Transgender History

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Transgender History
Transgender History Cover.jpg
Cover for Transgender History
Author Susan Stryker
Genre Non-fiction, sociology, popular history
Publisher Seal Press
Publication date
Media type Print (paperback)
Pages 208
ISBN 158005224X

Transgender History is a non-fiction book by gender theorist Susan Stryker, discussing the history of the transgender movement in the United States and, to a smaller extent, in Europe. It was published in 2008 by Seal Press.


The book is split up into multiple chapters that each deal with a different period of history. The first chapter, however, deals with an overview of the topic of transgenderism and outlines Stryker's definition of common terms and concepts used throughout the work. This chapter also deals with the current arguments and discussions about transgender people. Multiple reviewers noted that Stryker's definition of transgender, as stated in the book as "people who move away from the gender they were assigned at birth, people who cross over (trans-) the boundaries constructed by their culture to define and contain their gender" forms a historical discussion that allows for a "history sensitive to a wide range of identities and experiences".[1]

The second chapter, titled A Hundred Years of Transgender History, discusses how the idea of transgender was pathologized from the 1850s through the 1950s by the medical community and how any type of gender nonconformity was treated as an illness. At the same time, the chapter discusses how the earliest forms of the transgender movement began and groups and organizations began to form.[2] During this period, the ideas of sexuality and gender, homosexuality and transgender specifically, were not as clearly defined and often were assumed to be synonymous or at least closely related. Efforts to clearly differentiate gender into its own subject were seen through the actions of people like Magnus Hirschfeld and groups like the self described androgynes that made up the Cercle Hermaphroditos. These social and medical discussions helped to advance the visibility of transgenderism and to bring it into the public sphere. In later decades, groups and publications made by Virginia Prince would also raise the idea of cross-dressing and its relation to other gender subjects.[3]

The third chapter, titled Transgender Liberation, follows the continuing formation of organizations and how clashes with police and other regulators led to an increasing militancy that caused a number of protests and riots from the 1950s through the early 1970s. These events included, along with the Stonewall riots, a small scale riot at Cooper's Donuts, a protest due to lack of service at Dewey's Coffee Shop in Philadelphia, and the Compton's Cafeteria riot, which was the first recorded large scale riot by the transgender community in the United States.[2]

The fourth chapter, titled The Difficult Decades, analyzes the backlash against the transgender movement, especially within the feminist and LGB movements through the 70's and 80's. This backlash came along with the push by transgender groups to have transgenderism listed under the medical diagnostic literature as a curable disorder called Gender Identity Disorder. The coalescence of the transgender community behind this resulted in the formation of several organizations comprising solely female-to-male people, which began to achieve larger mainstream visibility during the period. At the same time, the chapter discusses the effects of the spread of AIDS among the transgender community, especially among persons of color.[2]

The fifth and final chapter, titled The Current Wave, finishes from the 1990s to the present by looking at the ever increasing visibility of the transgender community within society, the increase in medical technologies and general health resources for transgender people, and also ideas of gender and the subjectivity involved in and problem of constraining those ideas to a simple definition.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

In a twin review of Transgender History and Elizabeth Reis' Bodies in Doubt: an American history of intersex for the Women's History Review, Clare Tebbutt discussed how both are "important additions to US queer history" and praises Stryker's in-depth research that is shown to the reader with an outline of terminology and definitions and an extensive bibliography of cited works.[1] In a review for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table, a division of the American Library Association, Morgan Gwenwald stated that the book was a "comprehensive overview of American transgender history from the mid-twentieth century to the present" that would be an "important addition to any gender studies, gay/lesbian studies or women’s studies collection."[4] Reese C. Kelly, writing for GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, described the book as an "engaging introduction to transgender history and activism" that is able to remain accessible to a wide public audience, even though its length of less than 200 pages ensures that it cannot be considered the "definitive text" on the subject. Kelly also approved of the extensive background and resources the book gives to its readers, namely a "theoretically informed analysis, a reader's guide to steer discussion and research, and a sizeable list of sources and additional resources".[2] In a review in the journal Archivaria, Carrie Schmidt said that the book was a "well-researched, highly detailed, yet inherently complicated recounting of the history of the transgender movement in the United States" and that it was "informative without being dry, provided that the reader has an interest in feminism, gender, sexuality, [and] social issues".[5] Polare magazine's Tracie O'Keefe noted that while Transgender History is a "very digestible volume" that acts as a "pocket-sized read of American trans history for those who are not academics because it reads so easily", it is also "an academic reference because it is well referenced". O'Keefe also stated their disappointment that the history of transgenderism in Native American culture was not explored in the book.[6] Transgender History was rated as highly recommended by Choice magazine reviewer K. Gedge who added that the "sources, suggested readings, reader's guide, many short profiles of activists, publications, organizations, films, and Web sites" included in the book all encouraged readers to "research the topic more fully".[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Tebbutt, Clare (April 2, 2012). "Transgender History - SUSAN STRYKER; Bodies in Doubt: an American history of intersex - ELIZABETH REIS". Women's History Review (Routledge) 22 (3): 505–509. doi:10.1080/09612025.2011.643006. Retrieved April 16, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Kelly, Reese C. (2009). "Moving Across and Beyond Boundaries" (PDF). GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies (Duke University Press) 15 (4): 646–648. doi:10.1215/10642684-2009-007. Retrieved April 16, 2014. 
  3. ^ Snorton, C. Riley (Spring 2010). "Review of "Transgender History" and "Transpeople: Repudiation, Trauma, Healing."". Signs (University of Chicago Press) 35 (3): 762–765. doi:10.1086/648551. Retrieved April 22, 2014. 
  4. ^ Morgan, Gwenwald (April 7, 2009). "Transgender History". GLBT Reviews. American Library Association. Retrieved April 16, 2014. 
  5. ^ Schmidt, Carrie (Fall 2009). "Book Reviews: Transgender History". Archivaria (Association of Canadian Archivists) 68: 319–321. Retrieved April 22, 2014. 
  6. ^ O'Keefe, Tracie (October 2008). "Book Review: Transgender History, Covering American Transgender History from the Mid-Twentieth Century to Today". Polare (The Gender Centre) 77. Retrieved April 23, 2014. 
  7. ^ Gedge, K. (May 2009). "Reviews: Transgender History". Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries (Association of College and Research Libraries) 46 (9): 5351. doi:10.5860/CHOICE.46-5351. Retrieved April 25, 2014.