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TRANS chapter in Gender Methodologies, Perspectives, Approaches Handbook

By Eliza Steinbock, year unknown

The term trans is a word-forming element. The original meaning, in Latin, is ‘‘across, beyond, through, on the other side of, to go beyond,’’ with the prefixal meaning of crossing (trans-Atlantic), changing (transformation), or between (transracial). What are the stakes of invoking a term that both invites and confounds oppositional thinking (male–female, masculine–feminine) in the context of feminist debates on the ‘‘sex/gender system’’ (Rubin 1975, 159) and the ‘‘heterosexual matrix’’? (Butler 1993, xx). Trans has the power to create new sets of vocabulary that are sensitive to emergence and processual transitioning; hence, trans goes beyond sex change ways of thinking that are entrenched in binary switches. In gender studies, trans is a key term that derives from discussions on self and group identity, that revises medical nomenclature like transsexual and transvestite, and that articulates political demands for groups like Global Action for Trans* Empowerment. Shifting from a prefix to an adjective, in this chapter, trans also qualifies a person by describing, naming, or modifying their gender identity.

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