Studies of queer and trans suffering, resilience, care, and vitalities are invariably also investigations into the difficult and painful articulations of lives that feel worth living and deaths that feel okay dying. The notion of resiliency, referring to a conditional state of overcoming difficult situations, neglects to fully encompass our understandings of risk, vulnerability, and life. This article explores the ways in which Washington, DC–based trans activists discuss shared coalitional labor as constituting that which renders viable life—or, in some cases, what they describe as deaths worth dying—in a contemporary moment that is distinctly violent. While health researchers have long noted the beneficial role that a coalition serves in better representing needs in research, this article focuses on how individuals meet their needs not through solitary and normative resilience strategies but within and through spaces of coalitional action. This approach to radical care and viable life encourages us to rethink how a necropolitics of trans life—lives marked as morally suspect and intrinsically disposable—coexists with a notion of trans vitalities that this article develops. Ultimately, embracing the concept of trans vitalities is not simply a refusal or disavowal of projects of normalization or the commodifiability of trans rights but, rather, a vigilance toward the violently homogenizing expectations of the heterogeneity of lived experience.
Beyond Resilience: Trans Coalitional Activism as Radical Self-Care
Elijah Adiv Edelman is assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Rhode Island College in Providence. His work has appeared in GLQ, Journal of Homosexuality, Porn Studies, and Journal of Sex Research, as well as in the collections Queer Necropolitics (2014), Queer Excursions (2014), and Out in Public (2009).
Elijah Adiv Edelman; Beyond Resilience: Trans Coalitional Activism as Radical Self-Care. Social Text 1 March 2020; 38 (1 (142)): 109–130. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-7971127
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