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?
When I think about how I describe my current career trajectory and the aim of this blog, the phrase I frequently come back to is “bridging the gap between trans studies and museum studies.” I think this really highlights what I am trying to achieve. Museum studies alone is not at the point yet where I feel it can quarrel with the very broad idea of transness on its own (just recently I found an article published last year that used a definition that misgenders trans people) and so it is frequently within the sphere of trans writing that I find relevant material. This was the case with Clare Sears’ Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law, and Fascination in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco and one section in particular.
On January 30, Abigail Thorn, the youtuber Philosophy Tube, released a video coming out as transgender. In her video Identity: A Trans Coming Out Story, she rather poetically discussed the philosophy behind questioning one’s gender. I would recommend watching it before finishing this article. Thorn’s video caused me to revisit a lot of thoughts I have not returned to since I was questioning my own gender, today being four years since I “came out to myself”. A lot has happened in those four years so looking back on that questioning process, especially with my Museum Studies degree, produced some very surprising realizations.
CW: Talk of Transphobia and TERFs
When I started searching for materials on transgender museum studies, I found essentially nothing. Literature on queer museums focuses so much on sexuality that I have seen LGBT and sexual minorities used interchangeably. In one of the few articles that I found that actually addressed transgender issues in a meaningful way, Robert Mills described “the T in ‘LGBT’ is often a fake T” (Mills, 256), a phrase often by trans activists to discuss the lack of trans visibility in the queer community. That article was originally published in 2006 but even 15 years later, I do not believe enough has changed to make that characterization any less true. For the most part, this usually encourages me to keep doing what I am doing, reminding me just how important my voice is to this field, but it can get so exhausting.
Trying to bridge the gap between transgender studies and museum studies.