What will be in the times to come?
What will I be in the times to come?
What will we be in the times to come?
This special issue performs a claim to trans futures—a claim that imagines the reconstructed social realities and worlds made possible through the materializing of trans times. Critical trans studies and trans political struggles intervene in the spatial-temporal orders that determine and regulate the borders of knowledge, life/death, embodiment, movement, and social value established to secure the heteropatriarchal white settler state, liberal civil society, and the territories of the national body. Trans studies and politics activate the multiple temporalities of body-mind-sense, social vitality, and memory embodied and imagined through gender by trans practices that exceed the spaces and times of the state, society, and nation. We use the term trans to recognize multiple embodiments, expressions, and identities of gender nonconformity and variance that surpass—and potentially decolonize—racially constituted white, binary gender/sex, while maintaining links to transgender's resistant repurposing of Western psycho-medical science and to trans*’s broad inclusiveness based on the algorithmic command to “trans everything.”
This issue began from a desire to question and imagine our collective trans futures, and to question the idea of futurity itself. Beginning with commitments to trans of color studies and to decolonization, the call for papers for this issue brought in articles that imagine futures of transfeminist solidarity, tropical aliens, and new understandings of Black and trans solidarities that challenge the trans/cis binary. The concept of the future that colonizers, such as the colonizers of Australia, brought with them demanded an absolute devotion, argue Anna Tsing, Heather Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt, editors of Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet (2017: G7). They write, “Moving toward this future requires ruthless ambition—and the willingness to participate in great projects of destruction while ignoring extinction as collateral damage. The settlers looked straight ahead as they destroyed native peoples and ecologies” (G7). We reject the inclusion of trans people in a Western colonial narrative of progress that serves only to make countries like the United States appear progressive, or generous, in the granting of rights. In reality, those rights are always conditional and are used to reinscribe colonial frameworks of land ownership and to identify who is worth protecting, and who is not.
If trans implies a movement from one gender toward a different location, then transness is always imbricated with forward time and cannot exist without linear, teleological time. Yet if we imagine transness to be not about a crossing from one location to another but about a multidirectional movement in an open field of possibility, then time and its direction become more fluid. The assemblage model was used by Brian Massumi (2002) as a way to escape the capture of the grid of identifications for a more mobile space of affect. Jasbir Puar (2007; 2017) takes up that model to analyze fluid dynamics, such as a bomb explosion in which human, machine, and energy become blurred together in an instant that challenges presumed divisions of matter, describing how the sheer speed of movement can break down categorical designations such as male, female, human, machine, cis, and trans at the molecular level.
The multiple times of trans elude the linear rationality of history and visible subjects of knowledge. Trans uses of cultural forms, including literary and popular memoir, live performance, documentary film/video, and digital media, highlight trans practices of embodiment, identity, and social relation that remain outside cisgender spatial-temporal orders of reality, even as they lay claim to realness, with different degrees of access (cárdenas 2011). In Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More (2014), Janet Mock uses the unruliness of memoir to convey episodes in her coming-of-age as a Black Native Hawaiian trans girl displaced by the social assignment of gender across different institutions, geopolitical locations, and histories of racial gendering. Her storytelling proliferates senses of past, present, and future to embody the different temporalities of self-understanding, identification, and memory that constitute trans experience: “When I say I always knew I was a girl with such certainty, I erase all the nuances, the work, the process of self-discovery” (75). Trans memoirs and cultural genres intervene in dominant culture's reduction of transgender (and transsexual) experience to linear narratives with temporal continuity (Amin 2014; Salah 2017), organized around medical and state-determined gender/sex change through surgery, hormone replacement therapy, and identity documents. These narratives overwrite the expansive practices of gender transformation beyond and within surgery, hormone replacement, and identity marking, which give expression to trans identities outside/within visible social orders of reality (Halberstam 2005). The dominant culture's diminishing of trans temporalities to the visible and calculable attempts to regulate and assimilate trans experiences into the times and spaces of the state, society, and nation (Haritaworn 2015; Spade 2011; Puar 2017).
Trans temporalities also intervene in what can be captured in the other natural, universal order of time considered dialectically opposed to the rational modernity of the heteropatriarchal settler colonial state, liberal civil society, and territorial national body (Mbembe 2003; Bruyneel 2007; Derrida 1992). Trans practices of body-mind-sense and gender transformation stage and potentially rework binary cisgender—structured through whiteness—as a fundamental fault line defining the human and the territorial national body at the threshold between nature and culture. In Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-Spirit Memory (2016), Qwo-li Driskill addresses the mapping of heteropatriarchal gender and sexual systems onto Cherokee and other southeastern Indigenous bodies, lands, and histories through European invasions and colonization, beginning with Hernando de Soto's sixteenth-century southeastern expedition. Driskill interweaves Indigenous temporalities and cosmologies of nonbinary gender, same-sex love, and political community into the contemporary landscape of the Southeast territories—a naturalized landscape that relied on enslaved Africans for its European settlement. Gloria Anzaldúa (1987) has extended the mixed aesthetics of the borderlands in the Anglo and Spanish colonized southwest territories to create a different set of images that mythologize queer and gender-nonconforming Chicana/Latina survivals in Light in the Dark/Luz en lo oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality (2015). The Aztec figure of Coyolxauhqui and the Nahuatl concept of nepantla communicate the necessity of decolonizing limited perceptions of reality to embody different worlds and to reconstruct identities fragmented by twenty-first-century manifestations of colonial histories (Anzaldúa 2015). The decolonial methods created by Driskill and Anzaldúa contend with the imposition of heteropatriarchal conceptions of gender and sexuality that allow for the genocidal dispossession of Indigenous, Latinx, and Black forms of embodiment and political collectivity and the colonial cultivation of “natural” settled territories, family, and nation in the United States and Americas (Pérez 1999; Barker 2017). Indigenous two-spirit and decolonial trans of color practices and imaginations draw from temporalities of gender, sexuality, and social relation that exceed—and remain submerged within—the colonial opposition between the modern and natural times of gender (Gómez-Barris 2017). In Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity (2017), C. Riley Snorton offers a dynamic racial archive of transness that remembers the conditioning of the modern world and its social orders of being, value, and time on the transubstantiation of blackness as nonbeing (Wynter 2003). His counterhistory traces Black gender transitivity as fugitive expressions of the fungibility and ungendering of blackness within captivity and freedom (Hartman 1997; Spillers 2003). Kale Bantigue Fajardo's queer ethnography of Filipino seafaring masculinities, including tomboy masculinities, in Filipino Crosscurrents: Oceanographies of Seafaring, Masculinities, and Globalization (2011) describes the multiple, shifting racial masculinities adapted by the migrant Filipinos who work on the ships that transport 90 percent of the world's current commodities. The oceanic times and spaces shaped by the neoliberal global economy; the Philippine state; and Spanish, US, and Japanese colonialisms—and navigated through the variant gender practices and intimacies of Filipino seafarers—complicate the transpacific frontier that has expanded the US empire beyond its continental territories beginning with Hawaiʻi, Guam, and the Philippines in 1898 (Trask 1999; Hauʻofa 2008; Bascara 2006; Go 2011).
What will be sensed in the times to come?
What will I sense in the times to come?
What will we sense in the times to come?
Inspired by queer of color critique, trans of color studies can offer other configurations of race, gender, sexuality, and decolonization. Looking to Jose Muñoz's statement, “Queerness is not yet here. . . . Put another way, we are not yet queer, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality. . . . The future is queerness's domain,” invites a similar consideration of transness as felt horizon. We do not presume queerness and transness to be necessarily separate. A decolonial trans of color figuration understands that transness both is not yet here and has always been here. The multiple temporalities of trans of color critique can be seen in the decolonial acknowledgment of the injustice of the present, which sees that present as emerging from a past colonial encounter and works for futures that will exist after racial capitalism's totalizing logics. Similarly, transness and gender nonconformity often imply a disjunct time, in which an assignment at birth is retroactively rejected, and a present embodiment is understood as needing to become otherwise in the future.
Trans futures are surprising and unpredictable, if the contents of this issue are any indication. Perhaps trans futures, instead of looking like pink neon, blue-gray steel, and shining glass, look like bone and blood, like impure ecologies of mixing and contamination, like reimagining kinship to include beings with manufactured bodies, like clones and robots.
The contributors in this issue perform futures for trans studies and trans struggles by introducing times and spaces of trans critique, experience, and imagination that challenge conventions of discipline, genre, method, and perception. They also intervene in efforts to produce normalized transgender subjects. LaVelle Ridley's discussion of Tangerine (dir. Sean Baker, 2015) reads Mya Taylor's singing performance in the film as producing a moment of reprieve—a moment to breathe—away from the experiences of antiblackness, transmisogyny, anti–sex work respectability, and capitalism faced by Black trans women and visually captured in the film. She suggests that this moment of singing offers embodied practices and knowledge of Black trans existence beyond the binary of resistance and assimilation. Krizia Puig crosses times in their article, using an Anzaldúan method blending theory, poetry, fiction, and autobiography, and adding layers of media as well, in ways that continue to challenge the presumptions of academic discourse. Puig conjures futures of alien embodiment, which recall Anzaldúa's ritual of becoming alien, yet sees them as heading (back) into the stars. V Varun Chaudhry's essay considers the future possibilities of solidarity between trans studies and activism and Black feminism, based on the gendering of Black women in excess of white heteronormative categories, as theorized by Saidiya Hartman, Hortense Spillers, and C. Riley Snorton, in large part because of the fungibility forced on them by racial capitalism (Hartman 1997; Spillers 1987; Snorton 2017). Rox Samer proposes a practice of vidding, or remixing existing videos, sounds, and texts, as a form of research and argument through creative practice. They describe how this form has been used previously, as well as how they have created their own vids to articulate possibilities of transfeminist futures from the television show Orphan Black. Vick Quezada uses mixed media to create a visual encounter with the submerged histories of settler colonialism that have shaped hybrid Indigenous-Latinx consciousness in the Americas. Their artwork in this issue—which is also featured on the cover—brings Indigenous temporalities and worlds of materiality, interconnection, and gender to the surface of the visible image.
Contributors to the issue examine the neoliberal administrative technologies that have expanded the settler colonial state's capacity to control and diminish trans lives and to render trans futures less than possible. They identify the bodily, spatial, and temporal regimes that regulate which, and how, trans people will be included in the state's vision of society and nation. They also describe and envision trans and queer relational and embodied practices of survival, reproduction, and transformation that move beyond what can be captured by these regimes, which have been fundamentally shaped by histories of empire, racism, heteropatriarchy, colonialism, capitalism, and ableism. Ren-yo Hwang counters linear accounts of prison reform and the carceral state from sovereign capital punishment to their most recent liberal revision in carceral care, which claims to humanize the treatment of those incarcerated. Rather than signaling progress, carceral care, they argue, intensifies violence in ways that continue the long history of pathologizing Black femme subjectivity. Using ethnographic vignettes to document their collaboration with Aliya Sanders and other trans women inside the California public prison system, Hwang offers a relational mode of endurance and care that defies the deadening effects of carceral care. Olivia Fiorilli discusses the 2017 ban on the state's mandatory sterilization of trans people as the prerequisite for legal gender recognition in France as an extension of—rather than departure from—the state's efforts to eliminate the possibility of trans reproduction, especially for trans women, and to preserve reproductive futurity for cisnormative women and men. By analyzing the regulation of trans reproduction, gender-affirming medical processes, and gender identity markers through interlocking legal, public, and medical systems since the 1950s, Fiorilli shows that liberalized state recognition for trans people in France continues to annihilate trans futures, including the denial of self-determined gender, enforcement of cisnormative bodily uniformity, and barred access to one's own reproductive capacities. Marie Draz explores the less visible temporal management of gender self-determination by the state through gender documentation practices in the United States and United Kingdom. While she acknowledges the important shift toward trans, nonbinary, and intersex self-identification enabled by the California Gender Recognition Act of 2017 and the earlier UK Gender Recognition Act of 2004, she calls attention to the legislations' attempts to exact the promise of gender fixity over time through gender classification and identity documentation that serves colonial racial state building. Bess Collins Van Asselt provides a critique of neoliberal education models, particularly the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, aimed at training students from marginalized socioeconomic classes for college success beginning as early as kindergarten. Asselt describes the regimented temporal advancement, gender embodiment, and social interaction—modeled after white upward mobility—required by the AVID curriculum and their eviction of trans and queer Black youth and youth of color.
Authors in this issue explore the specific temporalities and practices of trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming gender transformation, transition, and naming. J de Leon's essay understands the act of renaming oneself, and the adoption of new pronouns, as a collective gesture of futurity that wills a future self into being, in collaboration and community, when the name and pronoun(s) are spoken by others. Hil Malatino sees the time of waiting to transition to an imagined properly gendered state as the interregnum, a time akin to Lauren Berlant's cruel optimism, and contrasts that time with the critical utopian worlds of messy joyful survival seen in works of fiction by trans women authors Kai Cheng Thom and Torrey Peters. In the place of agonizing waiting for futures of joy, joy promised by seeing the happiness of others on social media, Malatino gestures to futures in which trans people love and care for each other.
There are a number of aspects of this issue on trans futures that we wanted to be otherwise. We regret the lack of Indigenous and two-spirit authors in this issue and wish to see two-spirit futures addressed in an issue to come. Additionally, we acknowledge that the majority of the essays included are from authors based in the United States. While that may be an effect of both of the editors living in the United States, we acknowledge that we could certainly have done more to expand the field of trans studies internationally.
We thank TSQ general editors Susan Stryker and Francisco Galarte and managing editor Abe Weil for giving us the opportunity to bring together this special issue and for their guidance and support. We appreciate the contributors who gifted this issue with their work and the peer reviewers who provided generous and attentive feedback on submissions.
We feel the imperative to imagine trans futures in the face of so much violence, which only presents death as our collective future. Together, the authors and artists in this special issue not only imagine livable futures for trans people but also call into question the linear and universal times of settler colonialism, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy. They imagine trans times as containing pockets of slowness, dead-end diversions, and the openness of multiplicity. They perform a claim to trans futures that opens up the possibility of materializing the reconstructed realities and worlds of trans times.
What will be done in the times to come?
What will I do in the times to come?
What will we do in the times to come?