Trans* Book Review
by Hugo Moreno Huízar
Jack Halberstam’s Trans* is an impressive analysis of recent transgender culture, its evolution and its relationship with social movements and perception of gender issues. In his book, the author makes a thorough exploration of transgender social issues, going from the very terms the LGBTQ+ community makes use of, the intricacies of bodily transition, the transformation of social spaces to acknowledge gender variability, to the representation of gender issues in different cultural media. Through accounts and critical assessment of recent issues, Halberstam manages to write a direct, albeit short, acknowledgment of transgenderism within a growing community inscribed in a capitalist model.
The title of the book immediately references the author’s main idea with the simple use of an asterisk to denote the everchanging and evolving nature of the concept of transgender. His assessment of the history of classification and naming allows the reader to consider the connection between problematic practices like colonization and the recent need to name and recognize every kind of gender variance. This is logical as “[w]ith recognition comes acceptance, with acceptance comes power, with power comes regulation.” (Halberstam 18), thus it’s possible to see regulation as the moment these concepts acquire a language, they’ll ultimately render a single meaning. From here, the proposition of accepting trans* as a moving concept is alluring and allows for a more varied perception of what transgenderism is.
This also invites considerations regarding the different use certain terms receive in other cultures and countries. Halberstam is careful to constantly consider the vision of other non-white people concerning identification through names; however, it is still imperative to emphasize the living interaction between a constantly changing language and the people using it: it’s important to recognize the problematic aspects of naming, while also understanding that even these considerations, basic as they may be, are not accessible to most of the population in the US (and most of the world, for that matter). Halberstam seems to understand this, but it will become evident that he may have needed to stop and consider issues of cognitive accessibility related to these musings.
Related to this, his recognition of non-colonized past cultures that regarded gender in multiple, non-binary ways helps to map the crescent and still lingering methods through which even these variations were explained under binary scrutiny. Most importantly, however, he emphasizes the distinct ways modern technology have affected and even molded physical, human bodies to both accommodate to or liberate them from a traditional gender model. His arguments move on to gratefully include the experience of non-white bodies dealing with the colossal differences between transgender people of color and white transgender people.
The rest is available through request.