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.
Where “trans-” animates the suffixes to which it is attached and “poetics” explores “how meaning is possible, by whom and at what cost” (Barthes 1999: 218), “trans-poetics” refers to techniques for communicating “complex, unstable, contradictory relations between body and soul, social self and psyche” (Ladin 2013: 306). Trans-poetic projects often seek to navigate the limits of the (im)possible, writing the “resistance of the inarticulate, in a language that situates” (edwards 2013: 325) or lending poetic form to “a body that has been historically illegible” (Shipley 2013: 197). Such projects may engage relations between the textual and the corporeal, between content and form, between “signifiers and the world they configure” (Holbrook 1999: 753).
An example of a trans-poetics relevant to transgender studies is one articulated in feminist translation studies regarding the inevitability and potentiality of error. As translation is imbricated with cultural/political oppressions, silences, repressions, and reiterations, the error produced in the discord between two languages offers clues to the limits of the self: within these errors one encounters and disrupts the boundaries between self and another (author, text, language) (Spivak 1993). In the context of gender performativity, error is also conceived as generative, as the imperfect iteration that allows for the possibility of the “improper” (Butler 1993). A trans-poetics making use of both of these understandings of error draws on the discord, contingencies, and multiplicities possible in language in order to narrate and subvert cultural and critical attempts to fix gender and sexual boundaries.
“Trans-poetics” refers to the art and the labor of transgender poets, and it refers to diverse interpretative and compositional strategies attentive to relational movements between/across/within linguistic, embodied, affective, and political domains.