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.
Voice is an apropos keyword for transgender studies, as the field rests on the demand that “the embodied experience of the speaking subject” subtend any analysis of transgender phenomena (Stryker 2006a: 12). Speech is propelled into the world through bodily actions, which is why a more metaphorical effort to “claim our voice” is synonymous with agential self-definition. “Voice,” used metaphorically, signifies multiple meanings at once: a sound that represents a person, the agency by which an opinion is expressed, and the expressed will of a people. This is why the keyword is frequently invoked to narrate the struggles of transgender studies' formation as a field. For example, in one of multiple figurative uses of “voice” in the forward to the 2006 Transgender Studies Reader, Stephen Whittle (2006: xv) notes that trans scholars “have enabled the coherent voices of trans people to be heard throughout the academy.” This discursive coherence has been a necessary strategy to combat logics of pathologization, through which trans* voices have sounded like “confused ranting of a diseased mind” (Stryker 2006b: 249). In the struggle for coherence, however, metaphorical references to “voice” privilege its discursive connotations, which relegates the embodied voice to a service role of rendering audible the coherent thought.
As transgender studies approaches its second iteration, claiming our discursive voice is less urgent. Voice, as a keyword for the next generation, demands that we listen, like musicians, to the voice qua voice — not merely as the message. This is not to say that our trans* voices can or wish to escape the gridding act of “making sense”; the voice certainly has something to say about the body's age, sex, race, nationality, or ability. How others make sense of a trans* voice, especially relative to one's physical appearance, can provoke great anxiety or pleasure. The voice, however, does not always vector toward the word; it can pierce us in unexpected ways, turning us toward (or away from) another in an acoustic and affective register. Voices enter our bodies through the ear and/or as felt vibrations and act as vocal vectors — means of escape from stratification and suppression. These vectors project outward toward the ear of another. One can never predict how our voices will be heard, and unpredictable reception is part of the voice's value.
In 2005, music critic John Hodgman interviewed trans-identified artist Antony Hegarty for a New York Times article he titled “Antony Finds His Voice.” In the piece, Hodgman attempts to make sense of Hegarty's voice, which he admits “is difficult to describe,” with a sound that “keens in the upper registers, somewhere between male and female.” Hegarty's voice is often likened to that of an angel (Hodgman 2005) or described as belonging to another world (see Currin 2009). These attributions use metaphor to get at the affective experience of hearing a voice one cannot quite recognize (as male, female, or human). Hegarty's trans* voice is a powerful instance of nondiscursive ways to trouble and blur normative assumptions about sex and gender, human and creature. Trans* voices can fail to make sense in spectacular ways when our voices no longer provide adequate evidence for the bodies that emit them. In those spectacular failures, our ghostly utterances, we find the forms of resistance that beckon from the future of transgender studies.