- Introduction: Trans-, Trans, or Transgender?
The title that appears on the cover of this journal is Trans-, not Trans, and not Transgender. A little hyphen is perhaps too flimsy a thing to carry as much conceptual freight as we intend for it bear, but we think the hyphen matters a great deal, precisely because it marks the difference between the implied nominalism of “trans” and the explicit relationality of “trans-,” which remains open-ended and resists premature foreclosure by attachment to any single suffix.
Our call for papers read: “Trans: -gender, -national, -racial, -generational, -genic, -species. The list could (and does) go on. This special issue of WSQ invites feminist work that explores categorical crossings, leakages, and slips of all sorts, around and through the concept ‘trans-’.” While gender certainly—perhaps inevitably—remains a primary analytical category for the work we sought to publish in this feminist scholarly journal, our aim in curating this special issue specifically was not to identify, consolidate, or stabilize a category or class of people, things, or phenomena that could be denominated “trans,” as if certain concrete somethings could be characterized as “crossers,” while everything else could be characterized by boundedness and fixity. It seemed especially important to insist upon this point when addressing transgender phenomena.
Since the early 1990s, a burgeoning body of scholarly work in the new field of transgender studies has linked insights and analyses drawn from the experience or study of phenomena that disrupt or unsettle the conventional boundaries of gender with the central disciplinary concerns of contemporary humanities and social science research. In seeking to promote cutting-edge feminist work that builds on existing transgender-oriented scholarship to articulate new generational and analytical perspectives, we didn’t want to perpetuate a minoritizing or ghettoizing use of “transgender” to delimit and contain the relationship of “trans-” conceptual operations to “-gender” statuses and practices in a way that rendered them the exclusive property of a tiny class of marginalized individuals. [End Page 11] Precisely because we believe some vital and more generally relevant critical/political questions are compacted within the theoretical articulations and lived social realities of “transgender” embodiments, subjectivities, and communities, we felt that the time was ripe for bursting “transgender” wide open, and linking the questions of space and movement that that term implies to other critical crossings of categorical territories.
This issue of WSQ centrally address the challenges presented to traditional feminist scholarship by the transgender sociopolitical movement of the past two decades, but it aims to resist applications of “trans” as a gender category that is necessarily distinct from more established categories such as “woman” or “man.” Rather than seeing genders as classes or categories that by definition contain only one kind of thing (which raises unavoidable questions about the masked rules and normativities that constitute qualifications for categorical membership), we understand genders as potentially porous and permeable spatial territories (arguable numbering more than two), each capable of supporting rich and rapidly proliferating ecologies of embodied difference.
Our goal is to take feminist scholarship in expansive new directions by articulating the interrelatedness and mutual inextricability of various “trans-” phenomena. Any gender-defined space is not only populated with diverse forms of gendered embodiment, but striated and cross-hatched by the boundaries of significant forms of difference other than gender, within all of which gender is necessarily implicated. To suggest a few examples: do transgender phenomena not show us that “woman” can function as social space that can be populated, without loss of definitional coherence, not only by people born with a typical female anatomy and reared as girls who identify as women, but also by people reared as girls who identify as women but who have physical intersex conditions, or by people who were born with a typical male anatomy but who self-identify as women and take all possible steps to live their lives that way, or by people born female who express conventionally masculine social behaviors but who don’t think of themselves as or want to be men? Do transgender phenomena not show us that some who unproblematically occupy the space of social manhood...