Transgender History by Susan Stryker is a non-fiction book that is about Transgender individuals throughout history in the United States from the 18th century to the 2000s. Author Susan Stryker is known to be an American author and professor whose field of profession is on gender and human sexuality. The beginning of the book starts with contexts, concepts, and terms relating to gender and human sexuality.
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From words like Gender dysphoria to Gender-neutral pronouns or to Morphology, Stryker allows the reader to be introduced to a wider spectrum of terms, definitions, and background knowledge in order to inform the reader more about the topic of the book. In addition, the book begins in 1850 with a scenario of a young female person who doesn’t want to be limited of fulfilling a homemaker role and decides to join the army. The purpose of introducing this scenario was for the reader to understand that it was illegal to dress opposite of your gender.
Until the 1950s, the medical community stated that gender non-conformity was seen as an illness and needed to be treated. Stryker also mentions throughout the book about the taboo ideas relating to homosexuality, transgender, gender, and sexuality and how they were categorized as the same idea even though in today’s standards they are not. The book then continues about the Trans Liberation in chapter 3 that starts from the 1950s till the 1970s with the conflict between police and individuals belonging to the LGBTQ+ community. For example, on May 1959: a doughnut and coffee placed called Cooper Do-Nut had customers throwing doughnuts at the police officers who were harassing the individuals resulting in fights in the streets and arrest. Stryker points out the movement that individuals belonging to the LGBTQ+ community were doing in order to receive equal treatment within society. Unfortunately, these movements received backlash especially within the LGB and feminist movements through the 1970s and 1980s. The backlash that the movements received weren’t just political backlash but medical institutions literature stated that Gender Identity Disorder was a curable disorder and the effects of the AIDS Pandemic appeared to threaten the transgender community. Lastly, in the two chapters they both discuss about the current wave in the 1990s till the 2000s relating to the empowerment that the transgender people were receiving due to the positive information about gender, the advancements of the medical technologies, and the availability to better health resources for transgender individuals.
In conclusion, the non-fiction book Transgender History by Susan Stryker is a well informative piece of literature that allows readers to see a whole other perspective of U.S History.
The sociological theory that can be applied to the book Transgender History by Susan Stryker would be the Sociological Imagination. Sociological Imagination can be defined as an awareness of the relationship between the wider society and an individual. It is stated that it gives the ability to view our own society as an outsider might, rather than from the perspective of our limited experiences and cultural biases. In a simpler definition, it is putting yourself in another person’s shoes. Sociological imagination is typically categorized between personal trouble and public issues. Personal troubles can be defined as being an individual issue such as emotional difficulties or sexual orientation while public issue is defined as a personal issue affecting interests or values within a society.
From a personal trouble, a transgender individual might experience discrimination or microagressions based on the gender in result can affect them from trying to live their own life in their own way and being able to express their gender (gender expression). Being limited by society’s standards may affect an individual’s physical health such as committing harm on themselves or taking advantage of their body through illegal substances. Susan Stryker states it in her literature that The fear of being ridiculed, stigmatized, or discriminated against, as well as my own early uncertainty about how I would act on my transgender feelings, led me to hide them from absolutely everybody until I was in my late teens, in the early 1980s. (p. 110) By using her own experience when it came to being a trans individual, Susan Stryker expresses her own personal trouble that she had to face in resulting connecting it to a wide spectrum of other trans individuals.
This statement then leads to the public issue that an entire community can experience when it comes to their gender or sexuality. For example when trans individuals comes out they might experience losing family or friends, having a greater risk of experiencing harassment and violence, and housing and employment limitations. In addition, trans individuals will experience high levels of social stigmas. From a public health perspective, transgender populations had come to be seen as vulnerable populations”ones more prone to infection because of the confluence of poverty, social stigma, job discrimination, survival prostitution, fewer educational resources, lack of access to medical information or health care, and other contributing factors.(p.130)
This is a perfect illustration of what the trans community experience when they would face society and be who they are. In addition, during the AIDS epidemic which played an important role in the transgender movement; it helped to create funding and social and financial resources to the trans communities thus showing that being trans was a public issue. Particularly in communities of color, AIDS agencies and service organizations became centers of transgender activism, hosting support groups, facilitating community gatherings, and providing employment to trans people engaged in health outreach and peer support work.(p.155) Lastly, contributing to the public issue within the trans-community, there was a high rate in the incarceration when it came to trans individual. Using the statistics Susan Stryker presents the numbers through stating that 16% of all transgender people have been incarcerated, including more than 20% of trans women and almost half of all black trans people. By comparison, about 5% of the total US population has been incarcerated; including an unconscionable third of all black men.
In conclusion, being transgender does not just affect individuality but can affect the trans community as well.
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