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.

Biologism is the belief that biological factors are both deterministic to and the essence of specific human phenomena, including identity categories like race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender/sex (a useful term for simultaneously denoting physiological and social processes). However, there are multiple forms of biologism (van Anders, Caverly, and Johns, forthcoming), especially related to understandings of gender/sex and trans in legal spheres (Allen 2007–8; Cruz 2010; Stirnitzke 2011). I call these “bio/logics” (B/L): implicit and/or explicit reasoning guides informed by features thought to be natural, corporeal, evolved, and material (e.g., sex over gender). B/L en masse locate gender/sex in one true natural form that can only be authenticated by others. Identifying different types of B/L highlights the cultural situatedness of even biologic sex (Cruz 2010; Kessler 1998; Fausto-Sterling 2000). Moreover, delineating B/L's heterogeneous technologies highlights how they can differentially inform ideas, rules, and laws in ways that have major implications for inclusionary and exclusionary practices around gender/sex and trans.

Interior bio/logics (iB/L) refer to a hierarchy in which the most essential features of gender/sex are seen to be the most biologic, and the most biologic are the most interior: the most deeply embedded in the body and the least changeable or malleable. For example, though hair, genes, hormones, nails, gonads, and genitals are all corporeal, natural, and material, iB/L privilege genes as the most interior, followed by gonads over genitals, and hormones over hair or nails. iB/L remain a major foundation for legal definitions of gender/sex within case law (van Anders, Caverly, and Johns, forthcoming). Because of the intransigence of genes (an iB/L trump), iB/L make little room for legal recognition of gender/sex transitions. Surgical alteration of genitals only serves to reinforce iB/L, in that genitals are not a definitive marker of gender/sex precisely because they can be altered.

Newborn bio/logics (nB/L) exteriorize gender/sex in a corporeal, displayable body with medical authority naturalizing sex and therefore surgico-medical authority renaturalizing sex. Specifically, a medical professional's cursory genital observation instantiates gender/sex at birth, and nB/L reinstantiate gender/sex at transition by recapitulating the newborn process, necessitating surgical modification of genitals for the updated genital observation. With nB/L, only genital features observable in newborns are allowed to be sex markers, thus invalidating the use of nonbiologic but material sex demarcations that might be used in adulthood. nB/L undergird the reliance on surgico-medical authority for legal requirements to change gender/sex designations on US birth certificates over features like self-identification, lived experiences, counseling, or even hormone therapy (Currah and Moore 2009; Greenberg 2000; Markowitz 2008; Spade 2008; van Anders, Caverly, and Johns, forthcoming) because these latter features cannot be made visible in newborns via cursory visual examinations (Kessler and McKenna, 1978). The use of contemporary sex-related technologies reinforce nB/L: they are employed in newborns only to resolve nondefinitive genital observations or to infer “true” gender/sex for surgical “correction” (Dreger 1998; Fausto-Sterling 2000; Kessler 1998).

Trace bio/logics (tB/L) reflect a biologic trajectory whereby corporeal features that influence later sex development are privileged as determinants of gender/sex. In contrast to iB/L, where the most interior features are the most deterministic of gender/sex, tB/L denote gender/sex starting points as the most definitive. Gonads and genitals are thought to be immutably present regardless of removal or absence, and the “trace” might operate in several ways. It might be material, as with hormones: once-gonads (ovaries; testes) release hormones in utero and postnatally in ways that affect sex/ual development. Or the trace might be heteronormatively conceptual, as with genitals: born-penises are meant to penetrate, born-vaginas to be penetrated (and born-vulvas to be ignored). tB/L underlie some current case law regarding legal definitions of gender/sex, as the once-presence of biologic sex markers like gonads, genitals, or uteruses at an early point is privileged over the current presence or absence of these same markers (van Anders, Caverly, and Johns, forthcoming).

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