This essay centers the material imprints of post-Stonewall transsexual and transvestite activism as an opportunity for reflection on larger problematics of queer historical theorizing. Although queer archives are frequently understood as being marked by erasure, invisibility, or absence, the essay argues that the variegated and intractable presences of the transgender archive direct historians to interpretive challenges that have been displaced by scholarship’s focus on problems of evidentiary repression. Drawing from theorists of spectrality and from critiques of history in postcolonial studies, the essay suggests that the transgender archive is haunted by historical excesses: knowledges and experiences that are disavowed by history’s dominant epistemes. The essay turns to recurrent episodes of madness, unverifiable and implausible truths, supernatural and nonhuman agents, and a variety of other peculiar phenomena not only to counter the model of the “silent” archive but also to suggest that this archive’s queer presences may never be incorporable within historical explanation.
By Abram J. Lewis, 2014