Program for a Transgender Existentialism

Transgender Studies Quarterly 10 (1):32-41 (2023)
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Trans theory is characterized in part by the apparent tension between discursive analyses of cisgender society and phenomenological descriptions of trans experiences. While traditional inquiry into the history of philosophy proposes an interminable opposition between phenomenology and discourse analysis, Rubin’s alternative suggestion is that within the domain of trans studies that they fulfill complimentary dimensions of investigation. Discourse analysis and phenomenology converge in trans studies because they are submitted to the same ethical and political imperative: the systematic development of the trans archive. Both discourse analysis and phenomenology as methods in trans studies are directed toward the development of a genuinely trans history, perspective, and theory, with special methodological consideration toward the way that this perspective is misunderstood or obscured by dominant frameworks within cisgender society. In what follows, I provide a brief reconstruction of two major interventions in trans phenomenology, demonstrating that each is carefully concerned with distinctly archival considerations, but I further argue that each project remains incomplete because of an incomplete bracketing of medicalized cisgender concepts. I then propose a brief alternative program aimed at the full suspension of cisgender categories that I call transgender existentialism.

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Penelope Haulotte
University of New Mexico


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