I've been invited to take part in a discussion -- with George Chauncey and Annamarie Jagose -- about queer studies and its limits. Now, normally I wouldn't go there, as I may not be able to shut up! But the rhetorical question put to me, 'Are queer studies American?' makes me say, first, YES, (un sí rotundo!) but then, pause to think, don't you mean U.S.? (the Latin Americanist protests!). Of course, queer theory/studies have crossed the Río Grande/Río Bravo (lol) and somewhat problematically at times. So, I would say that queer studies are americanos to some extent, but I would draw attention to their specific origins in U.S. institutions and theoretical paradigms/practices. Speaking of which, the same problematics arise when we refer to trans(gender) theory/studies. Are transgender studies U.S. American? When they move places, are they marked by that voyage? Can we create a trans scholarship that doesn't inevitably find itself forced to refer to the U.S., even as we are talking about Mexico, Egypt, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, anywhere? (Of course, a further question exists: if we write about transsexual/transgender/travesti/gender variant peoples and issues, do we need to 'belong' to a discipline called 'trans studies' at all?)
It would seem that the editors of Transgender Rights
see transgender history as beginning and ending in the U.S.
An excerpt from an interview with the eds, Shannon Minter, Richard Juang, and Paisley Currah (from http://www.upress.umn.edu/excerpts/curra
4. What are the major benchmarks in the transgender movement?
1953 Christine Jorgensen makes international news as one of the first people to undergo sex-reassignment surgery
1960 Transgender pioneer Virginia Prince publishes first issue of Transvestia, one of the first transgender magazines
1966 Drag queens fight back against police harassment at Compton’s Cafeteria in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco
1966 Dr. Harry Benjamin publishes the Transsexual Phenomenon, one of the first medical texts to recognize the existence of transsexual people
1969 Drag queens, butch lesbians, and gay and bisexual people fight back against police harassment at the Stonewall Inn in New York City
1975 Minneapolis passes first local anti-discrimination law protecting transgender people
1984 The International Foundation for Gender Education is founded and begins publishing Tapestry (now Transgender Tapestry Journal)
1986 FTM International, an organization for the female-to-male community, is founded
1991 Transgender attorney Phyllis Randolph Frye founds the International Conference on Transgender Law & Employment Policy (ICTLEP), one of the first legal organizations for transgender people in the world
1991 ICTLEP adopts the International Bill of Gender Rights
1991 Minnesota passes the first statewide law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people
1991 Brandon Teena, a female-bodied person living as a man, is raped and murdered by two men in Falls City, Nebraska
1993 Cheryl Chase founds Intersex Society of North America
1994 The San Francisco Human Rights Commission conducts historic public hearing on discrimination against transgender people in employment, housing, health care, education and public accommodations
1999 Brandon’s life and death are depicted in the Academy-award winning film Boys Don’t Cry
2000 The Transgender Law and Policy Institute is formed.
2001 San Francisco become first municipality to provide equal health benefits to transgender city employees
2002 The brutal murder of transgender teenager Gwen Araujo in California galvanizes national attention on the problem of hate violence against transgender people
2002 The Transgender Law Center, the first statewide legal organization for transgender people, opens its doors in San Francisco
2002 The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, another legal organization for transgender people, is founded in New York City.
2003 The National Center for Transgender Equality is founded in Washington, D.C.
2005 California enacts first statewide law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people by insurance companies and health care service plans.
To be fair, the modifier 'U.S.' creeps in later, but I wonder if, to some extent, the 'transgender movement' travels with that modifier unmarked?
Susan Stryker has a new book coming out with Seal Press this year called Transgender History
Likewise, in spite of the generalising title (where? which transgender history?), the book description employs the modifier 'U.S.'. Personally, I'd like to see that put in the title itself. When we understand that trans and transgender struggles begin and end in the United States, what is lost from the picture? Why aren't other histories -- located elsewhere -- considered to be part of the mosaic?
Now I realise this problematics of cultural hegemony, knowledge production and location isn't particular to transgender studies (or queer, for that matter), but I'd love any comments about how a trans studies might develop without such U.S. referents (exclusively)? Must non-U.S. peoples disappear into/from history? Perhaps, after all, transgender is
United States American? Perhaps non-U.S. people who are sexually and gender variant have/should write different histories, and hence do not get included in U.S.-specific cultural logics and histories for good reasons.
does include a chapter from Argentinian trans/intersex activist, Mauro Cabral (co-written with Paula Viturro) -- I acknowledge this! However, where are the other struggles - no less important - in that milestones in the history of the transgender movement I excerpted above? What about the riots against the police carried out by Chilean travestis
before and during the Pinochet regime? (Yep, folks, even under Allende. The left treated them as badly as the dictatorship!) These kinds of riots were arguably co-temporaneous with Stonewall etc. There ARE other histories that are important.