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Trans/forming Feminisms: Transfeminist Voices Speak Out Paperback – September 7, 2006
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Feminists have long been struggling with how to best relate to transgendered people - and there have been some rough spots along the way. If you want to better understand some of the practical challenges and tough questions that transgendered people pose for feminist theory, you'll find Trans/forming Feminisms provides varied perspectives and valuable insights." - Aaron H. Devor, Dean, University of Victoria
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Like many scholars who see critical theory as a central part of their professional mission, the editor invokes bell hooks' understanding of theory as a "location for healing." To theorize trans identity and experience is to take steps towards challenging oppression, towards understanding and complicating a central part of our identities. She rejects a facile embrace of trans identity among non-trans sympathizers ("it's hip to be trans; maybe I'm trans, too"), and the narratives are as painful as they are celebratory.
The legal and ethical issues the book raises such as events and organizations with "womyn-born womyn only" policies or "no penis" policies similarly resist easy answers or sloganeering, but reveal the complex and uncertain alliance between self-described feminists and trans people. Just how inclusive have feminist organizations been? Can exclusivity be a legitimate strategy?
The terms used to categorize different identities, different understandings of sexual selves, are messy, overlapping, ambiguous--an indication that the theory is new, and that exploration of trans experience is still in its formative stages. While metaphors such as gender-bending or a gendered continuum have been useful constructs, names for the wide variety of gendered expression can be baffling: genderqueers, birls, FTMs and MTFs--the categorical language seems inadequate. And yet labels, however damaging they can be in one sense, afford a kind of group identity and can have explanatory and healing power. Dixon's book might be the most accessible and potentially influential treatment this subject has yet received.
Review by Richard C. Taylor