Books

With my PhD in English Literature at Edinburgh University about to begin, I will be reading lots of stuff this year. Do not expect weekly reviews, I do not read quickly. But I will share with you anything interesting I do read, whether it’s a novel that’s in vogue, or something from my course that I think is worth knowing that broadened my horizon. I’ll be reading a lot of things about transgender discourse, but hopefully, a lot of things which aren’t, as well.

Trap Door

Trap-Door

Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility (MIT, 2017)

We are living in a time of trans visibility. Yet we are also living in a time of anti-trans violence. So begins Trap Door, a 400-page anthology of interviews, essays and reviews of the experiences of predominantly African-American and Latino transgender people in the US. The intro refers to the original Stonewall riots of 1969, and how Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera became quietly whitewashed from LGBT history. There is a sense that fragments of a forgotten history are being reclaimed from the sands of time.

For me already, strong feelings emerge from reading this, of my desire to go to the Stonewall Inn in New York in a pilgrimage, and so too the Compton Cafeteria in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco – arguably the Mecca and Medina of Trans visibility, places that are probably commercial as hell, or gone altogether.

Yet these feelings are already indulgently personal. Trap Door recounts in different chapters African-American and mixed-race trans people: the model-like Sir Lady Java, the survivor Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, in conversation with CeCe McDonald. Their dialogue is a particular highlight, of CeCe's imprisonment for the self-defence-based manslaughter of one of her attackers, and Major's intersectional reflections: We are always going to have to look over our shoulders. Just being black, you're the dirt that everything else is built on. So people are like, "Fuck you. And then you have the nerve to be a transgender person too?" CeCe mentions the "trans panic" defence, of the outrage cis-gendered men and women feel about sleeping with a trans person, and the potential abuse and legal consequences against trans people that can follow, as seen in the 2013 murder of Islan Nettles or the trials where trans people get imprisoned for sexual fraud and failure-of-disclosure of their trans identity before the act of sex. Another of CeCe's observations that resonate concerns the kind of white-hetero-friendly role models in the mainstream, the Caitlyn Jenners, for example: 'I feel that if there were more trans, queer, and GNC people of color having agency in mainstream spaces, then our narrative definitely could change.' This, indeed, is an issue even in white trans awareness, with its priority on passing and the paradox of highly visible invisibility, of trans women who look like cis-gendered models. It's great that they're visible, but we need diversity because trans people come in all shapes and sizes.

Trap Door is more than just an anthology, though. As an art experiment, it reflects on the Museum of Transgender Hirstory (MOTHA) in San Francisco which serves in turn as politicized spark for debates about the nature of the radical, and solutions against violence and stigma, not least against black and Latino trans people. The book accordingly covers trans-related art and political debates, tying into calls for models of futurity: coalitions and radical overhauls of neoliberal capitalism and the violence it causes. African American experience is the driving theme: the demands of 21st century abolitionists and the calling out of the enduring US settler colonialism that haunts US politics and culture today, issues not covered in white trans biographies in my experience.

These are just some of the standout themes and moments. In truth, such a densely packed tome as Trap Door would take thousands of words to cover the content. Its value, however, can be summed up by the way I scrambled to re-write my PhD structure days before my 2nd year review submission, having realized how profoundly white my perspectives had been.
Janet Mock: Redefining Realness
On Sarah McBride and Tomorrow Will Be Different
 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Guest
Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Captcha Image

My Latest Posts

June 14, 2021

An androgynous orgasm: Fashion Beast by Alan Moore

in Books

An androgynous orgasm: Fashion Beast by Alan Moore The images of this story become like memories of another life, maybe what's to come, Gina making do in a fascist state and looking good in spite of everything, a version of me, a cosmic cousin. Like the time I wrote about Cloud City in a film from my childhood, the cosmos conjures certain plac...
June 09, 2021

Retreating from gender-critical feminism: my reflections

Retreating from gender-critical feminism: my reflections Some months back, I reached out to the people who were meant to be my enemies: gender-critical feminists. I was worn down and had had enough of the media attacks and the hate, the JK Rowling furore and GRA reform, the weekly articles questioning our intentions and validity. I was worn down by...
May 02, 2021

When Renata Carvalho spoke at Edinburgh Transgender Intersectional/International (2019)

In 2019, I was part of a conference that invited the travesti actress and activist Renata Carvalho - star of Jo Clifford's 'The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven' on its touring production in Brazil - to come over from Brazil as our keynote speaker. We originally uploaded the speech on our conference website, but with that w...
December 22, 2020

Lacanian Icarus: when Gina flew too close to the sun?

On the recent experience of nearly being no-platformed There are two identities in one when it comes to being part of a disempowered minority. The first is for yourself: all your failings, your insecurities, your doubts, and connected to this, your curiosity and quirks. Let's be Lacanian analysts for a moment: what we're talking about is the transg...
November 17, 2020

Trans Hell-thcare

The picture accompanying this post is important to me. I took it yesterday, 16 November 2020, unsure what I'd find. It's been nearly eleven months since I came off oestrogen for reasons I'll get into in a moment. Undoubtedly this has had an effect on me, bodily and therefore psychologically, but the accompanying selfie gives me a reassura...
July 01, 2020

Silenced by The Scotsman

On 11 June 2020, The Scotsman published a deeply hostile article against transgender rights and activism in an opinion piece about the JK Rowling furore by its deputy political editor Gina Davidson. After much distress, I wrote a counter article which The Scotsman quietly ignored, after they had offered to pass it on to their Comment Editor. I expe...
May 11, 2020

The Book of Queer Prophets, curated by Ruth Hunt

in Books

  The Book of Queer Prophets: 24 Writers on Sexuality and Religion The historically fraught relationship between Abrahamic religions and LGBT+ identities provides the backdrop to The Book of Queer Prophets , a collection of twenty-four meditations by public figures who identify as both religious and LGBT+. The book's curator, the for...
May 09, 2020

Queer/Transgender short film: Mesmeralda

Joshua Matteo's short film, Mesmeralda , merging horror with esoterica, is now out on youtube . As with his previous work Metanoia , we see youthful trans actors racing through the empty streets of a moonlit New York, haunted by symbols and stalked by a masked figure of violent intentions. Mesmeralda , as described by Matteo, is the companion ...
March 15, 2020

My 2020 Vision

My 2020 Vision I've been away for so long from these postings, don't be offended. I used to write three times a week, because I needed to, in the maelstrom of early transitioning. Now, things are calmer, my gender feels more normal, we've reached the point where it's all about finishing my PhD in Trans Female Representations in the Americas this su...