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.
I am driving across the tawny plains of Nebraska, imagining nature launching a marketing campaign aimed at transgender folks. Nature: No Therapist's Letter or Passport Required! I like to think that nature's marketing executive would pass over trans metaphors that engage nature in clichéd ways: “trapped,” the metamorphic butterfly, a rare bird. Talk to me about a winged rabbit or an eight-legged turtle or a bucktoothed squirrel. Freaks of nature, biodiversity — I am thinking about what these concepts really mean, how transgender studies and nature can begin to shed some light.
What is natural, anyway? Nature matters for transgender studies because of how we map (and are mapped) along boundaries of inside and out, natural and unnatural. Bats are a protected species, but that did not stop my landlord from killing one when it would not “stay outside where it belongs!” Where do we belong?
Transgender studies can shepherd us beyond “tired gendered portrayals of earth-mother-goddess nature” (Beyer 2010) and toward re-genderings of natural space. It is Camp Ida, in Tennessee. It is in urban parks, like San Francisco. It is me last summer, when I squatted to piss behind a log cabin and my packer fell on the dirt. If a packer falls out in the forest and no one is around to see it, am I still trans? Nature: The Original Gender-Neutral Bathroom.
What does a transgender pastoral look like? What does trans do to our visions of country life and green space? A transgender pastoral may be verdant and bucolic, but the reality is occasionally interrupted by transphobes, cunning or dumb, who howl and leave their scat.
And yet my Google search for “transgender pastoral” yields only results about ministry care for transgender folks. Nature, transgender, and this idea of care: who is caring for whom? What will transgender studies do with the environment, pumped up with chemicals these days, its roof on fire? Nature: Not Hormone Free, Either. I want to know what transgender studies will say on environmental education research and vice versa.
I am still driving across Nebraska, thinking about trans ecologies. I am watching a chain of geese across the sky, several V formations linked together, and I think about all the trans people I know who have flocked to San Francisco and those who have not. Transgender studies might find a bridge between critical theory, landscape ecology, and animal behavior to think about how we form communities and navigate vulnerability in metropolitan and rural areas (Ingram 2010). Nature: If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Already. Transgender studies can create a discourse in which nature is not the cisgender space it has been made out to be. I mean links between transgender and nature that are, for once, not just about our genitals, though they can be about that too. I want theoretical critique and art and song about species (McWhorter 2010) and biodiversity and evolution and instinct and habitat.
When was the first time you saw nature and knew it as yourself? In a tornado? On the wings of a camouflaged moth? Nature is something the nimbus says to the spotted cow, and we are trans inside of it. Nature: Relax, You'll Look Good Here. I went into nature to try to find the Bellbird (Anderson-Minshall 2012), but I only found myself. The Bellbird has feather patterns deemed female but a distinctly masculine call. I could say I know how it feels, but I do not, because trans is our species' word, not the Bellbird's. We are wild animals still learning how to wield our tool of language, sometimes too dull, sometimes too sharp. Nature is something the blade of grass hollers up to Orion's Belt, and we are still trans inside of it.
I got tired of learning masculinity from humans, so I studied the male wren, building his nest twig by twig, singing a sweet song to attract a mate, feeding his young via beak. I studied the barred owl, solitary witness calling out to others from his perch high up in an old burr oak, his hoot more oxygen than my bound lungs are able to manage. I learned from three little dairy goat boys, castrated, never to be angry bucks. My masculinity is a cross-species “biomimicry,” cherry-picked day to day (Nature: There's Something for Everyone), and whether this makes me natural or unnatural, I cannot say.