Spiderwomen: Notes on Transpositions

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


To write this chapter, I took the word “transpositions” for a series of walks through a number of readings, experiences, and streets = the activity of the topic: a mapping through the senses with which one emerges as bodily. To transpose is an act of changing something into another form, or to transfer to a different place or context: transmutations but also translations, alterations in modes of expression. “Transposes” can be perversions or deviations, misdirections that discompose order and arrangement. Working through these etymologies of “transpositions, " I want to fuse the workings of sex transitions (particularly male-to-female) with forces and excitations of habitat, location, and neighborhood, by which I mean that, for me, transpositions refer to the physical sensation of change, of unprecedented corporeal and sensorial states constituted through transsexual transitions as they are shaped by spatial and environmental orientations. Transpositions are structurally sensuous-sensation is the basic unit of emergence-modalities of simultaneously changing, being, and positioning. My accounts of male-to-female transsexual transitioning in an urban setting might appear unavoidably as drifts in personal recollection-as in “my story”-but they are meant to suggest, however speculatively, and without aiming toward universalizing, the sensuous transactions between body and environment. It is impossible anymore, if even it ever was, to categorically define the ways that transsexuals become trans-sexed. Indeed, attempts to definitively name, chart, and absolutely frame all the matrices of trans-becoming are among the injustices committed against transsexuals (Bailey 2003; Hausman 1995; Jeffreys 2002; Millot 1990; Raymond 1994). Why? Why this personal approach? The personal is not the same as the individual but an opportunity to see how lived experience is the basis for investigation of more generalizable forms (Sobchack 2006). By redeploying the medicalized legacy of transsexuals self-narrativizing, constructing a diachronic of narrative from a synchronous field of wrong body-ness so that a diagnosis can be given, I use my own carnal knowledge of transsexuality to push back at larger political, historical, and cultural currents. Rather than reading such reflexivity as navel-gazing or as a failure of critical distance, I want to say that transsexuality is necessarily predicated on kinds of self-disclosure and as such the bodily feel of transitioning is unavoidably “personal.” Consequently, I offer transpositions not through explanation or definition, but only through description.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTransgender Migrations
Subtitle of host publicationThe Bodies, Borders, and Politics of Transition
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781136667459
ISBN (Print)9780415888455
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Spiderwomen: Notes on Transpositions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this