Hot Best Seller

Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity

Availability: Ready to download

The story of Christine Jorgensen, America’s first prominent transsexual, famously narrated trans embodiment in the postwar era. Her celebrity, however, has obscured other mid-century trans narratives—ones lived by African Americans such as Lucy Hicks Anderson and James McHarris. Their erasure from trans history masks the profound ways race has figured prominently in the co The story of Christine Jorgensen, America’s first prominent transsexual, famously narrated trans embodiment in the postwar era. Her celebrity, however, has obscured other mid-century trans narratives—ones lived by African Americans such as Lucy Hicks Anderson and James McHarris. Their erasure from trans history masks the profound ways race has figured prominently in the construction and representation of transgender subjects. In Black on Both Sides, C. Riley Snorton identifies multiple intersections between blackness and transness from the mid-nineteenth century to present-day anti-black and anti-trans legislation and violence. Drawing on a deep and varied archive of materials—early sexological texts, fugitive slave narratives, Afro-modernist literature, sensationalist journalism, Hollywood films—Snorton attends to how slavery and the production of racialized gender provided the foundations for an understanding of gender as mutable. In tracing the twinned genealogies of blackness and transness, Snorton follows multiple trajectories, from the medical experiments conducted on enslaved black women by J. Marion Sims, the “father of American gynecology,” to the negation of blackness that makes transnormativity possible. Revealing instances of personal sovereignty among blacks living in the antebellum North that were mapped in terms of “cross dressing” and canonical black literary works that express black men’s access to the “female within,” Black on Both Sides concludes with a reading of the fate of Phillip DeVine, who was murdered alongside Brandon Teena in 1993, a fact omitted from the film Boys Don’t Cry out of narrative convenience. Reconstructing these theoretical and historical trajectories furthers our imaginative capacities to conceive more livable black and trans worlds.


Compare

The story of Christine Jorgensen, America’s first prominent transsexual, famously narrated trans embodiment in the postwar era. Her celebrity, however, has obscured other mid-century trans narratives—ones lived by African Americans such as Lucy Hicks Anderson and James McHarris. Their erasure from trans history masks the profound ways race has figured prominently in the co The story of Christine Jorgensen, America’s first prominent transsexual, famously narrated trans embodiment in the postwar era. Her celebrity, however, has obscured other mid-century trans narratives—ones lived by African Americans such as Lucy Hicks Anderson and James McHarris. Their erasure from trans history masks the profound ways race has figured prominently in the construction and representation of transgender subjects. In Black on Both Sides, C. Riley Snorton identifies multiple intersections between blackness and transness from the mid-nineteenth century to present-day anti-black and anti-trans legislation and violence. Drawing on a deep and varied archive of materials—early sexological texts, fugitive slave narratives, Afro-modernist literature, sensationalist journalism, Hollywood films—Snorton attends to how slavery and the production of racialized gender provided the foundations for an understanding of gender as mutable. In tracing the twinned genealogies of blackness and transness, Snorton follows multiple trajectories, from the medical experiments conducted on enslaved black women by J. Marion Sims, the “father of American gynecology,” to the negation of blackness that makes transnormativity possible. Revealing instances of personal sovereignty among blacks living in the antebellum North that were mapped in terms of “cross dressing” and canonical black literary works that express black men’s access to the “female within,” Black on Both Sides concludes with a reading of the fate of Phillip DeVine, who was murdered alongside Brandon Teena in 1993, a fact omitted from the film Boys Don’t Cry out of narrative convenience. Reconstructing these theoretical and historical trajectories furthers our imaginative capacities to conceive more livable black and trans worlds.

30 review for Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alok Vaid-Menon

    Trans history in the US tends to focus on white trans people like Christine Jorgenson, who was one of the first to publicly undergo gender confirmation surgery in the 1950s. While Jorgenson quickly rose to fame, many Black trans people – and especially Black trans women – were disappeared in her shadow. White trans women like Jorgenson began to achieve acceptance by appealing to the dominant norms of white womanhood (domesticity, respectability, heterosexuality) and differentiating themselves fr Trans history in the US tends to focus on white trans people like Christine Jorgenson, who was one of the first to publicly undergo gender confirmation surgery in the 1950s. While Jorgenson quickly rose to fame, many Black trans people – and especially Black trans women – were disappeared in her shadow. White trans women like Jorgenson began to achieve acceptance by appealing to the dominant norms of white womanhood (domesticity, respectability, heterosexuality) and differentiating themselves from Black gender variant people. The media often ridiculed Black trans women as failed imitations of Jorgenson. Combatting historical erasure, Dr. C. Riley Snorton highlights an expansive tradition of Black trans life and resistance. In 1836 Black trans sex worker Mary Jones was charged with larceny for stealing the wallets of her clients. On June 16, 1836 Jones showed up to court wearing a wig, white earrings, and a dress. Everyone in the audience and the court mocked her for her appearance – someone even tried to grab the wig off her head. When asked why she was dressed this way she said,” I have always attended parties among the people of my own Colour dressed in this way – and in New Orleans I always dressed this way.” Jones pled not guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison. A week after her trial a lithographic portrait called “The Man-Monster” began to appear in print shops in NYC and became widely circulated as a way to demonize Jones. In 1945 Lucy Hicks Anderson was a Black trans woman who was arrested and convicted of perjury. The government accused her of lying about her sex on her marriage license. In the face of virulent racism and transphobia during the trial, Anderson had the conviction to argue: “I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman,” and “I have lived, dressed, acted just what I am, a woman.” When asked if she wore a wig she responded, “If I think I look better with a wig, I do.” Prosecutors kept asking if she had male sex organs and Anderson refused to answer. After Anderson was arrested she was forbidden from wearing women’s clothes in men’s prison. In the 1950s Ava Betty Brown was a Black trans woman tried for the charge of female impersonation and fined one hundred dollars. The local news reported her home address after she was charged. The case was written about in the Black press like Ebony and Jet magazines where she was labeled the “Double-Sexed Defendant.” In response to being misgendered Brown declared: “If I’m a man, I don’t know it!” Jim McHarris was a Black transmasculine person who began to exclusively wear male clothing in 1939. He lived in Memphis, Chicago, and other midwestern cities working a host of jobs as a cook, auto mechanic, and shipyard worker. In 1953 he moved to Kosciusko, MS where he became engaged to marry a woman. In 1954 he got pulled over by the police at a traffic stop and underwent a pat down search, accusing McHarris of being female. McHarris was forced to strip off his clothes and reveal his breasts and genitals in front of the judge and arresting officers. After serving thirty days in jail he argued, “I ain’t done nothing wrong and I ain’t breaking no laws.” Our ability to exist in public today is thanks to Black trans leaders like this who paved the way. Their self-knowledge, determination, and everyday resistance in the face of criminalization led cities to mostly stop enforcing cross-dressing laws in the 1970s.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Meticulously researched and daring in ambition, Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity fails to deliver on its promises but nevertheless offers an interesting set of cultural readings. The title misleadingly frames this book as a history of Black trans identity, but the author quickly admits in his introduction that he won’t actually be offering history, neither about the emergence of trans as an identity nor about the changing social life of Black trans people in America. Inste Meticulously researched and daring in ambition, Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity fails to deliver on its promises but nevertheless offers an interesting set of cultural readings. The title misleadingly frames this book as a history of Black trans identity, but the author quickly admits in his introduction that he won’t actually be offering history, neither about the emergence of trans as an identity nor about the changing social life of Black trans people in America. Instead C. Riley Snorton examines a series of disparate case studies that illustrate the ways in which transness has been constructed as inextricable from Blackness since its earliest appearances in public discourse, from fugitive slave narratives to Hollywood films. His points are interesting, especially those he raises in the book’s second half, but his language is needlessly opaque. It often obscures his arguments, shrouding them in ambiguity and equivocation. Many academics love this kind of style, so it’s understandable why Snorton would have felt pressured to adopt it—but clarity makes for much more stimulating and debatable work.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    Organized around a series of events that provide occasions for bringing both signs—blackness and transness—into the same frame, Black on Both Sides is not a history per se so much as it is a set of political propositions, theories of history, and writerly experiments. If I had absorbed the above quote properly before I bought this book, I probably wouldn't have bought it. Snorton works in cultural studies methods, with connections and theories zinging around every second sentence and the reading Organized around a series of events that provide occasions for bringing both signs—blackness and transness—into the same frame, Black on Both Sides is not a history per se so much as it is a set of political propositions, theories of history, and writerly experiments. If I had absorbed the above quote properly before I bought this book, I probably wouldn't have bought it. Snorton works in cultural studies methods, with connections and theories zinging around every second sentence and the reading of symbolism and revelatory meaning. Snorton revels and excels in this, exploring the intersection how concepts of fungibility and transition exist in the construction of blackness, and how Blackness, as a condition of possibility that made transness conceivable in the twilight of formal slavery, would require “revision” to engender itself as modern. So if what you are looking for is a history of African-Americans who identify as trans, this is not really that at all. If you like your history, as I tend to, as straight down the line than this, it might not be what you are looking for. This kind of analysis tends towards exploring coelescence in themes - for me, it ends up making wild leaps to explain individual circumstances and events which might easily have gone differently. This kind of process drove me nuts in literary studies, where meaning seemed always to be derived from events that had a specific set of factors leading up to them, without necessarily accounting for those factors. So, for example In prosecutor James Elworth’s closing argument at the Nissen trial, his injunction to the jury included these words: “Consider Phillip DeVine. If you can imagine the terror of Phillip DeVine sitting in that room, this young amputee, sitting in that other room listenin[g] to two people die and knowing—he had to know—he—he was next.” Here, one encounters an evocation and description of DeVine as a figure in wait of his ultimate and untimely demise, a condition which Fanon aptly defined as a consequence of colonial violence, wherein waiting is the resultant expression of a “history that others have compiled.” The decision of a prosecutor designed to elicit empathy from a jury takes on bigger symbolic portent of enshrining the state of colonial dispossession and theft of power. I hate this stuff. But Snorton is undoubtedly good at it. I certainly do understand how this language might be described as beautiful. He dances around concepts and ideas - they come fast, which is hard if you are not used to the precision of this language and analysis, but the fastness is a method of exploration. This is not my thing at all, but if it is, I think you'll love it. In many ways, this has turned into a strange review. My dislike of cultural theory, and the primacy of text and language that entails really does mean I pretty much hate read most of the book. But the fact that this isn't a form of academia which helps me towards understanding doesn't mean it never will be for someone else. I genuinly believe truth emerges from interaction between both individuals and knowledge frameworks. So this book probably has a place, but it isn't on my (virtual) bookshelf. Now will someone who likes this stuff review it so I can stop feeling guilty for the two stars?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    I enjoyed this but it was extremely academic and difficult to read. It did get a lot better towards the end which is why it got an additional star. I just cant give it more than three stars because I feel that there is a point when over use of academic language intimidates and bogs down the message and can even make the point an author is trying to make impossible for non-academics to grasp. I do think the point this author was making, what I could understand of it, was interesting. I do feel th I enjoyed this but it was extremely academic and difficult to read. It did get a lot better towards the end which is why it got an additional star. I just cant give it more than three stars because I feel that there is a point when over use of academic language intimidates and bogs down the message and can even make the point an author is trying to make impossible for non-academics to grasp. I do think the point this author was making, what I could understand of it, was interesting. I do feel this was a well researched and very well written book. Anyway, I enjoyed this and I thought it was well written and it really got so interesting at the end. It was worth sticking it out and I am glad I put in the effort, but I am not sure I grasped the point the author was making as well as I would have liked to.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity is an exceptional and beautifully written book in which C. Riley Snorton explores the intersections of blackness and transness. The range of archival materials is astounding and Snorton's analysis is just mind blowing. His resistance of the dominant periodization of trans as emerging with the clinic is incredibly compelling. Though the book’s title offers a “a racial history,” Snorton claims that “the problem under review here is time” (xiv Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity is an exceptional and beautifully written book in which C. Riley Snorton explores the intersections of blackness and transness. The range of archival materials is astounding and Snorton's analysis is just mind blowing. His resistance of the dominant periodization of trans as emerging with the clinic is incredibly compelling. Though the book’s title offers a “a racial history,” Snorton claims that “the problem under review here is time” (xiv) and that the book “is not a history per se so much as it is a set of political propositions, theories of history, and writerly experiments” (6). In searching for a vocabulary for Black and trans life, Snorton argues that “blackness finds articulation within transness” (8) while Blackness is “a condition of possibility that made transness conceivable in the twilight of formal slavery” (135). The two share connections which Snorton calls “transversal,” yet there are also transitive connections that unite the two in “moments of transition” (9). Central to Snorton’s discussion is Hortense Spillers and her formulation of flesh, which demonstrates how “sex and gender have been expressed and arranged according to the logics that sustained racial slavery” (53). Further, the fungibility of flesh enables fugitive action, as he notes in chapter two, while in chapter three, he analyzes the Black mother figure as a “zone of nonbeing” and an “onto-epistemological framework for black personhood” (108). Putting Blackness and transness in conversation with one another is not only necessary, but yields “insights that surpass an additive logic” that may cultivate “strategies for inhabiting unlivable worlds” (7). Following Fanon, Snorton is interested in the “mechanics of invention” and thus seeks “to understand the conditions of emergence of things and being that may not yet exist” (xiv).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Neil Cochrane

    I really wanted to like this book, but it’s written in such academic jargon that it practically needs to be translated, and also spends surprisingly little time talking about trans people at all, let alone black trans people.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Shane

    Honestly, I’m not sure how to review books like this that have a very academic nature to them. I don’t think I have the knowledge background to really appreciate the full scope of what he is writing about, as there are chapters which analyze events or books assuming the reader already knows the facts/has read the books. Still, I did learn some things so.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ai Miller

    Just an incredible book; Snorton carefully hammers home his points again and again, drawing together transness and blackness through fungibility, movement, and transversality. It's a book that is so beautifully couched in the works of women of color feminism, queer of color and trans of color critique, and it's something I'm going to be chewing on for a really long time as I think about ways to teach and also write trans history broadly. Just a magnificent book, truly. Just an incredible book; Snorton carefully hammers home his points again and again, drawing together transness and blackness through fungibility, movement, and transversality. It's a book that is so beautifully couched in the works of women of color feminism, queer of color and trans of color critique, and it's something I'm going to be chewing on for a really long time as I think about ways to teach and also write trans history broadly. Just a magnificent book, truly.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Anai Finnie

    This book was clearly well researched, I only wish it had been more meticulously edited and that the author had done more to connect the historical evidence and his conclusions.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bookworm

    Spotted this book as a new addition to the library's collection and thought it would be an especially topical read for Black History Month. The premise that author Snorton would explore the intersections of the histories of transness and blackness sounded really interesting. Black trans women in particular are at risk for violence and while this book is not specifically about that topic it seemed like it would be a good topical read for the moment. Honestly, it was a difficult book to read. The b Spotted this book as a new addition to the library's collection and thought it would be an especially topical read for Black History Month. The premise that author Snorton would explore the intersections of the histories of transness and blackness sounded really interesting. Black trans women in particular are at risk for violence and while this book is not specifically about that topic it seemed like it would be a good topical read for the moment. Honestly, it was a difficult book to read. The book follows different paths of history, from medical experiments conducted on enslaved black women to cross-dressing for various reasons (including to escape detection). Although well-researched with lots of references, the text was too academic and unapproachable for me. This could certainly be an issue of my own unfamiliarity but I found it bizarre to see reviews who describe the writing as "beautiful". The cover also seemed misleading as a "racial history of trans identity" since the book really isn't that broad. There is good material here and maybe it's a matter of what I needed (a more approachable/readable text) vs. what the author was trying to convey. Janet Mock's 'Redefining Realness' is a very readable book (although hers is a memoir of her own experiences vs. Snorton's book as an overview and looking at specific topics) and would recommend Mock's book instead if you haven't read it. I'd skip this or at least take a look at it to see if it's something you'd really want to purchase or need to read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    The subtitle of this book, "Black on Both Sides," is misleading and not in a particularly positive way. Claiming to be a racial history, in the first few pages the author outright expresses he won't be doing historical work. Though the starting point for each of the chapters in the book is historical archival materials about the lives of a variety of black trans and gender non-conforming people, each chapters veers far away from history to begin making grandiose cultural and theoretical claims. M The subtitle of this book, "Black on Both Sides," is misleading and not in a particularly positive way. Claiming to be a racial history, in the first few pages the author outright expresses he won't be doing historical work. Though the starting point for each of the chapters in the book is historical archival materials about the lives of a variety of black trans and gender non-conforming people, each chapters veers far away from history to begin making grandiose cultural and theoretical claims. Much of this could be forgiven were it not for one additional serious problem in Snorton's book: his prose. Falling into the trap so many academics in the humanities tend to fall into, Snorton uses unnecessarily dense and verbose prose in a way that fully obscures the meaning of much of what he is trying to say. I understand that academic writing is going to be more challenging and have an added layer of depth - but I also fully believe that academic writing should work to actively clarify itself, especially when discussing issues of some import. A book that could have been especially interesting if it had fulfilled the mission it lays out in its title, "Black on Both Sides" fails to do the things you really want it to do: tell us the histories, long forgotten, of black trans lives.

  12. 4 out of 5

    V Chaudhry

    This is an EXCELLENT text, a necessary contribution to trans studies, black studies, and black feminism -- it's worth the read, no matter how long it takes (it's a hard one - not just because of the depth of thought in every sentence written, which could land as dense for some readers*, but also because of the weight of the text. It's hard because it should be - reading about the ways antiblackness actually undergirds/has historically undergirded the systems of power that structure US national r This is an EXCELLENT text, a necessary contribution to trans studies, black studies, and black feminism -- it's worth the read, no matter how long it takes (it's a hard one - not just because of the depth of thought in every sentence written, which could land as dense for some readers*, but also because of the weight of the text. It's hard because it should be - reading about the ways antiblackness actually undergirds/has historically undergirded the systems of power that structure US national relationships to "gender" and "sexuality" is not something most (at least nonblack) scholars and readers, especially those coming from gender/sexuality studies, will be used to, but it's necessary. But I digress). *This leads to my one potential critique, which is that this text might be a bit dense for folks outside of the academy, but I still think it's worth the effort/read all around. At the very least Snorton's work can lead the "average" (white) reader to canonical black feminist texts (Spillers, Lorde, etc).

  13. 5 out of 5

    R.J. Gilmour

    A fascinating look at how trans and racial identities intersect. Looking at specific historical events that intersect with race and trans ideas Riley Snorton unpacks how they are loaded with meaning for understand modern trans identities. A sophisticated theoretical study that at times is more obtuse than clear in its argument. "This mode of accounting, of expressing the arithmetic violence of black and trans death, as it also refers to antilock, antiques, and anti trans forms of slow and immine A fascinating look at how trans and racial identities intersect. Looking at specific historical events that intersect with race and trans ideas Riley Snorton unpacks how they are loaded with meaning for understand modern trans identities. A sophisticated theoretical study that at times is more obtuse than clear in its argument. "This mode of accounting, of expressing the arithmetic violence of black and trans death, as it also refers to antilock, antiques, and anti trans forms of slow and imminent death, finds additional elaboration in what Dagmawi Woubshet refers to as a "poetics of compounding loss." viii "...a real state of emergency occurs as a rupture in history to reveal, as Homi Bhabha has written in his forward to Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks, that "the state of emergency is also always a state of emergence." ix "Black on Both Sides is an attempt to find a vocabulary for black and trans life. In this sense, it works to do more than provide a "shadow history" of blackness in trans studies or transness in black studies." xiv

  14. 4 out of 5

    musa b-n

    I know that this is the second book that I've rated with 5 stars today, but it really really deserves it, you have no idea. This book is so incredible. It took me almost three months to read, but it's difficult on purpose - it's really heavy subject matter, emotionally, theoretically, mentally - and in the sense that I wrote about in my BA. I feel like a lot of this text made me understand my own thesis more. Beyond being just incredibly informative on a history that is unthought on most account I know that this is the second book that I've rated with 5 stars today, but it really really deserves it, you have no idea. This book is so incredible. It took me almost three months to read, but it's difficult on purpose - it's really heavy subject matter, emotionally, theoretically, mentally - and in the sense that I wrote about in my BA. I feel like a lot of this text made me understand my own thesis more. Beyond being just incredibly informative on a history that is unthought on most accounts, it also is an exercise of understanding that I think has literally made me a better person for reading this. I would highly recommend this book to all my friends. A warning - a lot of this book has to, by necessity, deal with graphic depictions of violence against Black people, which can be distressing to read. However, Snorton treats each iteration with utmost care, and demonstrates clear compassion for the reader, which I really appreciated.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chase Jay

    An extremely complex and academic book discussing the intersections of Blackness and transness by reviewing historical accounts of Black gender nonconforming and trans people, photographs, films, etc. Snorton has some amazing ideas regarding race and gender theory. However, many of the references they make are not explained and therefore to understand the book you may have to do some digging into the things they are referring to. It's very dense and can require multiple passes over a section to An extremely complex and academic book discussing the intersections of Blackness and transness by reviewing historical accounts of Black gender nonconforming and trans people, photographs, films, etc. Snorton has some amazing ideas regarding race and gender theory. However, many of the references they make are not explained and therefore to understand the book you may have to do some digging into the things they are referring to. It's very dense and can require multiple passes over a section to understand it. But overall, this is an amazing book with concepts that are really inventive.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dylan McDonough

    An academic and intersectional approach to understanding our conceptions of gender in America. Snorton does an excellent job of showing us that in many ways race and gender cannot be separated but rather that our our knowledge of one only exists because of the other. While not all his theories land and sometimes it can be difficult to trace the threads between them, there is much here that is necessary learning. Be warned though, he supplies a heavy dose of philosophical language that if unfamil An academic and intersectional approach to understanding our conceptions of gender in America. Snorton does an excellent job of showing us that in many ways race and gender cannot be separated but rather that our our knowledge of one only exists because of the other. While not all his theories land and sometimes it can be difficult to trace the threads between them, there is much here that is necessary learning. Be warned though, he supplies a heavy dose of philosophical language that if unfamiliar with could make the work unreadable (but if familiar with enrich the conversation greatly).

  17. 4 out of 5

    Billy

    An incredible book overall. Would definitely recommend it https://youtu.be/G4YNsDshdMI An incredible book overall. Would definitely recommend it https://youtu.be/G4YNsDshdMI

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sandi

    I will come back to read more intermittently. The book is very academic and can get dense in the theory, which I am not always up to the task of reading. The first chapter gives a very in depth history of the field of gynecology and the doctor from the 1800s who abused enslaved women for the sake of promoting himself and his research. This history was all the richer because Snorton includes details about the impact of this doctor and the legacy of his experiments on American material culture in I will come back to read more intermittently. The book is very academic and can get dense in the theory, which I am not always up to the task of reading. The first chapter gives a very in depth history of the field of gynecology and the doctor from the 1800s who abused enslaved women for the sake of promoting himself and his research. This history was all the richer because Snorton includes details about the impact of this doctor and the legacy of his experiments on American material culture in the decades that follow.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Helyn

    [DNF] I really wanted to like this book. The topic is so important and genuinely fascinating. However, the discussions of medical abuse were very triggering for me and the writing was a disappointment. I love critical theory. I'm an academic and I've taken some gender studies classes in my day. When I say that this book was written in such opaque prose that I hardly believed the author knew what they were saying, that's really saying something. Normally, by the end of long academic sentences you [DNF] I really wanted to like this book. The topic is so important and genuinely fascinating. However, the discussions of medical abuse were very triggering for me and the writing was a disappointment. I love critical theory. I'm an academic and I've taken some gender studies classes in my day. When I say that this book was written in such opaque prose that I hardly believed the author knew what they were saying, that's really saying something. Normally, by the end of long academic sentences you realize what the point of the first part of the sentence was. This book was not like that. I really wanted to enjoy this more and I think learning about Black trans lives is so essential, this just wasn't the book for me.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ari McManus

    Wow this book was amazing and I was crying by the end. I am going to have to reread parts of it because I skimmed since I want to use it for some specific research also my brain is very tired right now. But. I look forward to a reread and also was happy to read Snorton's thoughts on some big gender publications. Wow this book was amazing and I was crying by the end. I am going to have to reread parts of it because I skimmed since I want to use it for some specific research also my brain is very tired right now. But. I look forward to a reread and also was happy to read Snorton's thoughts on some big gender publications.

  21. 4 out of 5

    oliver

    Brilliant theoretical work; I’m sure I only understood a fraction—the densely academic/poetic style packs in a lot of meaning—but this is worth the read, nonetheless.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alex L Combs

    Reading this really leveled up my brain. Not only did I learn really important facts about trans people in history, it opened my mind to the connections that can be made between the concepts of transness and blackness. Also, get ready to learn some new words and concepts-- it might feel difficult to read some parts, but if you’re willing to take the time to slow down and look things up you will be rewarded with some heavy ‘mind blown’ moments. 

  23. 4 out of 5

    L

    Snorton is so rigorous, so thorough, and so brilliant. "The recurrent practice of enumerating the dead in mass and social media seems to conform to the logics of accumulation that structure racial capitalism, in which the quantified abstraction of black and trans deaths reveals the calculated value of black and trans lives through states' grammars of deficit and debt." (viii) "What does it mean to have a body that has been made into a grammar for whole worlds of meaning?" (11) "If being an object o Snorton is so rigorous, so thorough, and so brilliant. "The recurrent practice of enumerating the dead in mass and social media seems to conform to the logics of accumulation that structure racial capitalism, in which the quantified abstraction of black and trans deaths reveals the calculated value of black and trans lives through states' grammars of deficit and debt." (viii) "What does it mean to have a body that has been made into a grammar for whole worlds of meaning?" (11) "If being an object of disgust is allegorical to the status of the disabled slave, it is particularly meaningful that 'patients' like Anarcha 'never die' in the context of captivity, as they 'must live and suffer' to create and reproduce the boundary between being and object, which is to say, to produce the possibility of distinction in the form of gynecology as a distinct field of medical inquiry." (27) "The founding of American gynecology and the distinct contrast between chattel experimentees and the "imagined constituency of suffering white womanhood" highlights how flesh acted as a condition of possibility for the hospital as laboratory, creating a structure in which bodies were made flesh by way of medicoscientifc discourses, techniques of examination, and objectification born from a possessive scopophilic dynamic that characterized the enslaver's relation to the captive. The medical plantation thus served as a key site for the refinement of biopolitical and necropolitical techniques in the production of medical knowledge that critically disavowed chattel slavery as a constitutive grammar to express sex and gender as effects of racial science."(41) "Here, blackness...points to a place where being undone is simultaneously a space for new forms of becoming." (70) "In this sense, Brent's cross-gender foray to and from the Snaky Swamp is a redoubled articulation of the fugitive possibilities within and structured by the geographical and metaphysical architecture of slavery: a dissent into the mud, a blackening of blackness, the mutability of a body defined as inexhaustibly interchangeable, and inhabitation of the virtually uninhabitable, being within the zone of nonbeing." (73) "Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act (HCSEA) could be read as another symptom, in which a narrative of 'expanded categories of protection' masks the links between criminalization, carcerality, and death that produce blackness and transness as objets of necropolitical valuation." (180)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sigrid M

    Great book! In this ‘racial history of trans identity,’ Snorton troubles the conventionally accepted meanings of both ‘trans’ and ‘history’. I picked up the book because I was interested in the author’s analysis of the distinction between sex and gender, and the ways in which this distinction was affected by slavery and its afterlives. The basic point that interested me was laid out early on: that it’s impossible to conceive of sex as ‘biologically’ prior to or separate from gender, except insof Great book! In this ‘racial history of trans identity,’ Snorton troubles the conventionally accepted meanings of both ‘trans’ and ‘history’. I picked up the book because I was interested in the author’s analysis of the distinction between sex and gender, and the ways in which this distinction was affected by slavery and its afterlives. The basic point that interested me was laid out early on: that it’s impossible to conceive of sex as ‘biologically’ prior to or separate from gender, except insofar as this separation was affected by ‘ungendering’ and ‘enfleshment’ in the “medical” systems which buttresses the plantation systems. (Mainstream white trans narratives buttress and confirm this separation was with touchstones like ‘born in the wrong body’ and ‘brain gender’, thereby throwing non-conforming trans people under the bus.) Of course, plantation slavery was not the origin of gender variance or variability per se: rather, it created the potential for a particular discourse of gender teleology, which prevents more radical forms of being from becoming legible, even as it secures visibility and representation for some (white) others. At the same time, it laid the foundation for strategies of gender refusal and escape which run counter to the mainstream. And this is just the first chapter. Throughout the rest of the book, Snorton explores how black trans and GNC people have navigated the resulting material and discursive structures, creating ‘strategies for living’ out of spaces and concepts that were born out of anti-blackness. To this end, Snorton conducts a fascinating analysis of abolition-era escape narratives, early 20th century black modernism, and 20th-century media accounts of black trans people (troubling and complicating each in turn). One finishes the book with a sense that there are many different ways to be ‘trans’, and many reasons to avoid the kind of self-framing that mainstream white audiences understand best. (If you’re looking for more conventional history, or a more explicit commentary on the origins of trans as an identity, then you might be left a little disappointed by Snorton’s vignettes. But although this is a book *of* history to one extent, Snorton is clearly more interested in writing a book *about* history, through the lens of black trans experience. I enjoy this sort of rhetorical exercise, but it’s not entirely accessible [and as Snorton points out in the intro, that’s kind of the point.])

  25. 4 out of 5

    Charity Jon

    Changed My Life I finished this book, after a couple of months, in the wee hours of Trans Day of Visibility. Couldn't believe it came to a close when it did. I thought it would be full of academic jargon but it was not impossible to glean all sorts of wisdom and a wonderful articulation on Black trans experience. Changed My Life I finished this book, after a couple of months, in the wee hours of Trans Day of Visibility. Couldn't believe it came to a close when it did. I thought it would be full of academic jargon but it was not impossible to glean all sorts of wisdom and a wonderful articulation on Black trans experience.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Liam Arne

    I expected a lot from this book, and perhaps that was unfair from the beginning. The black trans experience is a fantastic and underresearched aspect of identity in history so I was very excited to read it- I even bought it brand new, a true rarity for me! While the intro suggested a cohesive message, most of the chapters meandered far away from the core (and actually more interesting) subject with tangential reference to the topic, if at all. It seems like it was greenlit for production based o I expected a lot from this book, and perhaps that was unfair from the beginning. The black trans experience is a fantastic and underresearched aspect of identity in history so I was very excited to read it- I even bought it brand new, a true rarity for me! While the intro suggested a cohesive message, most of the chapters meandered far away from the core (and actually more interesting) subject with tangential reference to the topic, if at all. It seems like it was greenlit for production based on a fascinating, valuable abstract but the author just wrote about things they’d already researched rather than provide many conclusions on this matter. The text was needlessly esoteric and academically theoretical in its tone, yet limited in its scope, diversity of theoretical basis, and ramifications. I’m giving this three stars only due to the fact that when it touched on black trans histories, it hit the nail on the head. Otherwise, it was poorly orchestrated and failed to answer its core questions.

  27. 4 out of 5

    i.

    I have read this book many times already, and I know that I will be rereading it many, many, many more times before I even finish my program, but each time I read it, something new and theoretically-rich springs from it. Snorton's work is masterful, meticulously-researched and opening worlds of possibility and rupture within its pages. The central claim--that sex/gender are not preconditions but are produced through the rupture of chattel slavery, meaning that transness and Blackness are fundane I have read this book many times already, and I know that I will be rereading it many, many, many more times before I even finish my program, but each time I read it, something new and theoretically-rich springs from it. Snorton's work is masterful, meticulously-researched and opening worlds of possibility and rupture within its pages. The central claim--that sex/gender are not preconditions but are produced through the rupture of chattel slavery, meaning that transness and Blackness are fundanentally interlinked--has implications for fields beyond Black/trans/disability studies. I can't wait to read this book again.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Angelina

    This is a beautiful work of scholarship. I've taken many notes on methodology and content; Snorton's archival work, theoretical grounding, and storytelling mesmerize me. I indulged in the stories of Part III in particular and was rewarded with a gorgeous optimistic silver lining at the very end. Previous knowledge of Hortense Spillers and other black theory might makes for an easier reading experience without being requisite. "Black on Both Sides" reads like the best of scholarship and the best This is a beautiful work of scholarship. I've taken many notes on methodology and content; Snorton's archival work, theoretical grounding, and storytelling mesmerize me. I indulged in the stories of Part III in particular and was rewarded with a gorgeous optimistic silver lining at the very end. Previous knowledge of Hortense Spillers and other black theory might makes for an easier reading experience without being requisite. "Black on Both Sides" reads like the best of scholarship and the best of novels.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lukas

    This book is not what I expected at all. I do warn readers to not judge the book by its cover but rather expand and consider the word “trans-.” Instead of truly arguing, Snorton instead explores the concepts he proposes with delicate hands. I especially am a fan of the last section of the book, “Blackout,” which deals with trans-historiography and posthuman/death ontology with memory studies. Snorton had a hard task and did his best to ethically treat his archival and conceptual research. Did hi This book is not what I expected at all. I do warn readers to not judge the book by its cover but rather expand and consider the word “trans-.” Instead of truly arguing, Snorton instead explores the concepts he proposes with delicate hands. I especially am a fan of the last section of the book, “Blackout,” which deals with trans-historiography and posthuman/death ontology with memory studies. Snorton had a hard task and did his best to ethically treat his archival and conceptual research. Did his book succeed? I don’t know, but this read was fascinating. I look forward to his next book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Rohn

    The final two chapters are about the black transgender experience in America which provides some interesting material focusing on very specific examples and methodology for this discussion, but the book leading up until that point is a mix of the kind of loosely grounded theory that seems to be using Foucault as a style guide and individual case studies used to try to link into theory about other uses of transness that's often a real stretch given the source material it's working from The final two chapters are about the black transgender experience in America which provides some interesting material focusing on very specific examples and methodology for this discussion, but the book leading up until that point is a mix of the kind of loosely grounded theory that seems to be using Foucault as a style guide and individual case studies used to try to link into theory about other uses of transness that's often a real stretch given the source material it's working from

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.