Seminars in the City—A Participant’s View

For a long time, “transgender” or “transexual” people were most
commonly represented by the medical and psychiatric establishments as
objects of knowledge. But in the last decade of the twentieth-century,
the subjective voices of transgendered people and their allies have
begun flourishing in many academic and non-academic fields.

The fact that CLAGS designated its fall 1999 Seminar in the City as a
seminar on transgender politics is a reflection of the growth in interest in
the transgender phenomenon. For me, it was a wonderful opportunity
to participate in discussions of the writings by prominent transgender
activists: Kate Bornstein, Leslie Feinberg, and Riki Anne Wilchins. As a
female-to-male transexual in the process of transitioning, I had already
immersed myself in the works of these thinkers. However, it is rare for
me to find a space to share my ideas and opinions about transgender
literature. In academic contexts where I have read queer theory and
writings on performativity, I sometimes choose not to come out because
I feel I’m being objectified again, being made into a commodity.
Therefore, I’m very grateful to CLAGS for facilitating such a great
opportunity to join a group of people who are interested in transgender
issues.

People in the group were very knowledgeable in transgender literature
regardless of their being transgendered. Some of them shared their
personal stories that are somehow related to the issues on gender and
sexuality while comparing them with transgender experiences reflected
in our readings. It clearly showed that most of the difficulties
transgendered people face daily could also be experienced by
non-transgendered people. This last point was made especially
clear in the session on Kate Bornstein’s My Gender Workbook—we had
the honor of having the author herself come and participate in the
discussion of her book.

While political negotiations between GLB and T communities still
continue, both the readings and the group discussion reminded me of
the importance of recognizing the converging and overlapping issues
that pertain in both LBG and T political arenas. In addition, I truly
believe that issues of women’s oppression, class, and race, to name a
few, have to be further incorporated in transgender politics. This point is
particularly well thought out in Leslie Feinberg’s work, which gave the
group a chance to discuss class issues in relation to transgendered
experience. As an Asian person, I’d really like to hear more elaborate
discussions on the issues of race as we move on politically, socially, and
academically.

I am very grateful to CLAGS for hosting and to Paisley Currah for
guiding this seminar. I hope that this kind of event will continue to
occur in and outside academia. I also hope to see more representation
of the diversity of transgender voices in the future.

Nori Kuroda
Hunter College