CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian's Reviews > Transgender History

Transgender History by Susan Stryker
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bookshelves: audiobooks, historical, queer, trans-fem, trans-masc

(Note: this is a review of the 2018 revised second edition)

I do think this book does pretty well what it sets out to do even though it ultimately wasn't the most engaging read for me. If you are going to read this book -- which is specifically a history of trans social justice movements in the US focused on 1950 - 2016 -- skip the first chapter full of definitions. One: some of the definitions really suck, like the completely inaccurate explanation of polyamory as a synonym for bi/poly/pansexual (wtf) and the unfortunate description of bisexual as being attracted to two genders in a binary gender system (erg!!). Two: the definitions are not really relevant to the rest of the book, maybe only if you're brand new to queer, trans, and feminist politics? And in that case, don't start your reading with this book.

Anyway, the bulk of Transgender History moves chronologically through US social, political, economic, etc events and developments as they are directly part of trans social justice movements and as they are important to those movements. It spends a lot of time on second wave feminism, for example, but through the lens of how it intersected, allied with, and directly opposed trans rights work and theory. I would have liked similar treatment of the civil rights movement and fights against anti-Black racism, which Stryker doesn't go into in much detail.

This book feels like a conventional work of history in the way it tells a lot of dry facts, lists names of people and organizations, and reports events straightforwardly. I found a lot of the information very interesting -- like prior uprisings to 1969's at Stonewall in different cities that aren't as widely known or commemorated -- but the descriptions are brief and perfunctory most of the time, which left me feeling a bit let down. I think this ultimately is because Stryker is trying to fit a massive amount of complex history into a relatively short space.

I guess I prefer the type of in depth trans history that Morgan M Page does on her podcast, which she tongue in cheek describes as salacious gossip about trans people from the past (not about her, thank goodness). But I can't fault Stryker for not doing what she clearly wasn't trying to do. As a primer for major developments and setbacks in the fight for trans rights in the US, this book succeeds. I would recommend it as a starting point on the topic of US trans history, something which would hopefully lead you to seek out more about figures like Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major, and Lou Sullivan.
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Reading Progress

June 20, 2016 – Shelved (Other Paperback Edition)
June 20, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read (Other Paperback Edition)
June 20, 2016 – Shelved as: american (Other Paperback Edition)
June 20, 2016 – Shelved as: trans (Other Paperback Edition)
June 20, 2016 – Shelved as: nonfiction (Other Paperback Edition)
January 19, 2023 – Started Reading
January 19, 2023 – Shelved as: audiobooks
January 19, 2023 – Shelved
January 19, 2023 – Shelved as: queer
January 19, 2023 – Shelved as: historical
January 19, 2023 – Shelved as: trans-masc
January 19, 2023 – Shelved as: trans-fem
January 21, 2023 –
17.0% "Really trying not to let the fact that Styker defines bisexual as attraction to two binary genders and polysexual / polyamorous as attraction to all genders colour the rest of my reading. This is a 2018 second edition!! Bi people, like especially bi trans people, have been rejecting that definition for a while!! And polyamorous is a relationship style of non-monogamy, not an orientation?!? I am genuinely confused."
January 27, 2023 – Finished Reading

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