Medicine, Memoir, and Metafiction: Speculative Realities in Contemporary Transgender Knowledge Production
Through a long history of genre-evading texts that remix personal biography with pop culture, sci-fi, and fiction, trans people have resisted fear-based paradigms of what transness is or what it should look like. Drawing on humor, metafiction, and autobiography, these texts subvert historical medical conceptions of transness, as well as the imagery promoted by ‘mainstream’ fiction that portrays trans people as diseased monsters. In doing so, they disrupt the stability of institutional medical knowledge and instead write a powerful depiction of their lived realities with ramifications for wider audiences and ‘public transness’. This paper examines some of the ways trans creators have continued to build on this creative tradition, highlighting Torrey Peter’s Detransition, Baby; Grace Lavery’s Please Miss; Tom Cho’s Look Who’s Morphing; and TikTok account HumbleTortoise as key sites of epistemic innovation. This paper argues that these texts build on a longer history of experimental genre-breaking in trans art, while also forging new possibilities through their uniquely situated cultural standpoints. Attending to the ways transness is being both speculated and made real through genre-breaking text and intervention allows us to situate the agency of trans people in the creation of biomedical knowledge; provincialize institutional medical knowledge as the sole arbiter of objectivity; and imagine a radically inclusive approach to trans knowledge production that troubles the borders between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’ and refuses to assimilate trans lives into a single or homogenous narrative.
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