Hello students. I would like to welcome you to Trans Women’s Studies 101, an introductory class on recognizing and fighting transmisogyny in a cissexist society.
If you’ll please take a look at your syllabus, you will see an annotated bibliography of our required reading and a brief discussion of why the work is important. The texts are separated into Core Textbook and Supplemental Text categories.
Please note, I made efforts to prefer trans women/transfeminine authors (especially black trans women and trans women of color) over cis or trans men/transmasculine authors when at all possible. This is not because cis or trans men/transmasculine authors are not capable of writing relevant texts, but because first-hand testimony will always be preferred over second-hand or third-hand in this class, and only trans women/transfeminine authors have first-hand experience with transmisogyny. Sadly, there just aren’t enough trans women authors being supported and published by the industry, and so we must make do with the best we have.
For this reason, be aware of any authors denoted by an asterisk. These authors are not trans women/transfeminine authors, and therefore their opinions about issues directly affecting trans women should not be valued over those of actual trans women in regards to transmisogyny.
Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community edited by Laura Erickson-Schroth
This resource contains introductory medical, health, psychological, sociological, and developmental information about trans people, written by trans people. For almost all trans people this will be the only medical and health information we can find that is actually written by trans medical professionals and in a normalizing, gender-affirming way. If for some reason you find yourself confused about medical aspects of transition during class, this should be the first resource you consult.
Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman by Leslie Feinberg*
Not only is this one of the most comprehensive histories of trans and gender-variant people, but Leslie Feinberg also demonstrates how the progress of proto-capitalism and heteropatriarchy throughout history have directly resulted in the oppression and death of trans and gender-variant people, particularly trans people of color as western colonization expanded. Like our previous textbook this work is important because it examines history from trans people’s perspective, specifically how and why cissexism became so rampant in our modern capitalist society.
Supplemental: Trans and Gender-Variant Children
The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals by Stephanie A. Brill* and Rachel Pepper*
Unlike Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, which is written with a trans audience in mind, The Transgender Child is written for cis caretakers of trans children. The authors answer many questions cis people might have about medical and social transition and provides guides for how to make the world a more hospitable place for trans children, especially their family and school.
Supplemental: Personal is Political
Make Love to Rage by Morgan Robyn Collado
This collection of poems expresses the rage from injustice many trans women deal with throughout our lives, especially trans women of color. The poems progress from “Rage” to “Making” to “Love”, as the tone moves from raw anger and indignation to progress and self-acceptance from the perspective of a brilliant and talented Latina trans woman. It encapsulates the inner drive for seeking social justice that many trans women have from a young age as a means of survival.
Although there is a plethora of tell-all autobiographies from trans women, this one stands out because the life of a successful black trans woman is so rarely celebrated, especially when she tackles transmisogyny in the media as effectively as Janet Mock. Although primarily an autobiography, there are important discussions to be found about transmisogyny, misogynoir, and many other issues that black trans women face in a cissexist, white-supremacist society.
Trauma Queen by Lovemme Corazón
I will warn you, this will be the most difficult book to read this semester. This memoir details, extremely effectively, one trans woman of color’s personal history of trauma and how it continually affects her throughout her life even years later. But there is also laughter, love, and all the other parts of her life that give her the strength to keep fighting. It is a mix of styles and a bit chaotic rather than the linear storytelling typical of many autobiographies, but makes for a beautiful and heartbreaking read.
(I urge everyone to read this book, but if you find this book is too triggering, do not hesitate to see me privately so we can find an accommodation.)
Supplemental: Queer and Feminist Theory
Black Girl Dangerous on Race, Queerness, Class and Gender by Mia McKenzie*
Many books on queer theory and feminism are written from white women’s perspectives with white trans women’s oppression in the forefront. They can therefore lack the intersectionality required to fully comprehend the most oppressive and deadly forms of heterosexism and cissexism in our country. This collection of essays covers a large number of topics that affect many black queer women, rather than specifically black trans women, but it is such a good introduction into intersectional queer feminism that it is still extremely relevant for our class.
Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity edited by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Often the onus of “passing” as a gender is believed to be exclusive to trans people, but everyone actually engages in performative aspects about gender for a variety of reasons. These essays examine the ways we all “do” gender, and how it’s silly to examine if one small group of people are doing gender as well as everyone else.
One of my personal favorites. Examines how mainstream media, stereotypes, sexism, and cis privilege can create a perfect storm of oppression against trans women. More importantly, she examines how transmisogyny is internalized by trans women and how it can harm the way we view ourselves. Especially when that oppression comes from cis women we initially identity with early in our transition.
I know this seems like a lot of reading material, some of which can be difficult to read, but if you just follow along with the syllabus and keep an open mind I think you’ll find this class will leave you with a lot of questions about yourself and society, regardless of your personal gender history.
I look forward to your discussions this semester.
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