What is a good academic introduction to transgender theory?
January 20, 2015 10:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm updating a graduate survey course in critical theory that cavasses all the main 'isms' and is quite high level. It includes readings and discussions on feminist and queer philosophies and literary theories but there is currently no section on transgender at all. I'd like to change this. What's the best academic introduction to transgender or transgender theory/politics, the position of transgender within queer theory that you've read? It needs to be scholarly but memoir or personal reflection or journalism could also be okay as further readings. Suitable for Masters students so it can be philosophical/dense/complex. Happy to hear of any ideas for readings that fall outside these requirements if you think I'm going about this the wrong way too. It would need to be a book chapter or journal article not a whole book. Thanks!
posted by JayAlfred to Education (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't read it but I stumbled across Third Sex Third Gender in a bookstore a while back and your question immediately reminded me of it. I doubt it's the best introduction (I don't know much about transgender theory/politics) but it certainly looks very interesting.
posted by AtoBtoA at 10:39 PM on January 20, 2015

Something by Kate Bornstein, maybe?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:02 PM on January 20, 2015

Would absolutely recommend Julia Serano's Whipping Girl. It's actually a collection of essays, so it's perfect for excerpting for grad students. I think its biggest contribution is rigorously exploring transmisogyny, which Serano identifies as the root of the unique degree of antagonism against trans women and trans feminine people, and Serano traces it across a number of conflicts and contexts, including antagonisms within queer communities. Check it out! (Also your class sounds rad.)
posted by elephantsvanish at 11:43 PM on January 20, 2015 [9 favorites]

Is Judith Butler already in there? Her stuff lays the foundation for a lot of how transgender identities get discussed in academia, cf. Gender Trouble.
posted by klangklangston at 1:57 AM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think the introduction or first chapter (can't remember) of the Transgender Studies Reader has a high level overview of trans studies as a thing distinct from queer theory. Some other chapter may also suit your needs. Like klangklangston said, just assume anything requires at least a vague idea of Judith Butler (but trans studies is a thing beyond just Judith Butler, so I don't think she's the answer).
posted by hoyland at 3:15 AM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

You might want to check out the inaugural issue of TSQ (Transgender Studies Quarterly), a double issue of "Key Concepts for 21st Century Transgender Studies." Here's a link to the TOC that I hope works for you! The journal is edited by Paisley Currah and Susan Stryker (who also edited the Transgender Studies Reader) and has articles from most of the major thinkers in the field. The keyword format is becoming really popular perhaps precisely for teaching purposes like yours.
posted by kickingthecrap at 5:50 AM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm seconding Whipping Girl.

scholarly but memoir or personal reflection or journalism could also be okay as further readings

This falls more into the latter category with a lot of the former peppered throughout, but my first thought after reading it was that it would be an ideal college/grad school reading list addition. For what it's worth, I first heard the recommendation to read it as a primer from Laura Jane Grace in her Strombo interview (which is itself worth viewing).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:53 AM on January 21, 2015

An excerpt from Gayle Salamon's book Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality.
posted by umbú at 12:55 PM on January 21, 2015

Jack (formerly Judith) Halberstram.
posted by mrfuga0 at 5:35 PM on January 21, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, some fantastic ideas here. I do have Butler on the course, I've looked into the Transgender Studies Reader and I'll probably use one more theoretical article and something from Whipping Girl. Favourites to all of you as I've found some great reading and research to do here.
posted by JayAlfred at 6:35 PM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend Gender Diversity: Crosscultural Variations. It focuses mostly on the history of different cultures around the world and how they thought about gender. It doesn't have as much about modern day politics of the intersection of gender and sexuality, but is still good background for shaping/challenging your perceptions about perspectives on variations in gender.
posted by vegetableagony at 11:05 AM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

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