UCSC Student Project Brief Transgender History

Although gender variance has existed in many cultural and historical contexts,  trans and gender variant individuals were first officially documented by medical texts in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. However, these texts, which were written by physicians and other medical professionals, “typically categorized those who transgressed gender norms and expectations as psychosexually disordered.” (Beemyn, 114) This type of documented dominated trans representation in published texts well into the mid 1900’s.
In the midst of the creation of book-length narratives of trans experiences, noteworthy historical events occurred. Many of these events significantly impacted the lives of queer people of color. Becky Thompson’s article, “Way Before the Word: Queer Organizing and Race When Beauty Still Counts,” describes the use of poetry to document the lives of two spirit individuals, as well as what is known as the Stonewall riot. It includes poems and analyses to show that poetry is a legitimate method to document history. Similarly, the article “Six Methods” uses poetry to explore the research and narrative process. This project reflects the methods used by activists of the 1960s-1990s to document and celebrate trans history.

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