May 18, 2024  
College Catalog 2024-2025 
College Catalog 2024-2025

WGSS 205 - Trans Theories and Politics

Cross-Listed as AMST 205  

In less than ten years we have gone from Laverne Cox gracing the cover of Time Magazine, declaring that we have reached the “transgender tipping point,” to a broad based anti-trans culture war. From Caitlyn Jenner to Laverne Cox, CeCe MacDonald to Chelsea Manning, Transparent to Pose, trans people have experienced unprecedented media coverage over the past ten years. And yet, alongside this positive media coverage, trans exclusion has emerged as a key component of the global rise of white nationalism, and we see legislatures across the country foment fear of the transsexual child predator, pass bills to restrict trans kid’s participation in sports, and limit gender affirming medical care for youth and adults. Even more concerning, The National Coalition of Antiviolence Projects reports that 2021 saw a record number of murders of transgender individuals, in particular trans women of color. In all of these instances, it’s useful to consider how and why the specter of transness is raised. What social and political work does that figure do?

This course investigates the ways that ideas about normative and non-normative gender are produced in the context of white supremacy and capitalism, recognizing that discourses about gender, race, class, sexuality and nation are co-constitutive and historically contingent. Foregrounding intersectionality, we begin with situating the production and policing norms around gender and sexuality as a key tactic of settler colonialism, and then we move forward in time through the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries to think about how norms around racialized gender and sexuality have been policed, resisted, and transformed in various historical moments.

This course will examine transness as practices of gender transgression, rather than solely an identity category, practices that are historically and geographically contingent. In doing so, we will ask: What has gender non-conformity meant in various  historical moments? How do race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability structure trans lives and communities? How have key institutions within the US constructed ideas about gender normativity and policed gender transgression? How has that policing impacted and shaped trans life? What is the relationship between feminism and trans people and trans liberation? How have trans people envisioned and fought for social justice? What space can trans embodiment and politics open up for new ways of living, relating, and imagining otherwise? Every year. (4 Credits)