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TSQ: "Keywords Compilation"

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I recently subscribed to Transgender Studies Quarterly, a scholarly journal published by Duke University.  My interest is to see what more I can learn about what it means to be transgender and, of course, how it all relates to me.  I assume that at least I’ll have a view into the forefront of thought on the subject.  We’ll see! 

Full access to the archive articles is limited to subscribers. I believe, though, that this Keywords compilation is available to all.  It’s rather long (over 250 pages!) and full of “academic-speak” which I find cumbersome at times.  Still, there is some interesting information that I’d like to share. 

One of the most powerful quotes (to me) is this, from Sandy Stone: “Be an academic guerrilla. It won’t be easy. In fact, it’s virtually guaranteed to be painful, exhausting, and humiliating, but what you gain from sticking with it is your work . . . and your life, by which I mean your ability to fully inhabit your own narrative. Hey, all it takes is all you’ve got. And isn’t that what life is all about?” 

Below are a few of the keywords I noted along with some text that you may find interesting! 


Asterisk, Avery Tompkins
“Although transgender has been used since the early 1990s as an umbrella term to cover the widest possible range of gender variation, it is now understood in some circles to represent only binary notions of transness and to refer only to trans men and trans women rather than to those who contest the gender binary (Killermann 2012). Proponents of adding the asterisk to trans argue that it signals greater inclusivity of new gender identities and expressions and better represents a broader community of individuals. Trans* is thus meant to include not only identities such as transgender, transsexual, trans man, and trans woman that are prefixed by trans- but also identities such as genderqueer, neutrios, intersex, agender, two-spirit, cross-dresser, and genderfluid (ibid.)."

Brain Imaging, C. Armes Gauthier
“To date, no consistent evidence of brain-based sexual dimorphism exists, in part because there are no stable criteria that distinguish sexes reliably or concretely (Fausto-Sterling 1985a). Despite this fact, the theory of sexual dimorphism remains entrenched within Western culture. Experiments are designed around brain organization theory, which posits that the brain is a sexually dimorphic structure prior to birth and lends itself to the sexual differences people experience in their lives— which is not supported by existing data (Jordan-Young 2010: 21). Rebecca Jordan-Young’s pivotal book on brain and sex-hormone–based gender research, ‘‘Brainstorm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences’’ (2010), aptly describes various design and methodological problems in the studies discussed. The book explains the language barrier across fields for defining terms of gender, sex, and sexual orientation and critically evaluates brain organization theory as a widely used framework to conduct research (12–18). Jordan-Young calls for a departure from brain organization theory, with its poor experiment design, and for a genuine exploration of the complex nature of sex, gender, and sexuality (3, 9).”

“Currently the trajectory of this research is a retelling of the same predominant concepts with different subjects and still lacks proper scientific acumen. What is needed is not new data to support current theories but, rather, new theories that support the data gathered. Critically utilized for understanding sexual dimorphism, gender identity, and sexual orientation, the brain imaging of transgender phenomena is a fertile site for reimagining concepts of embodiment (Salamon 2010).”

Child, Tey Meadow
“What is a transgender child? These days, it depends on whom you ask.”

“A central paradox animates all of these efforts to define the transgender child. While most adults understand gender development teleologically, they still struggle with whether and how to distinguish childhood self-knowledge from adult identity. They labor to determine if gender is ever fluid or stable, unfinished or finished, a property of the self or a creation of the outside world. Woven through these projects are countless other questions: Politically and personally, what does it mean to label a particular child transgender? If what an assigned male child tells you is that she is a girl, does the term transgender truly represent her personal identity? Does it represent a shift in social category, or is it merely a signifier of how other people understand her history? Is a significantly gender-nonconforming or masculine girl transgender if she still identifies as a girl? Is being transgender distinct from being a ‘‘blend’’ (Brill and Pepper 2008: xiv), a ‘‘gender prius,’’ ‘‘gender creative,’’ ‘‘gender independent’’ (Ehrensaft 2011), or any of the host of other new terms for gender fluidity in children? Do these words even demarcate a particular form of personhood, or do they simply rebrand deviance while implying that the vast majority of children are safely gender normative? Fundamentally, do we, the adults, get to decide the answers to these questions?”

Childhood, Claudia Castaneda
“Transgender childhood bears the mark of the simultaneously fixed and molten status of the child and child-body with regard to gender development and of the child’s normalization as well. For a child to claim a transgender status (or for an adult to claim transgender status for a child) is difficult because the child is always already seen as incomplete, as not yet fully formed; its gender is not fully mature, and the child is also seen as not fully capable of knowing its own gender. At the same time, precisely because of this not-yet-complete status, the child is especially subject to scrutiny with regard to its gender: does it have a normal gender, is it showing all the necessary signs that match expectations derived from ways of seeing and knowing the body? Transgender childhood becomes a threat to normative gender development and so to (normal) gender itself; if gender can shift away from the expected normal binary of male and female associated with particular bodily signs, then how can we know the gender of any child-body? And yet at the same time, because of its presumed malleability, the child-body also becomes one that can be put back on course when it deviates from the norm. It becomes a recuperable transgender body in a way that the adult transgender body cannot, because the latter is already fully formed.”

Cross-Dresser, Miqqi Alicia Gilbert
“Cross-dressing, in its contemporary Western sense, is the wearing of clothing not belonging to one’s birth-designated sex. This simple (and simplistic) definition belies a raft of social, psychological, and philosophical issues. According to the various editions of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, transvestic disorder applies to a heterosexual male who receives erotic stimulation from wearing women’s clothing. However, cross-dresser, the preferred term, requires for its existence a set of very strong institutional precepts the violation of which must be societally condemnable.

The first requirements involve the instantiation and supervision of a strong bi-gender system such as we have in our culture. More, there needs be a social or formal set of standards for gendered appearance that distinguish between the two genders and, ipso facto, the two sexes. These are required in order to make the idea of cross-dressing coherent. Were there no limitations or restrictions on what an individual could wear, there would be no cross-dressing.”

“Cross-dressing covers a huge range and can go from donning one or two items of women’s clothing, usually undergarments, for the purposes of arousal and masturbation, to spending days or weeks living and performing as a woman. It is quite remarkable that these widely different activities fall under the same umbrella. Often a cross-dresser, especially one with experience, will receive little or no sexual frisson from cross-dressing and certainly will not maintain a state of arousal during the entire episode. Indeed, as the cross-dresser matures, the sexual aspect diminishes and an interest in the growth and development of one’s ‘‘woman-self’’ increases.”

“Females as well as males have been involved in cross-dressing, but there is often a different judgment laid upon them. Women who have passed as soldiers have often been praised and applauded, though not uniformly (as for example in the case of Jeanne d’Arc). The Western patriarchal subordination of women means, on one hand, that it makes sense for a woman wanting freedom from oppression to try to pass as a man; but, on the other hand, she may well be attacked for trying to rise above her ‘‘rightful’’ place. Men, on the other hand, have no such justification, since by cross-dressing in a patriarchal society they are placing themselves lower on the power ladder, a move that is specifically against the very idea of masculinity and hence traitorous.

Nonetheless, the question remains as to the source of the disapprobation in our culture. Why should there be such societal angst regarding the person, woman or man, who wants to sometimes appear as the ‘‘opposite’’ gender? Stephen Ducat points out that taboos exist when there is an attraction to an activity that society wants to stem. ‘‘Unlike incest, cross-dressing, or exhibitionism,’’ he points out, ‘‘there is no taboo against having sex with cheese’’ (Ducat 2004: 29). His point is that no one wants to have sex with cheese, and, if someone does, no one else cares. This points to the attraction of males to femininity, to the temporary abandonment of the responsibilities and burdens of masculinity as construed societally. The bi-gender system outlines rigid rules of behavior for each gender, and not everyone is comfortable in their assigned role all the time.”

“The bottom line is that in Western Euro-American cultures there is a sense in which the cross-dresser, especially the out cross-dresser, is the true gender outlaw. Of all the members of the transgender community, broadly understood as those who defy the identity of birth-designated sex with lived gender, she or he refuses one gender and moves back and forth at will, thereby demonstrating the constructed and essentially artificial nature of the bi-gender dichotomy. Unfortunately, the censure laid on cross-dressers keeps the majority firmly in the closet where they are politically unable to become the sort of force needed by the transgender movement. Should the walls between the genders weaken and become more permeable, it is the cross-dresser who will demonstrate that one can have more than one gender.”


Guerrilla, Sandy Stone
“I get to write this, and you get to read it, because this journal exists. It’s an altogether astonishing moment. Beginnings are delicate times when the foundation stones of the edifice you’re building are still visible; maybe if we take a look around now, we can save ourselves some trouble later.”

“And we’re very early in that moment. Keep in mind that no one working in transgender studies has a degree in transgender studies. That’s how close to the origin of our discipline we are. This is the way zeroth-generation disciplines work. The value in that particular fact for us is that trans studies is still coalescing. We don’t yet have a canon or a bunch of old folks telling us what the field is or what counts as its discourse and who gets to say stuff about and within it. But soon enough we will, as surely as the night follows the day, and you can count on that.“

“Phase Four is where we are now. To some extent it’s a fragile moment, but it is also heady and bursting with possibilities. And, though it’s not yet fully formed and its goals not yet fully articulated, it’s also the discipline’s peak moment. Believe it or not, it’s all downhill from here. Which is why I’m asking you to pay attention, because what happens next is that some grad students somewhere read this journal or look at a conference program, and instead of saying to themselves, ‘‘Wow, this wonderful stuff can help me change the world,’’ they say, ‘‘Hey, maybe this stuff can help me get a job.’’ Thus begins the transition from revolutionary action to commodification. Next thing you know, you’ve got disciplinary jargon—not because it helps clarify the discourse but because it makes your work less approachable by people in neighboring disciplines and thereby makes your discipline more special.”

“How do we go about nurturing Beginner’s Mind? (And here to some extent I’m plagiarizing myself, because lately I’ve been pondering this and have written about it once or twice [Stone 2013].)

First: Find your own voice. This is not merely Job Number One; it’s really your only job. If you do nothing else, ever, than survive the struggle to find your own voice, you have still fulfilled a primal life goal, and everything else that happens flows from that pluripotent act. In the beginning is your word. Finding your voice is the deeper meaning underlying the hoary mythoids that saturate Western storytelling. Speaking yourself disrupts both society’s and culture’s stupendous drive to speak you. Eventually there are balances and inflection points to be found between speaking and being spoken, because in living fully in the world one does both; but at the inception, stick with speaking. You have a lifetime to figure out the balance.

Second: Announce your stakes. If you speak from your heart about what really matters to you, then the work and your love for it will follow. It is extremely important—crucial—that from the very beginning your work flows from your own stakes in the discourse. If you hold back, the chances are much greater that you’ll settle for less than your best efforts, and it’s only through your best efforts that you raise the power it takes to change the world.” 

“Regarding transgender, my worst-case scenario was waking up at about age sixty and realizing I hadn’t done it—never taken the risk, nor surmounted the fear, nor become who I knew I really was. Which was worse, then: being safe or being me? Extend that to academia.

Be an academic guerrilla.

It won’t be easy. In fact, it’s virtually guaranteed to be painful, exhausting, and humiliating, but what you gain from sticking with it is your work . . . and your life, by which I mean your ability to fully inhabit your own narrative. Hey, all it takes is all you’ve got. And isn’t that what life is all about?”


Microaggressions, Sonny Nordmarken
"Trans and gender-nonconforming people encounter microaggressions in a number of realms in their everyday lives, such as workplaces and public restrooms, and from family members, friends, therapists, medical providers, security workers, and strangers (Kidd and Witten 2008). Microaggressors express a perception of otherness, which they may associate with one or more characteristics such as disability, race, gender, or class. Some microaggressions are related to a perceived transness or gender nonconformity. For instance, microagressors scrutinize, exoticize, sexualize, or fetishize trans people (Nadal, Skolnik, and Wong 2012; Serano 2007), using such terms as ‘‘tranny,’’ ‘‘she-male,’’ ‘‘he-she,’’ or ‘‘chicks with dicks’’; asking gender- and sex-related questions about a person’s body, genitalia, identity, or history; expressing concern about a trans person interacting with children; implying that gender-affirmation surgeries constitute ‘‘mutilation’’ or that trans people are ‘‘mentally ill’’ or ‘‘freakish’’; approaching non–sex-worker trans women for paid sex; offering intended compliments such as ‘‘you turned out so cute’’ or ‘‘I never would have known’’; evaluating a person’s gender presentation; exposing a person’s trans identity (Nordmarken 2012). Many of these actions reflect erroneous, dehumanizing stereotypes about trans people that are represented in news stories, films, and other media (Serano 2007). Thus microaggressions maintain cis-sexism, or the idea that trans people are inferior to and less authentic than cisgender (non-trans) people (ibid.).”

Nature, Oliver Bendorf
“I am driving across the tawny plains of Nebraska, imagining nature launching a marketing campaign aimed at transgender folks. Nature: No Therapist’s Letter or Passport Required! I like to think that nature’s marketing executive would pass over trans metaphors that engage nature in cliche ́d ways: ‘‘trapped,’’ the metamorphic butterfly, a rare bird. Talk to me about a winged rabbit or an eight-legged turtle or a bucktoothed squirrel. Freaks of nature, biodiversity—I am thinking about what these concepts really mean, how transgender studies and nature can begin to shed some light.

What is natural, anyway? Nature matters for transgender studies because of how we map (and are mapped) along boundaries of inside and out, natural and unnatural. Bats are a protected species, but that did not stop my landlord from killing one when it would not ‘‘stay outside where it belongs!’’ Where do we belong?

Transgender studies can shepherd us beyond ‘‘tired gendered portrayals of earth-mother-goddess nature’’ (Beyer 2010) and toward re-genderings of natural space. It is Camp Ida, in Tennessee. It is in urban parks, like San Francisco. It is me last summer, when I squatted to piss behind a log cabin and my packer fell on the dirt. If a packer falls out in the forest and no one is around to see it, am I still trans? Nature: The Original Gender-Neutral Bathroom.

What does a transgender pastoral look like? What does trans do to our visions of country life and green space? A transgender pastoral may be verdant and bucolic, but the reality is occasionally interrupted by transphobes, cunning or dumb, who howl and leave their scat.”

“I got tired of learning masculinity from humans, so I studied the male wren, building his nest twig by twig, singing a sweet song to attract a mate, feeding his young via beak. I studied the barred owl, solitary witness calling out to others from his perch high up in an old burr oak, his hoot more oxygen than my bound lungs are able to manage. I learned from three little dairy goat boys, castrated, never to be angry bucks. My masculinity is a cross-species ‘‘biomimicry,’’ cherry-picked day to day (Nature: There’s Something for Everyone), and whether this makes me natural or unnatural, I cannot say.”

Transition, Julian Carter
“In the late twentieth century, transition became the vernacular term of choice in anglophone North America for describing the process or experience of changing gender. Initially, ‘‘transition’’ denoted a standardized trajectory of ‘‘sex reassignment’’ in which people were shuttled from the psychiatrist, through the endocrinologist, to the surgeon, to the judge (Cooke 1998; Rubin 2003). While any individual element of this sequence may be passionately desired, its trajectory through batteries of expert gatekeepers can be alienating even for those who most closely conform to those experts’ standards. The sequence itself materializes the discomforting biopolitical requirement that trans-people must literally embody a particular set of psychiatric perspectives and medical practices.

Transition thus weighs especially heavily on people who lack the resources or the wish to conform to its polarized definitions of sexed embodiment, such as poor and/or uninsured people and those whose gender expression is not formed in relation to dominant white European American conventions. This is why many North American trans-communities insist that ‘‘everyone transitions in their own way’’: open-ended refusal to define ‘‘transition’’ is a principled stance against institutionalizing any given form of trans-being. Such resistance reflects decades of struggle over who decides what counts as legitimate trans-/gender expression — struggle that clings to the word itself.”

“Transition is a list of trial names on the fridge, initials doodled on notepads. It is wearing a dress every day for a year, even though you imagine yourself as a rocker chick in torn jeans. It is searching for your name and photograph on your company’s website so you can compile a list to send through HR to the IT people who will, you hope, be consistent about updating them. It is borrowing your brother’s clothes. Transition is a misnomer because you were here, like this, all along. Transition is calling 911 before you cut off your dick so they can get you to the hospital before you bleed out. It is never having to reassure an embarrassed checkout clerk again. It is when you stop — or maybe start — avoiding mirrors, and bathrooms. It is like being slowly flayed in public. It is a rush of romantic feeling when you touch your own skin. Transition is a revised interface with agents of the security state. Transition is your secret self made available for social relationships.

Transition is thousands of little gestures of protest and presence, adding up and getting some momentum behind them so that you finally achieve escape velocity from the category you were stuck in all those years ago. But how do you know when you have arrived? ‘‘Transition’’ is not like ‘‘the operation’’ in this sense, though ‘‘the operation’’ often serves as an imagined conclusion. At some point, for many people, changes become less pronounced, less socially and affectively intense. We may stop celebrating every sign of our revised movement in the world. We are on the other side. Still when we pass, if we are unlucky in our relatives, we may be buried in clothes and under a name that suit someone else’s idea of authentic gender, and none of us control how we are remembered. When we are not aware of the days getting longer, have the seasons stopped changing? This is the promise of transition, as the term continues to expand from its psychiatric and surgical usage: that we can live in the time of our own becoming and that possible change is not restricted to the narrow sphere of our conscious intention.


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Timely post, for me. I'm presently compiling a glossary of terms for our LGBT network within my work environment, and also pulling together a list of trans* related resources. The reason I started the glossary was because someone asked me why I added the asterisk and what it meant. The same person also asked what cis meant. It made me realise that, even amongst those who belong to the network, there's a fair lack of knowledge among members. I've also created a document on preferred pronouns and listed the most popular non-binary pronouns and their usage (context). I found it surprising that such items didn't already exist within our company LGBT network resources.

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Hi Jay,

I'm glad it's helpful for you.  Here's another couple of books that might help you.  I italicized 'might' because they're more oriented to trans-women than trans-men but they may help provide some more helpful perspective for you.  Both are available on Amazon as Kindle books:

1) Transgender: Fact or Fetish - Reality or Delusion? 

2) A Creative Crossdreamer Vocabulary: Reflections on Transgender

I wish you well,


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