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.
Hips contribute to gender expression, attribution, pleasure, policing, frustration, misery, erotics, and joy. They can seem hopelessly immutable in structure or malleable in shape and meaning. They involve purported universals and entrenched particularities, bringing formidable barriers and giddy hope to projects of gender signification.
Hips occupy a place in the unfortunate system of classification that enshrines hierarchized biological features as the essence of sex. Hips are called a “secondary sex characteristic” because they likely widen during estrogen-heavy puberties. Hormones shape gender in the bone. Fat accumulations magnify differences. Colloquialisms exaggerate them. Women have hips, we say; men do not. People become pears or apples.
Yet where bone meets fat, supposed biological destiny meets notions of agency as discipline. A minute on your lips, forever on your hips: hips can signal feminine excess or the insufficient restraint of people brown, “ethnic,” zaftig, poor. Vernacular usage also marks biology as inconsistent, unreliable. Adjectives that commonly modify hips have -like suffixes, gendering affinity rather than essence, although the two may line up. “Womanly hips” usually attaches to people labeled women, but implies that not all people labeled women have them. Some, instead, have “boyish hips,” a phrase that also exists largely to describe people labeled female. (Thus, while “womanly hips,” to some, means “childbearing hips,” pregnant people, their hips, or both may not be womanly gendered.) Boyish hips often have a showy public presence: in fashion, sport, or when Angie Harmon's hips (and the way she wears her pants) make a butch/femme romance of Rizzoli and Isles (TNT 2010– ). “Girlish hips,” by contrast — except on self-identified girls — live the quieter life of man-tits, as shamefully feminizing fat.
Hips in motion present more evidence for inspection. It is common wisdom that hips can betray you — reveal you or turn on you, sometimes simultaneously. They can show your desires (a staple of porn and the dance floor), your gender, your self. They may swish, switch, or sway as if they could not do otherwise — as if queer, femme, or hot mama were essential identities, uncontrollable moving forces. Or they can display you through haltedness. “My hips just don't move that way,” offered in despair, pride, relief.
When it comes to hips, all of the following can matter: the right belt, the right hormones (endogamous, exogamous); stomach, shoulders, thighs, and butt; muscle, food, training; the uniform, the outfit; spandex, padding; disposable income for all of the above; ideas about essence, affinity, and culture working their way separately or together. (I am a natural with that hula hoop. What is that about? Or not about?) The stakes include gender attribution and gendered pleasures. Maybe I want a soft curve or vertical hardness when you put your hands on my hips just so. The wrong hips can be anguish; the right hips divine. “Hips don't lie,” Shakira says (Shakira et al. 2006). That depends on what you mean by “lying” and your means to make hips speak for you.