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 term x-jendā began appearing in the late 1990s in publications as well as in independently produced documentaries created by and featuring transgender individuals in the Kansai area of Japan (centered around the cities of Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe).1 Since then, the term has spread to the extent that it is now recognized within the Japanese (primarily online) queer community, is featured in write-ups about sexual minority/LGBT issues in Japan, and appears as a gender option on materials circulated at queer-focused events such as film festivals. The definition of x-jendā is one that although generally taken for granted remains ambiguous as well as open to individual interpretation. It is generally understood to refer to a gender identity that is neither female nor male, although how such an identity is conceived varies greatly.
X-jendā is ostensibly a loan word (a word of foreign origin) in Japanese, with jendā being the Japanese transliteration of the English “gender” and its use in an academic context highly mirroring that of the anglophone academic sphere. The term jendā has not, however, caught on at a popular level in Japan and tends to be used primarily in academic and political discourse. Jendā is not a term that one finds on forms requiring personal information; in such cases, seibetsu (often interpreted as referring to biological/physiological sex) is used. X-jendā can be taken to signify that one's gender is neither female nor male but “x.” However, although an ostensible loan word is used, the term x-gender is not used (or rather, has not up to the present been used) in cultural contexts outside Japan. The difference in the connotations between the term gender, used in an anglophone context, and jendā in Japanese draws attention to the multiple meanings that translation can create and points to the differences in the reception of a term that cultural context fosters. This also goes for terms such as toransujendā (transgender) and applies not only to a Japanese context but to other nonanglophone contexts that utilize “universal” terms such as queer, gay, and so on, terms that seem universal but that are actually adapted to local contexts and as such are not as homogenous as we may presume them to be.
The term x-jendā first emerged after the concept of GID, or gender identity disorder, (seidōitsu seishōgai) was officially recognized in Japan in the late 1990s. GID has since become popularly recognized and has dramatically impacted not only how transgender identities are thought of but how gender as well as sexuality is seen. As a result of this, most inexplicitly female/male ways of being have been subsumed by the concept and reframed in a medical/psychological discourse. The medicalization of transgender ways of being in Japan as such came about relatively later than in European and North American countries, and this has impacted the path that transgender politics has come to take.
Most x-jendā individuals frame their identity using terms such as FTX (female to X), MTX (male to X), or XTX (used by intersex individuals or those who say that they have never identified as a specific gender), following the model of sex assigned at birth to sex transitioned to that is used by transgendered individuals (i.e., MTF, FTM). Some individuals who identify as x-jendā liken it to “genderqueer” or “gender bender” and describe x-jendā as a Japanese version of these concepts. Others view x-jendā as a convenient category that includes a variety of identities that do not conform to the male/female gender binary. There are also individuals who view x-jendā as a subset of GID and who push for the medical diagnosis of x-jendā. X-jendā is a modern identity construct, one that also takes as its basis global transgender discourses such as that of transgender and GID; in the online (Japanese) discourse, x-jendā is often framed within the global transgender or GID discourse. As such, it is not necessarily viewed as a local construct but rather as a universal identity. Websites such as Wikipedia do not always provide cultural context; a page about transgender in Japanese, for example, will list x-jendā as a sub-category, without stating the locality of the term (see Wikipedia 2013).
X-jendā symbolizes for some the rejection of a system that judges individuals based on their sex/gender. However, it also has the potential to reify stereotypical gender roles and expectations in its definition. What is woman/man/female/male — and how does x-jendā distinguish itself from these categories? The answer is one that has ramifications for personal as well as social conceptions of gender.
1. This entry provides a very brief overview of x-jendā. For a more in-depth article, see Dale 2012.