- Transfeminist Perspectives in and beyond Transgender and Gender Studies ed. by A. Finn Enke
In the introduction to Transfeminist Perspectives in and beyond Transgender and Gender Studies, A. Finn Enke suggests that
… we might characterize gender studies at the beginning of the second decade of the new millennium to be composed of disparate bodies [feminist studies and transgender studies] differently freighting gender and sex while quizzically looking sideways—and occasionally winking—at each other. The sideways glance might be cautious, but it is surely born of a sense that, alone, neither feminist nor trans is living up to its most expansive vision and also that, at times, they fail us.(3)
Enke understands trans and feminist as intimately tied, because both grapple with and reveal ways in which gender is (re)produced and institutionalized, and both ask how a body gets named and how a body is made to matter—even if, at times, epistemological groundings within transgender studies and feminist studies seem opposed. The book’s goal is to address the productive tension and potential of the relationship between transgender studies and feminist studies by offering theoretical frameworks, practices, and approaches as models for integrating both fields.
Enke’s curation of the chapters follows trans and feminist commitments to “connect classrooms, social movements, and the world beyond” (3). The multi-disciplinary chapters are organized into three sections, the first providing perspectives in epistemology, the second detailing the intricacies of practice, policy, and structure, and the third moving toward application and alliances. The authors locate themselves in various disciplines, practices, and areas of work; together, the chapters’ subjects spread over greater breadth than depth in discipline or field—but perhaps that is not the purpose of the book. Rather, the chapters help produce the transfeminist lens Enke seeks to model by putting subjects in conversation that otherwise might seem disparate or disjointed. [End Page 224]
In this review, I provide a brief overview of each section and then focus on one chapter within each part. The first section addresses the production and proliferation of the types of knowledge that animate gender studies. Bobby Noble’s chapter considers what is relegated to the margins when women’s studies reproduces itself as a discipline with an unquestioned category, “woman” as its object of study. He suggests that women’s studies is haunted by “trans ghosts”—or what must be forgotten for feminism to understand itself as disciplined. As one remedy, Noble posits Avery F. Gordon’s “Trans (-disciplinary)”—that is, modalities that “discern by attempting to see that which must be withheld for an identity-based discipline to accomplish its work” (56). Reconciling these ghosts may be a way to undo some of women’s studies’ erasures and bring to center that which the field has built itself on.
The chapters in the second section address the categorical excesses that trans and feminist lenses and practices reveal in public health, national borders, athletics, and university housing. Christoph Hanssmann’s chapter, for instance, traces the fissures and gaps of cultural-competence frameworks for training programs in trans health. For Hanssmann, the “one-vector” approach that focuses on individual trans identity and experience benefits “those who vary least from the biomedical ‘norm’ of gender variance” (120). This framework helps practitioners “more accurately categorize their gender-nonconforming patients” rather than busting open insufficient systems of naming so that trans people may access needed and desired medical care (121). Hanssmann instead suggests training models that approach training and advocacy from a place of self-determination for trans and gender-nonconforming people.
The chapters that make moves toward transfeminist alliances in movement building make up Part III. Julia Serano explores the potential and productive alliances between femmes. Serano recounts her experiences at the Femme 2006 Conference and imagines alliances between trans and non-trans femmes that affirm and reclaim femininity. Serano names the discrepancies and consequences of cissexism, misogyny, and the devaluing of femininity in spaces meant to affirm femme identity and transwomen to illuminate...