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
Thursday, 18 July 2019

Captcha Image

What's On This Week

My Latest Posts

June 09, 2019

Dark Phoenix, John Wick 3, Godzilla: my reflections

Three fantasy movies within three days: X Men: Dark Phoenix; John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum; Godzilla: King of the Monsters The Lacanian feminist Kaja Silverman says about cinema, we go because we need the affirmation, to see the things we hope to see and fail to see in the real world. In Lacanian-speak, Silverman says we go because 'the desire ...
June 02, 2019

Personal Reflections on Transgender: Intersectional/International

Personal reflections on the conference Transgender: Intersectional/International (28-29 May) ​​Note: these reflections do not represent anyone else who contributed to Transgender: Intersectional/International I got involved with Transgender: Intersectional/International in order to create an LGBT/queer space that accommodated discussions on racism,...
April 28, 2019

Gina's Moving Castle

Saturday afternoon 27.04.19 Enough with marking papers. Enough about conferences. Outside is a blue sky. There's a book shop nearby, my temple, its owners are trying to remove stickers of transphobic messages pasted on their door. Yesterday I met a guy who'd been set upon by a group of 17-year-olds. He still had the scars, and the trauma. They saw ...
Girl
April 14, 2019

Girl

April 14, 2019

Girl

It's a film I watched weeks ago, uncertain that I wanted to review it, the gruesome, horrific ending overshadowing anything positive I was able to take from it. Girl (2019), a Belgian production directed by Lukas Dhont is apparently inspired by the life of contemporary dancer Nora Monsecour . It's a film I had hopes for, really wanted to like, and ...
March 09, 2019

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

in Books

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi The author, Akwaeke Emezi, calls herself trans but also Ogbanje, a spirit depicted in Igbo culture as inhabiting a newborn baby soon to die, though possibly allowing it to live. These are dark conceptions already, embracing fatality and negotiating both intrusion and malevolence, and they contribute as themes to Emezi's ...
March 02, 2019

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

in Books

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein This may be one of the most important books on the 21 st century state of the world, an analysis of the global socio-economics that makes sense of the chaos of post-9/11 Iraq, of the collapse of democracies of Latin America since the 1960s and 70s, and the democratic false dawns of Russia and South Africa since the...
February 17, 2019

Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel A week has gone since I watched Alita: Battle Angel . It's a film that left me feeling similar emotions to the cyborg-driven techno-fireworks in Ghost in the Shell (2018), the emotion of 'almost.' Visually, there's a lavish sci-fi splendour to the film, bearing the wonders you desire in a mixture of escapist sci-fi and fantasy: ...
February 03, 2019

A Brexit Feminism That Fears And Excludes

This article follows a number of events that shook me this week. First of all, the filmed harassment by two Trans-Exclusionary-Radical-Feminists (TERFs) of trans woman Sarah McBride at McBride's workplace. I watched it online and thought: that could be me, caught out, disoriented. How do you respond to the equivalent of door-stepping, as out of the...
Vice
January 26, 2019

Vice

January 26, 2019

Vice

Vice A lukewarm reaction from critic Mark Kermode and a condemnation from political writer Simon Jenkins are a strange way to start this review of the Dick Cheney biopic Vice , given that I really enjoyed it. Jenkins's is peculiar, believing it reduced the U.S. invasion of Iraq to the work of a few shady men in the U.S. administration. But wasn't i...