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Critique Essay Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

On Trans Dissemblance: Or, Why Trans Studies Needs Black Feminism

By V Varun Chaudhry, 2020

This essay addresses how Darlene Clark Hine’s foundational concept of dissemblance unsettles, challenges, and pushes transgender studies to think more capaciously about racialized gender and, more specifically, the work of antiblackness in producing and structuring transgender as a category. Building from ethnographic fieldwork with transgender-focused organizations in Philadelphia, I critically interrogate how the institutional uptake of transgender—including not only how the category circulated for my interlocutors but also the rhetorical work of some transgender studies scholars—relies on antiblack assumptions about privacy and recognition. Dissemblance as a theoretical concept, and black feminist theory more broadly, I argue, allows transgender studies to more robustly address transhistorical and ongoing structural forms of racialized and gendered power.

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