This essay explores the ways that teleological narratives of transition come coupled with corresponding affective narratives that frame life “pre” transition as characterized by a reductively bleak emotional surround and cathect life “post” transition to a bright-sided promise of social ease, domestic comfort, and existential peace. Building on Lauren Berlant’s theorization of cruel optimism and the work of Tobias Raun and Laura Horak on video narratives of hormonal and surgical transition, I position the figuration of futurity in these narratives as generative of a form of intense anticipatory anxiety in the present, one that may actually impede the flourishing of trans subjects, particularly those who encounter difficulty accessing technologies of transition. These teleological affective narratives generate an inhabitation of the present as a dwelling in lag—a form of being out of temporal sync, left behind, with the life one desires deferred (perhaps perennially). As an ameliorative to the effects of such cruelly optimistic futural narratives, I theorize a trans for trans (t4t) praxis of love, drawing on the fantastic and dystopic imaginaries at work in the fiction of Kai Cheng Thom and Torrey Peters to account for the creative and caring acts of trans intimacy that render life in the interregnum—in the moments during transition, which may very well not have a definite end—not only livable but also, sometimes, joyous.
By Hil Malatino, 2019