Author’s Note: This review includes the discussion of an anti-trans pejorative word that is used in a positive, reclaimed way within queer literature. If you find such words emotionally triggering, please skip this post.
When I reviewed part one of Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation (GO:TNG), I tried to briefly capture the essence of each essay. Part two of this superb anthology, titled “Being reconfigured is not the same as being reimagined,” contains twelve essays and an interlude, and in the interest of doing justice to the collection as a whole, I will not attempt to review each. The essays I discuss here aren’t “the best,” just the ones that spoke most strongly to me in terms of reflecting or questioning my own experience of gender.
The section opens with “The Big Reveal” by Sherilyn Connelly, a piece that looks at her validation through the one media outlet that represents women like her: she-male porn. While “she-male” can be used as a slur against trans women, it’s also recognized by some as one sex/gender identity under the broad umbrella of “transgender,” as well as being a category of pornography where the women have intact penises. As Sherilyn notes, ” I’ve never seen a porn movie in which the transsexual is hurt of killed as a result of her secret being revelaed. It has happened on more than one occasion in “respectable” mainstream movies…I’ll take being fetishized as a sex object over being assaulted or killed as an unnatural freak.”
Her take on pornography is straight forward and honest, acknowledging the sometimes sensationalized nature of the genre as a whole. Yet, I can’t help but recognize some of my own story in her narrative. When I was first coming to terms with my sexuality, Will & Grace was in its first season and I hadn’t found it yet. There was no “It Gets Better” project, and I was still over a year away from becoming one of the founding members of my school’s Gay/Straight Alliance, the first in our district. Indeed, porn was the first and, for a while, only place I could find that had anything to reflect what I was feeling.
Another essay that touched a nerve with me was Scott Turner Schofield’s “The Wrong Body.” There are two queer narratives that I hear constantly. One, that I hear throughout LGBTQ communities, is what I call the “I always knew,” story. The other, unique to trans communities, is the “born in the wrong body” story. For a long time, this was the trans narrative, and it may still accurately describe a lot of trans peoples’ lives. Still, many have been questioning this simplistic description of trans bodies and experiences, and Scott turns this narrative on its head completely. He describes being trans as a pre-birth choice of spirit, in which “being born female would build a bridge to the kind of man” he wanted to become. He closes the essay with these words: “…I would have been born trans no matter what body I’d been born with. Tell the doctors that we exist for the health of humanity, which needs to find wholeness and belieft in complexity…I was not born in the wrong body.”
I highly recommend this anthology to anyone wishing to explore the complexities of gender through many lives and experiences. Below is a complete listing of the contributors to the second section of the anthology and, where possible, links to their websites, blogs, Twitter accounts, etc.
Julia Serano wrote “Performance Piece” and her website includes her blog, booking info, writings, and more.
Adrian Dalton, AKA Lola Lypsinka, wrote “Drag Queen in a Female Body” and has a website here.
Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán wrote “dual citizenship” and has a website here.
Mercedes Allen wrote “Tans-ing Gender: The Surgical Option” and blogs with The Bilerico Project.
Sean Saifa Wall wrote “I am the ‘I’” and does not appear to maintain an online presence.
simon iris wrote “make me a vessel for anomaly” and does not appear to maintain an online presence.
Micha Cárdenas wrote “I am Transreal: a reflectoin on/of Becoming Dragon,” and blogs here.
Kyle Lukoff wrote “Taking up Spcae” and though he doesn’t maintain a web presence, his essay got a shout in AfterEllen’s Review of the book.
Francisco Fernández wrote “Transliteration,” and does not appear to maintain an online presence.
Co-editors S. Bear Bergman and Kate Bornstein are also both online. Find out all about Bear on his website and hear from Kate at her blog. Bear and Kate both tweet and both have been online from the days where old school AOL chat rooms were the locus for forging queer identities and communities; their adorkable IM conversation style introduction to the anthology reflect this history. To book either (or both!) email bookings[at]phinli[dot]com
J. Rudy Flesher, a Philadelphia based actor and author, holds a B.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from The College of New Jersey. He blogs here and at The Pistol in Bed Thirteen, works with PhinLi Bookings to connect LGBTQ and sex positive talent with audiences, and is currently writing his first book, an essay collection on the daily experiences of a genderqueer life.
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.