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To counter arguments that transness is a new, illegitimate way of being, historians of transness and nonacademic trans people seek to locate trans individuals in the past. While this approach promises validation, it has unintended consequences. Because trans history developed out of a paradigm that uses genealogies of contemporary categories and tight historicization of identities, it deals with the problem of “who counts” as a subject of trans history. This insistence on a coherent, recognizable trans subject presupposes an ontological gender stability. A search for trans people in the past reproduces a cis/trans binary, where most people’s gender identity or social role naturally mapped onto their sexed body. This renders invisible how all sex and gender—including cisgender—fail to fit into normative taxonomies. Cisness was constructed as arguments about racialized and classed sexual difference, scientific study of bodily anomalies, and gender-norm violations threatened to undermine a binary sex system.

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