If I ever do get a chance to create that exhibit, Kit Heyam’s recent book Before We Were Trans: A New History of Gender will most certainly be the first I reach for.
I grew up in Etobicoke, in the West End of Toronto. Toronto has been called a queer city, but Etobicoke is a desert. Growing up, and still today in some respects, queerness was not spoken about very often. Not in positive terms, at least. As a queer kid, it meant a lot of hiding, being careful about what I said, else the Pandora’s box would be opened. It was not until university that I was able to start exploring my identity and face my queerness. Those old haunts have imprinted on me, helped to form my queer life. Crossdressing in lectures at Convocation Hall, only to walk home along St. George and pass impassioned protesters in front of Sid Smith for or against the latest thing Jordan Peterson has said. I would not be the person I am today if I had not walked these streets.
There is something magical about local history, where the places and spaces feel familiar. When you recognize the streets mentioned and can place them in your head. This is what I feel when I read Any Other Way: How Toronto Got Queer. There’s a queer history to this city, one that flows under the official stories the city likes to tell. Learning these stories and seeing the locations mentioned makes me feel more connected to them.
Book Review: The Hidden Case of Ewan Forbes And The Unwritten History of the Trans Experience By Zoe Playdon
The Hidden Case of Ewan Forbes, written by Zoe Playdon, is a semi-biography of the Scottish landowner Ewan Forbes. A trans man, Forbes had his masculine identity affirmed by a court in the late 1960s to settle an inheritance dispute. This case, which would have had significant ramifications for transgender rights around the world, but it was instead stricken from the record. The book uses Forbes’ life as a jumping off point to discuss wider movements and moments within transgender history in really fascinating ways.
I believe I first found out about The Shape of Sex shortly after I had surgery earlier this year. I was immediately interested. DeVun had previously co-edited an issue of Transgender Studies Quarterly on Trans*historicities that I have referenced extensively, so I was rather excited to get my hands on The Shape of Sex. I am happy to report that it lived up to my expectations. This book, more than any I have read before, makes a strong case of transgender studies as a discipline.
Stonewall by Martin Duberman is one of my favourite books to read. It tells the events that led to the Stonewall Riots and those that came after in such a narratively interesting and captivating way that I find ingenious. Since I had surgery at the start of the month, I decided to reread it and critique it for my website, a simple and enjoyable task while I was still recovering.
When I started branching out the “Not Your Average Cistory” brand, I turned to book reviews to explore the books and articles I was reading at the time. Unfortunately, this was not well suited to Instagram. With this website and my blog now, I thought it might be worth returning to the subject. I figured I would start with Martin Duberman’s challenging and thought-provoking Has The Gay Movement Failed?
Trying to bridge the gap between transgender studies and museum studies.