My words to victor frankenstein above the village of chamounix: Performing transgender rage

Susan Stryker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

61 Scopus citations


I am not the fi rst to link Frankenstein’s monster and the transsexual body. Mary Daly makes the connection explicit by discussing transsexuality in “Boundary Violation and the Frankenstein Phenomenon,” in which she characterizes transsexuals as the agents of a “necrophilic invasion” of female space (69–72). Janice Raymond, who acknowledges Daly as a formative infl uence, is less direct when she says that “the problem of transsexuality would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence,” but in thisstatement she nevertheless echoes Victor Frankenstein’s feelings toward the monster: “Begone, vile insect, or rather, stay, that I may trample you to dust. You reproach me with your creation” (Raymond 178; Shelley 95). It is a commonplace of literary criticism to note that Frankenstein’s monster is his own dark, romantic double, the alien Other he constructs and upon which he projects all he cannot accept in himself; indeed, Frankenstein calls the monster “my own vampire, my own spirit set loose from the grave” (Shelley 74). Might I suggest that Daly, Raymond and others of their ilk similarly construct the transsexual as their own particular golem? (1) The attribution of monstrosity remains a palpable characteristic of most lesbian and gay representations of transsexuality, displaying in unnerving detail the anxious, fearful underside of the current cultural fascination with transgenderism. (2) Because transsexuality more than any other transgender practice or identity represents the prospect of destabilizing the foundational presupposition of fi xed genders upon which a politics of personal identity depends, people who have invested their aspirations for social justice in identitarian movements say things about us out of sheer panic that, if said of other minorities, would see print onlyin the most hate-riddled, white supremacist, Christian fascist rags. To quote extensively from one letter to the editor of a popularSan Francisco gay/lesbian periodical: I consider transsexualism to be a fraud, and the participants in it... perverted. The transsexual [claims] he/she needs to change his/her body in order to be his/her “true self.” Because this “true self ” requires another physical form in which to manifest itself, it must therefore war with nature. One cannot change one’s gender. What occurs is a cleverly manipulated exterior: what has been done is mutation. What exists beneath the deformed surface is the same person who was there prior to the deformity. People who break or deform their bodies [act] out the sick farce of a deluded, patriarchal approach to nature, alienated from true being. Referring by name to one particular person, self-identified as a transsexual lesbian, whom she had heard speak in a public forum at the San Francisco Women’s Building, the letter-writer went on to say: When an estrogenated man withbreasts loves a woman, that is not lesbianism, that is mutilated perversion. [This individual] is not a threat to the lesbian community, he is an outrage to us. He is not a lesbian, he is a mutant man, a self-made freak, a deformity, an insult. He deserves a slap in the face. After that, he deserves to have his body and mind made well again. (3) When such beings as these tell me I warwith nature, I find no more reason to mourn my opposition to them—or to the order they claim to represent—than Frankenstein’s monster felt in its enmity to the human race. I do not fall from the grace of their company—I roar gleefully away from it like a Harley-straddling, dildo-packing leatherdyke from hell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Transgender Studies Reader
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781135398842
ISBN (Print)0415947081, 9780415947084
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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