presentation (such as "he") and then after the event the person will be described using the name and pronouns that fit that gender presentation (such as "she").
    • Examples using absolute change include: Caitlyn Jenner's The Secrets of My Life, The Danish Girl (book and movie), and many medical journals, especially the more sympathetic ones.

  • The Doctrine of Hybrid Change
    • Facts of different genders are presented alongside each other, before transition and after. Whereas absolute change tends to collapse transition into the short period of a single key event, hybrid change narratives tend to prolong transition to a much greater degree. One may see multiple transitional events, where the person is living one gender in one context and another gender in another context. The effect of this narration often supports doctrines of gender as a fluid spectrum, where male and female traits are present at the same time just in different degrees.
    • In this form, the narrative will often switch between pronouns and names. Such examples will even favor the name/name or pronoun/pronoun way to describing a person, such as "John/Eleanor" or "He/She."
    • Examples using hybrid change include: most discussions of Eleanor Rykener, Boys Don't Cry (and other discussions of Brandon Teena), and She-Male porn (a genre which depends on presenting trans women as monstrous hybrids, thus the choice and construction of the word "she-male" as "the best of both worlds").

  • The Doctrine of No Change
    • Facts are presented so as to foreground the present of the identified genders from the very start. The gender assigned at birth is presented as secondary and based on appearances and the identified gender is presented as primary and based on essences or predispositions. Also called the "born this way narrative." This is the most popular among current transgender stories because it affirms that transgender is a discreet and insular identity that is unchanging, based in nature rather than choice or nurture. These qualities have proven important and effective in convincing doctors, medical insurers, the courts, and government bodies to provide assistance and protection for trans people.
    • In this form, the pre-transition name and pronouns are de-emphasized. Sometimes, the post-transition name and/or pronoun of the person is used from the start even while it records how other people used the socially assigned deadname and pronouns. Other times, these names and pronouns will be used in describing the person pre-transition but will come with an explanation, "scare quotes," or asterisk* denoting them as based on appearances rather than the person's identified gender.
    • Examples using this form include: If I Was Your Girl, A Fantastic Woman, Trans America, and Leelah Alcorn's suicide note.

Transition narrative exempla are very effective and common in circumstances where transgender is considered novel or contentious. This is because exempla transitions are geared at showing as a way of telling. You get the theories of transgender communicated but in a way that typically does so obliquely through narratives and facts that work on the emotions of the audience. By giving case studies with facta that invoke pity (how terrible!) or identification (they use the same lipstick as me!) the dicta can be consumed without inciting the debates that tend to arise when discussions are based more in abstraction.


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The Memoir

Whereas Transition Exempla may be the most numerous in the archive, the confessional memoir is perhaps the most popular. It occurs with relative frequency since transgender has entered public discourse that a trans person gets told, "you should write a book! Tell your story!" Indeed, this turn towards memoir is often part of the process of marginalized identities entering the mainstream. When there is a recognized lack of fact or fiction (beyond the medical or sociological which can be considered to academic for public audiences) memoirs or biographies tend to be the first to fill the void. Whereas exempla demand that readers take some medicine with their sugar, some dicta with their facta, memoirs seem to offer pure sugar, all facts with no doctrinal agenda. Now, one may still derive theories and believes from reading a memoir but they are not nearly as important, if they come at all. Memoirs thus give the sense of learning truth (or truthiness) without the fetters of ideology.

Calling trans memoirs confessional gets at their rhetorical function and their historical genre. Because memoirs are typically highly formalized, edited, and published for a wider (if still somewhat niche) audience. As such, not every trans person will have the chance, means, or desire to write a memoir. Yet nearly every trans person will be asked or even required to tell their life story. This biography may sometimes be given by others but the first person confession is generally preferred as the most authoritative. This may take public form such as an interview, a vlog/blog, or a speech in front of a community group. This may also take an important institutional form, wherein the trans person must confess the truth of their lives to doctors in order to get treatments, to insurers in order to get coverage, to employers or Human Resources to get accommodations, to government agencies to get new documentation, and lawyers or judges to get protections or compensations. Confessional life stories also are frequently used to persuade friends and family members to cooperate with a transition. Rare is the situation where a trans person transitions name and pronouns without someone demanding to hear the life story of the person.

Historically, before transgender was accepted enough to get book deals, confessions were a prominent and important genre in establishing transgender as a discrete condition of life. Before a psychiatrist is willing to sign on to support an individual trans person and before the wider medical industry got into the business of publishing research on trans people in general, a trans person had to sit in front of a doctor and convince them of the veracity and necessity of their gender. The most common and effective way to get these authorities on their side was by providing the facts of one's life. Before doctrines (dicta) could be drawn up to explain the facts (facta) of trans people, making exampla possible, the facts were confessed wholesale to the best of the trans person's ability. And before the private confession of the therapist's office, there were confessions to priests and judges. For much the same reason, as religious institutions and the courts have dominated much of western culture, trans people historically had to also try to convince these authorities of their veracity as well. Thus we see the long history of transgender found in religious and legal documents. At times, the recorder of the confession imports their own doctrines and ideology, but often enough the confession is so surprising to the authority that they do not fully know how to make an example of it. As such, confessions often break free of over doctrine in order to persuade often suspicious audiences of the internal and external realities of transgender.


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The Journey

If transition examples frequently collapse time into a before/after picture and confessional memoirs often assert an essential truth that took a lifetime to unravel, journey narratives tend to fall somewhere in the middle. In fact, journey narratives are often all about the middle, extending the second act of a three into a narrative in and of itself. As such, even though transition narratives can at times be presented as journeys they are presented in ways generically distinct from examples of transition. In fact, they may be seen as inversions of each other. An example typically focuses the narrative on the trans person as the object of study. Even confessional memoirs are sold as the outside looking into the mind and soul the trans person. Yet trans journey narratives are more interested at looking through the eyes of transgender person outward at the world. The trans person becomes the subject and the world becomes the object. Whereas the before/after picture emphasizes the visual difference in the trans person, the timeline of a journey is more about the scenery and saying look at my life "here" and compare it to my life "there." At times, these places are literally different spaces, such as the move from a rural or suburban hometown to the city. Yet frequently, whether or not there is a journey through space there is a usually journey through time. And the goal of this journey from a narrative stand-point is to get the reader to come along with the trans person, to look along with them, to see how the world looks from a different perspective.

For a fan of pilgrimage narratives and travel narratives, it is unfortunate that the vast majority of such trail literature is not only cisgender but white able-bodied heterosexual and male. Yet tropes and narrative structures of these journey narratives are still at play in transgender journeys but in a different form. As noted, there are often physical journeys that define a trans journey narrative, moves across country, from a parent's home to college, going to a new job, getting a new place after a divorce. These physical moves often correspond to other changes in the trans persons life. Part of the journey may be transition but may also be coming out to the family, finding a safer place to live, getting a more accommodating job, etc. Such physical journeys are often described in great detail because journey narratives generically focus on environment. Details such as social contexts and the availability or absence of support are important features of the social terrain, even though the physical differences between one city and another may not be as drastic as walking from the mountains into the dessert. Yet any journey through space is also a journey through time. A journey narrative in this way may resemble a confessional memoir, insofar as it gives details of a life across time. Yet their purposes and foci are different. A confession functions to give insights about the interior life. A journey narrative on the other hand focuses more on the change of circumstances over time. How did moving in with Dad after your parents divorce affect your gender presentation? How did living in Boystown, Chicago affect your freedom of gender expression? How did taking the rural small town job affect your work life? The focus in these journeys are on the external life, which this genre considers no less important.

Because they often lack the typical markers of travel literature (a hiker with a backpack, a walking stick, mountains in the distance) it can seem tricky to locate trans journey narratives. Often you will find them located among other genres: memoir, transition examples and case studies, and histories. An interesting trend in journey narratives are the higher number written by activists or academics. This may be because the activist and academic are habituated in analyzing their surroundings as much if not more than analyzing themselves. For instance, when Eli Clare tells his life story, he will often pause for an extended consideration on his geo-social context, his historical context, his philosophical context. Thus one learns as much if not more about Clare's world as one does about him. Likewise, a characteristic of Laverne Cox's interview or lecture style is that she will introduce a piece from her own life story but primarily as a way to take a journey through the other stories that surround her social contexts: the experience of people of color, women, working actors, LGBTQIA people etc. Yet even non-activists and non-academics will turn to the journey narrative. If I Was Your Girl tells the story of a trans girl moving back in with her father after her transition and mental health breakdown while she lived with her mom. Thus the novel records being a fish out of water in her new school. Being a fish out of water is one way of describing many trans journeys but also travel narratives in general. This is because journey narratives give perspectives that allow us to see the world we live in through a new light and suddenly the world becomes stranger and more interesting. 

Admittedly, a specific form of trans journey narratives are beginning to develop utilizing more traditional markers: the trans road story. From To Wong Fu to Trans America, the trans journey on the road becomes a way of showing the different contexts and problems trans people experience as they move from one place in the country to another. These journeys typically involve many of the features of other travel narratives, including the negotiation of transportation, pilgrimage narratives, including a prophesied holy land or loca sancta on the horizon, or epic and romance, including strange battles, dangers, and veering.



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Next up: Transgender as Literary Theory



Thus far, we have consider the tropes of transgender often found in cisgender narratives as well as the common types of narratives written by or at least focused around a transgender person. Yet this still leaves trans literature largely in the position of text or object for academic study. What is important to consider are the ways in which transgender may affect our methods of reading or enacting literary analysis. What is a trans way of reading? How does transgender affect the way narratives and archives are formed? Stay tuned for the third part of this series as we consider transgender as literary theory!

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