In 2005, the Sundance docu-series Transgeneration first aired, chronicling an entire academic year in the lives of four trans*-identified college students and introducing viewers to issues that trans-identified college students grapple with at institutions of higher education. Ten years later, as transgender studies has begun institutionalizing itself as an interdisciplinary field and “transgender” and trans* narratives have become almost routine in mainstream entertainment, the editors of this special issue on trans* pedagogy find ourselves confronted with a paradox. While there is in general unprecedented social awareness of trans* identities, (particular) trans* people, and trans* issues, there has yet to be a serious concentrated effort to explore trans* subjectivities, identities, and experiences in educational contexts. For example, in the three seminal publications that signal the emergence of trans* studies as a field (i.e., The Transgender Studies Reader, The Transgender Studies Reader 2, and TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly), there is only one article that has a specific focus on formal educational contexts and pedagogical concerns. This is not to suggest there has been no scholarly research or writing on trans* issues in education. Much to the contrary, scholars have produced exceptional work regarding trans* people and educational experiences in other venues. Radical Teacher devoted an entire special issue, titled “Beyond the Special Guest—Teaching ‘Trans’ Now,” to the topic in 2011 (Agid and Rand 2011). The voices and experiences of trans* educators and students have been centered in a variety of disciplinary scholarly texts and journal articles (e.g., Catalano, McCarthy, and Shlasko 2007; Jourian 2014; Marine 2011a, 2011b; Nicolazzo 2014). However, trans* experiences in education have not yet been featured in the main venues of the emerging field of transgender studies.

In an attempt to address this significant gap, this special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly takes up matters of schooling, learning, and pedagogy. Both Paulo Freire (2000) and bell hooks (1994) declared that education should be a “practice of freedom,” one that enables individuals to “deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world” (Freire 2000: 34). All too often, however, formal educational practices foster conformity, deter necessary transgressions, and systemically seek to regulate rather than radicalize (Aronowitz 2004; Entin, Ohmann, and O'Malley 2013). This is particularly true with regard to the concept of ‘genderism,’ which Darryl Hill defined as the “system of beliefs that reinforces a negative evaluation based on gender nonconformity … the cultural notion that gender is an important basis by which to judge people and that nonbinary genders are anomalies” (2003: 119). This concept, which refers to the biopolitics of gender from an overarching societal perspective, has also been found to operate within educational contexts (Bilodeau 2005, 2009; Marine and Catalano 2014; Nicolazzo 2015), regulating the lives of trans* people and thereby mediating how they navigate such spaces.

We contend that formal education typically enacts genderism. With this special issue, “Trans*formational Pedagogies,” we seek to reinvigorate ongoing conversations about education as a practice of freedom by exploring ways in which educational processes can specifically challenge the oppressive aspects of the binary gender system. In particular, the pieces included in this special issue center on the following questions: What counts as learning? What is pedagogy, and where does pedagogical practice occur? What are the roles of educational institutions in shaping and responding to genderism? How do educational institutions delimit and/or proliferate possibilities for the doing, thinking, and practicing of trans* genders? Who is excluded from educational systems? To this end, we have included several selections that address what room there may be for liberatory educational praxis, particularly given the overwhelming prevalence of state-sanctioned surveillance and neoliberal accountability standards. Finally, while we attempted to engage a robust set of questions regarding the current possibilities, limits, and experiences of trans* educational contexts, we also thought it important to suggest how the nascent conversations regarding trans* subjectivities, identities, and concerns in educational settings exceed the boundaries of the school grounds and disciplinary formations.

As Julian Carter, David Getsy, and Trish Salah (2014) suggest in their introduction to the TSQ special issue on “Trans Cultural Production,” the politics of trans* in/visibility are knottily entangled. Similarly, the push and pull of education as an apparatus of surveillance and the social reproduction of the status quo on the one hand and as an environment latent with liberatory potential on the other makes any discussion about educational institutions fraught with difficulty. The ways in which gender, race, class, dis/ability, faith, and sexuality coalesce to permit certain bodies—by which we mean both conceptually and literally—to enter, navigate, and succeed in education are by no means uniform. As Grant et al. (2011 highlighted, trans* people—and in particular, trans* people of color—experience severely decreased life chances in terms of employment, health care, housing, and financial security. As a result, entrance into formal educational structures is also heavily policed, often resulting in the classroom doors remaining shut to trans* people. Furthermore, even when trans* people do gain admittance into educational systems, the overarching system of societal genderism, itself replicated in educational contexts, renders these contexts increasingly dangerous, risky, and alienating for trans* people (e.g., Rankin et al. 2010. This is particularly true when examining the effects of educational environments for trans* people of color, especially trans* women of color, who are disproportionately targeted. For example, consider the case of Black transgender activist, Monica Jones, who was arrested for the vague charge of “manifesting prostitution,” which trans* people and their allies translate as “walking while trans*.” Jones, a known trans* activist, had been among those protesting Project ROSE (Reaching Out to the Sexually Exploited), “an anti-prostitution collaboration between the Arizona State University School of Social Work, the Phoenix Police Department, and Catholic Charities, which claims to provide services to workers within the sex industry through a prostitution diversion program” (Strangio 2014). Jones's arrest exposes the conjoining of racism, sexism, and transphobia in neoliberal initiatives such as Project ROSE. It illustrates how educational institutions work in conjunction with nonprofit organizations and other state-sanctioned and funded initiatives to criminalize trans* women of color, thereby simultaneously prohibiting their entrance into educational environments and subjecting them to a system of mass incarceration that Michelle Alexander (2010) has aptly named “The New Jim Crow” for communities of color.

In conceptualizing this special issue, we also struggled with the constant (re)framing of education by US scholars from an ethnocentric perspective, whereby the prevailing myth of US exceptionalism overshadows the possibilities for understanding non-US educational contexts as promising spaces to think about, interrogate, and practice shifting notions of gender. To this end, we sought to encourage submissions that engaged notions of pedagogy in the broadest possible ways, including in contexts other than that of the United States. While we were encouraged to see articles from European educational settings submitted, we also recognize that these submissions were still from Western Europe and thus still position various other educational contexts as “other,” “unknown,” and, by extension, “exotic.” Therefore, while we hope this special issue will be a productive space for the integration of gender identity and trans* lives into fields related to education, the lack of consideration of a wide range of geopolitical areas means that the essays we have curated on schooling as a site for the practice of gender freedom present a partial and limited picture.

In this sense, we envisioned this special issue as presenting scholarly work within the fields of education that demands further exploration and attention. Rather than being read as canonical, the scholarly voices and perspectives in this issue serve to disrupt educational spaces from the staid notions of binary gender that permeate them. Indeed, there have been seismic shifts in some educational contexts regarding how scholars and practitioners conceptualize gender in relation to their thinking and work. However, there is still fertile ground to be tilled in order to understand fully the myriad ways gender operates to (re)produce environments that constrict, proliferate, and otherwise mediate such settings. Thus, we invite readers to view this special issue as a series of questions demanding further investigation, or as an ellipsis that encourages ongoing theorizing and praxis from liberatory frameworks and perspectives. As an apocryphal quote attributed to W. B. Yeats rightly claims, “education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” We conceptualize this scholarly space as that lighting of a fire, one that we hope will burn with steady intensity for as long as it takes to illuminate how education can truly meet the ideal set forth by Freire and hooks as being a practice of freedom.

The first article examines reflections on practice—specifically, the power of classroom practices to instantiate or dismantle genderism (Bilodeau 2005). Susan Woolley's ethnographic study of binary gender practices at the secondary level reminds readers of the power of such practices within schooling and of their invisible ubiquity. Teachers' use of language and practices of classroom management implicate them in the production (or challenging) of gender norms. Woolley's interrogation of “Ms. Green's” behaviors in an extended case study clarifies how even well-meaning educators, armed with knowledge from participation in “safe space” trainings, act in ways that reinscribe the power of the gender binary on youth lives and identities. The teacher's consciousness around inviting students to self-select their sex, while using words such as honestly and really to modify the invitation, signaled the tension of living out other possibilities within the containment of the traditional sex/gender system. Unsurprisingly, peer perceptions of and reactions to gender-nonconforming students devolved into policing of those identities, normalizing gender harassment. The affected students' impotence, coupled with the teacher's fragmented responses that failed to curtail the harassment, yielded minimal space for students to self-identify or even to act, given the forcefulness of the regulation taking place. In place of such practices, Woolley suggests adopting a stance of critical gender literacy as a means of challenging and changing these harmful dynamics. Such an approach extends one's politics into one's practices in a way that manifests coherence between the two and engenders space for nonbinary youth to learn and flourish in safety.

Classroom practice in the postsecondary realm is taken up by Hilary Malatino in her piece, “Pedagogies of Becoming: Trans Inclusivity and the Crafting of Being.” Malatino's compelling account of being a guest speaker (representing her experience of being intersex) in a Smith College women's studies class considers the potential (and limitations) of this practice for advancing learning. Reflecting on the questionable value of presenting one intersex person's life experience as emblematic of anything, Malatino cautions against the urge to frame such narratives as triumphal, suggesting instead that her story and others (Beatriz Preciado's Testo Junkie [2013] and Eli Clare's Exile and Pride [1999] being among those she points to as equally complex) may be more appropriately conceived of as “part of a more expansive tableau of the terrain of gender transformation.” This terrain is marked by the machinations of late liberal and neoliberal ideologies, which insist on unifying narratives as a way to manage the disruption of diversity. Such machinations function with the academy, particularly, to appease anxiety about exclusion while simply attending to superficialities, a kind of “progressive window dressing” as decried by Malatino. Returning to the classroom, Malatino noted the hazards of presenting the trans* (or intersex) narrative, which displaces any serious consideration of the material realities of trans* lives with a “heartwarming affirmation … of ‘being true to yourself.’” Arguing instead for centering the discursive, heavily culturally encoded construction of all gendered bodies, trans* and nontrans* alike, Malatino employed the work of Eve Sedgwick and others in the service of signaling the complexity that exists universally, while also disadvantaging some disproportionately. She thus welcomes the opportunity to “move away from the special guest model and instead focus on our shared performativity.” Naming and deconstructing gendering practices, rather than absorbing the singularity of gendered individual subjects, becomes the deeper pedagogical platform for inviting and welcoming gender complexity in the classroom. This ushers in a space where self and community, in conjunction with explorations of power and agency, can generate more agentic logics of becoming and being.

In his study of trans* men in college, Chase Catalano examines the ways that these men think about and describe their genders, acknowledging that this process is always mediated through the lens of class, race/ethnicity, sexuality, and other subjectivities. These students' narratives were marked by struggle: the struggle to “make meaning of their visibility as men … or their invisibility as men” and to “connect with cisgender men in what felt [to many] like a forced affinity,” among others. Men in this study described choosing to pass, or eschewing passing, as a mixed outcomes strategy for visibility. Ambivalence about dominant discourses of manhood abounded: the men then focused their attention on embodiment as the primary site of the expression of masculinity, while also being disinterested in the ultimate embodiment of maleness—the surgically constructed penis. Liminality was thus the defining characteristic of the men's gender expression, which is directly opposed by the normalizing processes of the medical model, specifically the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care, which Catalano asserts are in heavy rotation in the postsecondary environment. Such entanglements, he argues, belie the potential of higher education to serve as a liberatory space for the holistic exploration of trans* masculinity. Constructing best-practice narratives to respond to these quandaries is tempting but ultimately fruitless. Catalano urges more emphasis on engaging trans* college men in conversation about their masculinities, about what would help them to healthfully define and embody them, and to allow the natural openness of this liminality to hasten affirmation of trans* college men's varied masculinities.

Just as trans* students bring insights to the table that trouble the current basket of “best practices,” trans* professionals' experiences in higher education also reveal important lessons for institutional transformation. The next article, “‘We Are Not Expected’: Trans* Educators (Re)Claiming Space and Voice in Higher Education and Student Affairs,” describes an important intervention in making trans* lives visible. In this piece, T.J. Jourian, Symone Simmons, and Kara Devaney discuss the creation of a group of trans* scholars and practitioners in the field of higher education and student affairs. Calling themselves the T*Circle, the group employs critical and trans*-specific theoretical perspectives to center and explore the lives of trans* people in the academy, particularly as their gender identities affect their (in)ability to navigate their collegiate environments. Held within an association that claimed to foster values of social justice, inclusion, and equity, the T*Circle employs Dean Spade's (2011) concept of “critical trans politics” to interrogate and expose the way that value-neutral language and assumptions, which are regularly used by liberal institutions as a marker of their desire to remain inclusive, actually reify normative notions of gender and, by extension, delimit possibilities and realities for the trans* people at such institutions. In this sense, the T*Circle, the first of its kind for the field of higher education and student affairs, sought to establish a base from which gender could be de/re/constructed from a trans*-centered perspective, one that would emphasize liberatory possibilities and focus on privileging feelings of connection, safety, and resilience over notions of assimilation, passing, or getting by in hostile climates.

In their dialogue, “Two Trans* Teachers in Madrid: Interrogating Trans*formative Pedagogies,” Lucas Platero and Em Harsin Drager discuss their experiences as trans* educators in Spain. The distinctness of their identities from one another (i.e., Harsin Drager being a US citizen and Platero being a Spaniard) converges with their similarities (e.g., both identify as presenting a masculine gender expression), and they converse about what it means to engage in a trans* pedagogy that seeks to “offer students the tools they need to participate in the political and economic power structures that shape the boundaries of gender categories, with the goal of changing those structures in ways that create greater freedom” (Galarte 2014: 146). Harsin Drager and Platero also explore issues related to neoliberalism, national politics in relation to who is granted access to teaching youth in Spain, and how the extension of US exceptionalism affords some—particularly native English speakers—greater access to employment in a country that has the highest unemployment rates in Europe and, as a result, forecloses those same opportunities to Spanish citizens. They also discuss the role of curiosity in the classroom, and how embracing students' curiosity about gender can inform a trans*-pedagogical stance that recognizes one's trans* identity while also attending to the potential precarity of what that may mean for various others beyond students (e.g., parents and administrators).

Finally, in “Bathrooms and Beyond: Expanding a Pedagogy of Access in Trans/Disability Studies,” Cassius Adair adeptly merges the fields of transgender and disability studies by using pedagogical engagements with students to ask critical questions about the current realities and future possibilities of access. Taken at its broadest sense, Adair posits access both in terms of being able to enter and use physical facilities such as restrooms as well as break through the many barriers to gain admittance to educational spaces. Adair's article extends critical inquiry to its limit, even openly asking the question, “What is the role of gender-inclusive restrooms inside academic buildings or local coffee shops when so many people (including, of course, trans and disabled people) are being turned away at the academy's front door?” Infusing transgender and disability studies perspectives with intersecting perspectives on race, nationality, and social class, Adair's piece provides a foundation upon which to imagine possible futures for transgender, disability, and trans/disability studies. This traversing of disciplinary boundaries, and an emphasis on the possibilities of working alongside students due to such pedagogical enactments, pick up on Alison Kafer's (2013) work in Feminist, Queer, Crip, in which she imagined cripped futures, including the liberatory potential of envisioning such possibilities for those whose lives are always already positioned as short, tortured, and sad. In this sense, Adair's piece provides a powerful end to the group of articles included in this special issue, as it motions toward possible futures for various populations who have always been, and continue to be, read as tragic, illegible, and leading impossible lives. Or, as Adair states at the end of his essay, “a thematic focus on ‘access’ as a critical lens offers a way to explore new forms of resistant pedagogies,” particularly as they relate and respond to encouraging students to reimagine the (un)desirability of nonnormative identities, expressions, embodiments, and subjectivities.

In the aggregate, the articles in this special issue provide a more complex and nuanced articulation of what it may mean to be, think, and teach trans* genders in educational settings. The issue also comes full circle to the moment this introduction begins with, as T.J. Jourian, one of the cast members of Transgeneration, appears in this issue as an author, thus demonstrating a pedagogical commitment to knowledge production that has shifted from the realm of representation to institutional and academic terrains. The most compelling thread that links together Jourian and other contributors in this issue is the diverse approaches taken in each essay to speak to trans* pedagogies as a potential enactment of education as a practice of freedom. Certainly, the field of education is not free from critique. However, the strength of these articles individually—and the special issue as a collective—is their power to continuously call attention to the limitations, opportunities, and possible futures for increasing life chances for trans* people.

References

Agid, Shana, and Rand, Erica.
2011
. “
Beyond the Special Guest: Teaching ‘Trans’ Now
.”
Radical Teacher
, no.
92
:
5
9
.
Alexander, Michelle.
2010
.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
.
New York
:
The New Press
.
Aronowitz, Stanley.
2004
. “
Against Schooling: Education and Social Class
.”
Social Text
79
, no.
2
:
13
35
.
Bilodeau, Brent.
2005
. “
Beyond the Gender Binary: A Case Study of Two Transgender Students at a Midwestern Research University
.”
Journal of Gay and Lesbian Issues in Education
3
, no.
1
:
29
44
.
Bilodeau, Brent.
2009
.
Genderism: Transgender Students, Binary Systems, and Higher Education
.
Saarbrücken, Germany
:
VDM Verlag
.
Carter, Julian B., Getsy, David J., and Salah, Trish.
2014
. “
Introduction
.”
TSQ
1
, no.
4
:
469
81
.
Catalano, Chase, McCarthy, Linda, and Shlasko, Davey.
2007
. “
Transgender Oppression Curriculum Design
.” In
Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice
, edited by Adams, Maurianne, Bell, Lee Anne, and Griffin, Pat,
219
45
.
New York
:
Routledge
.
Clare, Eli.
1999
.
Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation
.
Cambridge, MA
:
South End Press
.
Entin, Joseph, Ohmann, Richard, and O'Malley, Susan.
2013
. “
Occupy and Education: Introduction
.”
Radical Teacher
, no.
96
:
1
5
.
Freire, Paulo.
2000
.
Pedagogy of the Oppressed
.
New York
:
Continuum
.
Galarte, Francisco J.
2014
. “
Pedagogy
.”
TSQ
1
, nos.
1–2
:
145
48
.
Grant, Jaime M. et al
2011
.
Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey
.
Washington, DC
:
National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
.
Hill, Darryl B.
2003
. “
Genderism, Transphobia, and Gender Bashing: A Framework for Interpreting Anti-transgender Violence
.” In
Understanding and Dealing with Violence: A Multicultural Approach
, edited by Wallace, Barbara C. and Carter, Robert T.,
113
36
.
Thousand Oaks, CA
:
Sage
.
hooks, bell.
1994
.
Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom
.
New York
:
Routledge
.
Jourian, T.J.
2014
. “
Trans*forming Authentic Leadership: A Conceptual Framework
.”
Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis
2
, no.
2
: article 8.
Kafer, Alison.
2013
.
Feminist, Queer, Crip
.
Bloomington
:
Indiana University Press
.
Marine, Susan B.
2011a
. “
‘Our College Is Changing’: Women's College Student Affairs Administrators and Transgender Students
.”
Journal of Homosexuality
58
, no.
9
:
1165
86
.
Marine, Susan B.
2011b
.
Stonewall's Legacy: Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Students in Higher Education
. ASHE Higher Education Report, vol.
37
, no.
4
.
San Francisco
:
Jossey-Bass
.
Marine, Susan B., and Catalano, D. Chase J.
2014
. “
Engaging Trans* Students on College and University Campuses
.” In
Student Engagement in Higher Education: Theoretical Approaches and Practical Approaches for Diverse Populations
, edited by Harper, Shaun and Quaye, Stephen J.,
135
48
.
New York
:
Routledge
.
Nicolazzo, Z.
2014
. “
Identity as Inquiry: Living and Researching from the Borderlands
.” In
Disrupting Qualitative Inquiry: Possibilities and Tensions in Educational Research
, edited by Brown, Ruth Nicole, Carducci, Rozana, and Kuby, Candace R.,
205
26
.
New York
:
Peter Lang
.
Nicolazzo, Z.
2015
. “
‘Just Go in Looking Good’: The Resilience, Resistance, and Kinship-Building of Trans* College Students
.” PhD diss.,
Miami University
.
Preciado, Beatriz.
2013
.
Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Age
.
New York
:
Feminist Press
.
Rankin, Sue et al
2010
.
2010 State of Higher Education for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People
.
Charlotte, NC
:
Campus Pride
.
Spade, Dean.
2011
.
Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law
.
Brooklyn, NY
:
South End
.
Strangio, Chase.
2014
. “
Arrested for Walking While Trans: An Interview with Monica Jones
.”
ACLU: Blog of Rights
,
April
2
. www.aclu.org/blog/lgbt-rights-criminal-law-reform-hiv-aids-reproductive-freedom-womens-rights/arrested-walking.