Transgender history : the roots of today’s revolution | Háttér Társaság

Transgender history : the roots of today’s revolution

CímTransgender history : the roots of today’s revolution
Közlemény típusaKönyv
Kiadás éve2017
KiadóSeal Press,
VárosNew York
Oldalak száma279
SzerzőStryker, S
ISBN szám978-1-58005-690-8

ALTHOUGH THE TITLE of this book is simply Transgender History, the
subject is both narrower and broader—narrower in that it is primarily a history
of the transgender movement in the United States, concentrating mostly on the
years after World War II, and broader in that transgender, once a very expansive
term, now fails to fully capture the complexity of contemporary gender. And
although this book bears the same title as the previous edition first published in
2008, the revisions needed for this second edition to adequately address the
remarkable changes of the past decade are extensive enough that the second
edition is a substantially new book. The text of the first edition has therefore
been updated throughout—particularly in the first chapter—and a new chapter
has been added at the end.
Piecing together this story of trans history in the United States was a big
focus of my professional life as a historian for nearly twenty years. As a
transsexual woman I’ve also been a participant in making that history, along with
multitudes of other people. Although I try to tell that story in an expansive and
inclusive way, what I have to say is unavoidably informed by my own
involvement in transgender social movements, by my other life experiences, and
by the particular ways that I consider myself to be transgender.

I’m one of those people who, from earliest memory, always felt feminine-
identified even though I was assigned male at birth, even though everybody

considered me to be a boy and raised me as such, and even though my body was
apparently a typical male body. I didn’t have any good explanation for those
feelings when I was younger, and after a lifetime of reflection and study I’m still
open-minded about how best to explain them. Not that I feel the need to explain
them in order to justify my existence. I know only that those feelings persist no
matter what. I know that they make me who I am to myself, whatever other
people may feel about me or do toward me for having them.
The fear of being ridiculed, stigmatized, or discriminated against, as well as
my own early uncertainty about how I would act on my transgender feelings, led
me to hide them from absolutely everybody until I was in my late teens, in the

early 1980s. That’s when I first started opening up privately to my romantic
partners about my sense of self. A few years later, in the second half of the
1980s, I found an underground queer community; until then, I’d never
knowingly met another trans person. I didn’t come out publicly as trans or start
my medical and social transition until 1991, when I was thirty years old.
When I started living full-time as an openly transsexual lesbian woman in
San Francisco in the early 1990s, I was finishing my PhD in United States
history at the University of California, Berkeley. Transitioning was something I
needed to do for my personal sense of well-being, but it wasn’t a great career
move. However wonderful it was for me to finally feel right about how I
presented myself to others and how others perceived me, making the transition
from living as a man to living as a woman had negative effects on my life. Like
many other transgender women, I spent years being marginally employed
because of other people’s discomfort, ignorance, and prejudice about me.
Transitioning made relationships with many friends and relatives more difficult.
It made me more vulnerable to certain kinds of legal discrimination, and it often
made me feel unsafe in public.

Because for many years I had lived in the world being perceived as a well-
educated, able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual white man before coming out as

the woman I felt myself to be, I have a very clear measuring stick for gauging
various kinds of oppression related to embodiment, gender, and sexuality.
Transitioning put my skin in the game of resisting those oppressions in a new
way. Because I have experienced misogyny and sexism, my transgender
experience informs the strong commitment I feel to feminist activism that aims
to make the world a better place for all women and girls. Because I now live in
the world as a woman who loves women, and because there are times (more
common in the past than now) when I’ve been perceived as an effeminate gay
man, I also have a direct experience of homophobia. My transgender experience
is thus also part of why I feel a strong commitment to lesbian, gay, and bi rights.
Although I have a stable sense of being a woman rather than a man, and have
taken a lot of steps to get my body, my state-issued IDs, and other paperwork
aligned with my sense of self, I know that I can never align everything the way
cisgender people do and that there will always be some discordance and
incongruence. For me, that means that, even though I identify as a transsexual
woman, I am also, in practice, unavoidably gender nonconforming, genderqueer,
and nonbinary.
Being perceived or “passed” as a gender-normative cisgender person grants

you a kind of access to the world that is often blocked by being perceived as
trans or labeled as such. This lack of access, created by the way the world is
organized to benefit people whose embodiments are different from my own,
limits the scope of my life activities and can therefore be understood as
producing a disability. And just as my transness creates an overlap for me with
disability politics whether or not I am otherwise disabled, it intersects as well
with other movements, communities, and identities that also contest the negative
effects of living in a society that governs us all by norming our bodies. I feel that
being trans makes me kin with intersex people, fat people, people who don’t
embody beauty norms, people on the neurocognitive diversity spectrum, people
who are “enfreaked” for whatever reason—whether or not I am any of those
other things apart from the ways they intersect with being trans.
Although I can’t claim that being a white transgender person gives me any
special insight into the experience of minoritized communities of color, I do as a
transsexual experience the injustice of being targeted for structural violence
through being labeled a kind or type of person who is not as deserving of life as

other people, within a social order that tries to cement me into that often death-
dealing hierarchy based on some of my body characteristics. Because transness

sticks to my cut flesh even though I am white, it provides me with a basis not
just for antiracist white allyship with the struggles of people of color but also
with a real commonality of interest in dismantling a system that relentlessly sorts
all of us into biologically based categories of embodied personhood deemed
more or less worthy of life. I am determined to bring what I know from living
my trans life to that larger and deeper struggle. Still, as a white transgender
person who has come to this insight only over the past few decades, as one who
can still stumble and fumble in my coalitional work in spite of my best
intentions, I know I have a lot to learn from the accumulated centuries of
experience-based wisdom, social critique, life skills, and freedom dreams that
millions of people of color have developed for themselves to survive within
colonialism and racism.
Starting in the early 1990s, I’ve had the privilege of using my education as
part of a transgender movement for social change. I became a community-based
historian, activist, cultural theorist, media-maker, and eventually an academic
who has tried to chronicle various dimensions of transgender experience. The
ideas and opinions I share in this book first crystallized more than a quarter
century ago when I was part of a very politically and artistically engaged queer
community in San Francisco, now sadly somewhat dispersed and depleted by the

city’s increasing income disparities, its relentless gentrification, and the
displacement of many nonwealthy people. All of this is to say that my point of
view is both generationally and geographically specific. I worked for many years
at the GLBT Historical Society, one of the world’s great repositories of queer
and trans archival materials, and as a consequence the parts of transgender
history I know the best are the ones closest to lesbian and gay life. I’ve worked
and taught and been a visiting scholar at universities in cities from one end of
North America to the other as well as places in between—the Bay Area, Boston,
Vancouver, Indiana, Tucson—and have had the very great privilege of being able
to travel frequently, for work and for play, to countries in Eastern and Western
Europe, the Near East, Southeast Asia, Latin America, Australia, and New
Zealand. All of these experiences—as well as my incessant snooping around
online and participating in social media networks—hopefully help broaden some
of the limiting provincialisms undoubtedly embedded in the stories I tell about
the things that are most familiar to me.
Writing and revising this book have been ways for me to summarize some of
what I’ve gleaned from the life I’ve lived over the past few decades and to pass
it along to others who might find it somehow life-sustaining, or at least useful,
and, if nothing else, interesting. I hope it gives you something you need.

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