I dedicate this writing to Cecilia Gentili, nuestra reina.

In 1969, a trans woman named Denise D'Anne made the long trip from Los Angeles to Casablanca for gender-affirming surgery with gynecologist Georges Burou. D'Anne was able to bypass the scarcity of quality surgery in the United States through a private clinic abroad because she worked in the executive offices of a large railroad company. When she returned home after recovering, however, her boss not only dismissed her for transitioning but also blacklisted her from the industry. Forced to start over, D'Anne moved to San Francisco. Surgery allowed her to work legally as a woman, but for the same reason the only jobs available were feminized. She took a low-level position in the municipal civil service and quickly came to resent it. In a letter to a social worker at Stanford University's gender clinic, D'Anne (1973: 1) expressed frustration with how surgery had demoted her position in the labor market. “All I can wish,” she explained, “is that I could be given the opportunity to make use of my natural and developed talents. However, I am stuck with no ‘experience’ in any of the fields that interest me and consequently, I am having a hard time getting out of the secretarial rut.”

D'Anne was hardly typical of most trans women of her generation in the United States. Middle-class wealth allowed her to delay living publicly as a woman to coincide with medical transition. As a result, she avoided the severe downward mobility that affected most trans women, in which the social decision to go full-time occasioned a severe loss of wealth and work opportunities, often pushing them into gay neighborhoods where the only viable income stream was sex work. University gender clinics getting off the ground at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Stanford in the late 1960s in fact targeted poor transsexual women as their primary population, organizing the practice of trans medicine to coerce middle-class outcomes from transition. Psychiatric gatekeeping intentionally delayed requests for surgery for years on end, rationalized by what clinicians termed “rehabilitation.” To be approved for surgery, candidates needed to reform themselves not just into conventional women or men but into conventional workers for a sex-segmented labor market. Trans women's ideal destiny after surgery might be marriage, but clinicians cared more that they leave sex work to become secretaries or waitresses, exiting the stigmatized underclass of vice districts (see Laub and Fisk 1974). Though she had avoided that process by traveling to Casablanca, by the gender clinic's metrics D'Anne was an ideal success. In fact, she was so successful in escaping the underclass of trans women that she ran into nontrans white women's dissatisfaction with careerism in the 1970s. On the other side of medical transition's economic demands lay a liberal feminist dead end, working for less money in feminized sectors. As the decade wore on, these frustrations took an overtly political turn when D'Anne (1974) ran for shop steward in her local chapter of the Service Employees International Union. She became a dedicated labor activist in San Francisco, working tirelessly in solidarity with civil service workers, especially on women's wages (see D'Anne 2011).

The analysis of transition through the lens of class is just one example of the shift in thinking to which we are treated in this issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. That transition is less a volitional act of identification, let alone a subversion of the gender binary, than a concrete response to living and working in the world, is only one provocation from D'Anne's life that a trans Marxist analysis might further engage. The resentments of middle-class “success” and their conversion into decades of labor organizing remind us that the terrain of trans politics is not inevitably identity or its deconstruction. The collective scene of labor organizing can contest the primacy of gender in forms of capitalist alienation too. Yet I also begin with D'Anne because even her public-sector unionism manifested a relationship of class bisecting trans femininity. Middle-class transitions and their correlation to professional work have proliferated significantly in the past several decades, particularly as medical transition has become tied to employer-sponsored health insurance in the United States. However, the form of intense poverty that characterizes working-class trans women's lives remains glaringly like the form it took in the late 1960s when it was first targeted by medicine and the welfare state for “rehabilitation.” D'Anne's professional solidarity enacted by turning inward to union work in the civil service left undisturbed the class relationship on which her own transition relied. The history of medical transition since World War II is nothing if not the history through which transition has been made middle class, intensifying the gross inequities and alienation attending the classes of trans people on whose backs it has been achieved. Indeed, the class enclosure has reached such hegemony that it has become possible to claim with a straight face that it is politically radical not to medically transition and instead reduce gender to a matter of private taste in clothes and pronouns, as if those were not quintessentially bourgeois criteria for advancing antitranssexual interests directly against poor trans women.

This history backgrounds the work gathered in this issue, sharply edited by Ira Terán and Emrys Travis. The vantage points and projects of trans Marxism do not boil down to class analysis the likes of which I have just sketched without any real Marxist inflection. But I wanted to give a small sense of the longevity, if not historicity, of the concrete class character of a practice as canonically transgender as transition because this issue, among its many accomplishments, treats the peculiar form of contemporary capitalist alienation to which some classes of trans people are especially well suited to immanently critique. Indeed, the growth of trans Marxism in recent years represents in part a reckoning with the capitalist crises of the present and the failure of liberal trans politics, not to mention liberal trans analysis, to mount a compelling political alternative. In that sense, Denise D'Anne's middle-class dilemma is one entry in a longer history of liberal trans thought and reformist politics butting up against the starker fact that trans does not name a group of people with shared interests in the first place; trans, rather, denotes people riven by gendered relationships of class in which the prevailing interests of different segments are often explicitly opposed.

In that sense, it's not surprising that an academic organ like TSQ is noticeably late to this party, catching up to vibrant and transnational networks of trans Marxist thinkers and researchers. Trans studies, like queer studies, has mostly ignored materialist analysis, no doubt to conceal the field's characteristically middle-class interests, correlate to a highly educated, predominately white, and professional social class that prioritizes individual self-identification and self-description, aesthetics, and performative style as the arbiters of good political taste while simultaneously claiming to represent a vanguard of radical leftism. The wellspring of writing growing under the banner of “trans Marxism” therefore has often been para-academic, which is to say, it has developed outside the charmed circle of university resources as an insurgent intellectual movement, advancing the analysis of people who have long been construed as a problem wherever they think, even within conventional definitions of the proletariat. These dynamics are reflected in the how differently trans studies proceeds with the interlocutors gathered in this issue. The galvanizing impact of the collection Transgender Marxism (2021), edited by Jules Gleeson and Elle O'Rourke, is evident in how many of its chapters are taken up at length by contributors to this issue. It strikes me, too, that despite being irreducible to a singular analytic, critique, or approach, trans Marxism generates a decidedly trans feminist practice of citation and solidarity. Kay Gabriel's, M. E. O'Brien's, and Nat Raha's bodies of work figure centrally in the references of contributors to this issue, alongside critical readings of Marxist feminism in Sylvia Federici, the books and journals published by Endnotes, and of course, Karl Marx herself. The issue's articles also largely decenter the United States, reflecting the strength and political diversity of trans leftist movements throughout certain zones in Europe, the United Kingdom, and Latin America. The intense degree to which anticommunism has structured and continues to structure the US academy sits apposite to those geopolitical differences.

There is much that dazzles in this issue, and it is best encountered simply by reading on. But I will underline, in closing, how delightful it is to read materialist and imaginative engagements with just how excruciatingly some trans subjects have been made to both represent and work at the most alienating forms of this era of capitalism. The total privatization of socially reproductive labor achieved through five decades of neoliberal austerity, as well as the extractive economies of attention, creative work, and obligate self-making that have grown alongside them to squeeze ever further value out of exhausted people, correlates interestingly with certain trans people's experiences—and not only in the romantic idioms of resistance or subversion. The trans hyper-pop artist, no less than the trans girl streamer or literary provocatrice, figures in this issue alongside “the transsexual” and other forms of enclosure in the global North. Experiments in living that are at once immanent critiques of those forms and attempts at disalienation (both in the antipsychiatric and anticapitalist sense) must be read in their relationships with groups rendered as collective subjects in a dehumanizing sense. Read and think across the articles in this issue from leftist movements in Europe or the United Kingdom to campesinas in Latin America, whose failures to proletarianize generate interesting possibilities for solidarity, or racialized populations in any number of nation-states whose disavowal by liberal trans politics generates urgency to think otherwise about the collective end of exploitation and suffering.

The vibes in this issue, no less than its references to memes and trans girl DJs, are choice. In risking materialist analysis and experimentation from the vertiginously immersed position of how some of us feel alienated today, “The Trans Marxist Issue” touches some of the electrifying implications of a proposition elegantly captured, in one iteration, by Harry Josephine Giles (2019: 20): “The work of transition is the work of class struggle.”

References

D'Anne, Denise.
1973
.
Letter to Patrick Gandy, May 10
. Denise D'Anne Papers, carton 1, GLBT Historical Society, San Francisco.
D'Anne, Denise.
1974
. “
Do Yourself a Favor and Vote for Denise D'Anne
.” Flyer. Denise D'Anne Papers, carton 1, GLBT Historical Society, San Francisco.
D'Anne, Denise.
2011
. Oral history interview with Craig Scott, August 29. Labor Archives and Research Center, San Francisco State University, San Francisco.
Giles, Harry Josephine.
2019
.
Wages for Transition.
Edinburgh
:
Easter Road
.
Laub, Donald R., and Fisk, Norman M.
1974
. “
A Rehabilitation Program for Gender Dysphoria Syndrome by Surgical Sex Change
.”
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
53
, no.
4
:
388
403
.