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TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly Volume 1 (3): Decolonizing the Transgender Imaginary

By Aren Z. Aizura; Trystan Cotten; Carsten / Carla Balzer / LaGata; Marcia Ochoa; and Salvador Vidal-Ortiz, 2014

Alongside the emergence of research on gender-nonconforming and gender-variant practices and as a field over the last decade, transgender studies hasbeen challenged to interrogate its whiteness (Roen 2006; Haritaworn and Snorton2013). However, less work has appeared that would challenge transgender stud-ies to look closely at its geographic and historical location as the product of alargely North American settler culture. Commenting on the intersections of queerstudies and Native studies, Daniel Heath Justice, Mark Rifkin, and BethanySchneider observe that despite queer studies’ efforts to interrogate its “presump-tive whiteness” and histories of racialization, these efforts still tend to efface thepolitics of indigeneity and settlement (2010: 6). European colonial expansiondeployed gender and sexuality as technologies to categorize colonized bodies intodistinct kinds (Stoler 1995: 7), while sexual and gender diversity in non-Europeancontexts was used as a rationale to support the removal, “re-education,” or whole-sale genocide of colonized others (Miranda 2013). The traces of those historiesof removal and dispossession remain, as do their imbrication in global sexualand gender politics. If transgender studies is now a field, it is time to highlightthe necessary work of tracing histories of colonialism, gender, and sexuality thataccompany the formation of that field and to undo them. How can we accomplishthis when the termtransgenderitself does not begin to encompass the radicallydifferent relationships that gender nonconforming populations across the worldhave to health care, basic rights, safety from criminalization or stigmatization, andlegal protection or regulation of bodies, identity, and space? Decolonial work iscentral to grasping transgender studies’ own institutionalization as a field with adedicated journal, TSQ. Despite the recent flourishing of transgender studiesscholarship, much of this work either issues from or is based in North Americaor Europe. Early discussions within the TSQ editorial board touched on theimportance of making clear TSQ’s status as a US/North America-based journal TSQ: and yet one that questioned assumptions about what that meant. This specialissue is intended to bridge the gap between decolonial and critical ethnic studieswork happening within North America and transnational work that highlightsthe multiple legacies of the European colonial project globally as they apply togender-nonconforming knowledge and life. In a similar fashion to gender studiesand queer studies (sometimes moving within or alongside those disciplines andsometimes radically separate from them), transgender scholarship must grapplewith the racial and geopolitical economies and forms of governmentality thatinstill whiteness as the given of the transgender subject. It must also resist theassumption that European settler states initiate political models or progressivehistorical change, with other locations following. Most importantly, transgenderstudies needs to engage withdecolonizing as an epistemological method and asa political movement. Hence the title of this special issue: Decolonizing theTransgender Imaginary.

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