Abstract

This section includes eighty-six short original essays commissioned for the inaugural issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. Written by emerging academics, community-based writers, and senior scholars, each essay in this special issue, “Postposttranssexual: Key Concepts for a Twenty-First-Century Transgender Studies,” revolves around a particular keyword or concept. Some contributions focus on a concept central to transgender studies; others describe a term of art from another discipline or interdisciplinary area and show how it might relate to transgender studies. While far from providing a complete picture of the field, these keywords begin to elucidate a conceptual vocabulary for transgender studies. Some of the submissions offer a deep and resilient resistance to the entire project of mapping the field terminologically; some reveal yet-unrealized critical potentials for the field; some take existing terms from canonical thinkers and develop the significance for transgender studies; some offer overviews of well-known methodologies and demonstrate their applicability within transgender studies; some suggest how transgender issues play out in various fields; and some map the productive tensions between trans studies and other interdisciplines.

The monster is an ambivalent figure recurring in trans* discourse. When trans* people are cast as less than human, the monster (and the creature from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in particular) is often the metaphor of choice. 1970s separatist feminist Mary Daly (1978) and Janice G. Raymond (1979) used the image of Frankenstein's monster to depict trans* women's surgically modified bodies as dangerous and unnatural; similar depictions circulate in crime shows (“Ch-Ch-Changes2004) and Hollywood films (The Silence of the Lambs [dir. Jonathan Demme, 1991]). The varied transphobic uses of the monster trope often draw on ideas of physical monstrosity to uphold their naturalization of binary sex and gender.

In a world where the monster is circulating as metaphoric violence against trans* people, reclaiming such a figure faces the difficulty of formulating resistance in the same metaphorical language as the transphobic attack. Moreover, as a figure of difference, the monster appears in racist, ableist, homophobic, and sexist discourses, making its use especially fraught. Still, we cannot simply dismiss the monster for its history or injurious potential. It is precisely the monster's ambivalent ability to speak to oppression and negative affect that appeals to trans* people reclaiming the monster for their own voices.

Trans* metaphorizations of the monster draw from implications of monstrosity way beyond the idea of monstrous bodies. Sometimes trans* authors describe the embodiment before a desired medical transition as a monstrous experience. More often, however, trans* references to the monster are a way of addressing feelings of gender dysphoria and alienation rather than characteristics of a body. In addition, the trans* monster is claimed as a site of agency that negotiates a queerly complex relationship to nature, origin narratives, and language. In her seminal piece “My Words to Victor Frankenstein above the Village of Chamounix,” Susan Stryker ([1994] 2006) uses the eloquent monster of Frankenstein to interpret trans* embodiment and rage against a culture that naturalizes the sexual binarism and denies gendered recognition to trans* people. Transgender studies, rather than refuting the attribution of monstrosity, has called for its embrace to restructure the world in such a way that it makes livable what is now deemed monstrous gender (see, e.g., Hale 1998).

The monster, then, is a central figure in representations of trans*, serving widely divergent narratives of transphobic insult and trans* resistance alike.

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