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Trans Self-Representation: YouTube and the Rise of DIY Media

Broadcasting the Trans Self: New Media Images and Perspectives was the third and final public discussion of the Transitional States events programme in Bologna, co-organised with the MIT – Movimento Identità Trans, one of the oldest trans associations in Italy and active since 1981. The speakers were trans and non-binary activists, Fox and Owl, Richard Thunder and Storm Turchi, and they discussed how YouTube and digital media have contributed to give voice to the trans community in the last decade or so. This blog will expand some points that were raised during the discussion and provide some data to broaden the perspective.   YouTube is very popular among young people, with 94% of 18- to 24-year-old Americans using it. Despite the three top worldwide YouTube search queries being ‘Despacito’ (yes, that song), ‘BST’ (a Korean pop band) and ‘Bad Bunny’ (a Puerto Rican, Latin trap and reggaetón singer), videos can be a...

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Transitional States and Testo Junkie

On Friday 8 June 2018, the Birkbeck Feminist and Queer Theory Reading Group gathered to discuss Paul B. Preciado’s Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era in the Transitional States exhibition space at the Peltz Gallery at Birkbeck School of Arts. As Transitional States explores feminist and queer perspectives on the use of hormones for contraception, fertility, menopause, and gender transition, we thought that this video art exhibition would be a fertile site to discuss pharmacopornographic subjectivity and ‘gender-hacking’ hormone use.   The Birkbeck Feminist and Queer Theory Reading Group was formed last year, and so far we have met to discuss Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, and Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life. The reading group is made up of PhD candidates and MA students from a number of universities in London, and brings together researchers in History, English Literature, Sociology, Gender and Sexuality Studies,...

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Gender is Plastic (It’s Fantastic)

Over the last few years, trans people have become more visible, Shon Faye reminds us: Caitlyn Jenner publicly transitioned, Laverne Cox was on the cover of Time, Daniela Vega became the first trans woman to present at the Oscars, and her film, A Fantastic Woman, won an Oscar.   Faye writes that visibility is important: ‘the received wisdom is that if people can see trans people they will learn to tolerate us, then to accept us and then to embrace us’ (2018). But violence against trans people has increased with visibility: there was a 45% rise in transphobic hate crime in the UK last year (2017).   In 2017, ‘The Museum of Transology’ opened in Brighton, an exhibition collecting trans items from across Britain that is currently touring Britain while looking for a permanent space. The exhibition is designed to imitate a home, with bathroom cabinets, dressers and wardrobes filled with items such as...

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Students’ LGBT History Month

Transitional States took place in February 2018 in Lincoln, during LGBT History Month. An annual event, LGBT History Month has been held in the UK since 2005 and provides people with the opportunity to focus on the culture of their community, celebrate its victories, and continue to call for equality through protests and rallies.   Chloe Unsworth helped the Transitional States Programme Director, Chiara Beccalossi, as the Public Engagement Support Officer, and worked closely with students at the University of Lincoln as part of the programme, especially in the development of the cases of objects dedicated to demonstrating and explaining how they express their sexual or gender identity.   When asked about the students’ experiences taking part in the exhibition, Chloe commented that it meant a lot to them.   “Not only was it an amazing opportunity for students to celebrate both their gender and/or sexual identity during LGBT History Month, it was also a fantastic...

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A Safe Space for Students

In February the University of Lincoln hosted a video art exhibition and a programme of events, Transitional States, led by Dr Chiara Beccalossi, a senior lecturer at the University. Society often gets caught up in the politics of discussions surrounding gender and identity, however the exhibition created a safe place for students, who curated three cabinets of objects that showed how they expressed their gender identity.   One object was a handmade chest binder supplied by Sam. This item appears to be well worn and, as the owner’s description said, it was used not only by them, but also a friend. Sam uses this item to define their struggle with gender identity, as well as society’s need to put everyone into one of two categories, male or female. The binder symbolises the freedom that de-gendering yourself can provide when you do not feel like you belong in one of two boxes. The...

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Why Transitional States?

The development of Transitional States has been a labour of love. A lot of hard work, but undeniably worth the time and effort that has gone into its creation.   With the video art exhibition and public programme launched, I have been asked why hormones and why such a strong focus on trans issues? Of course, that’s not all the programme is about, but the overriding link across everything is hormones. Broadly speaking, half of the videos contained in exhibition explore trans issues while the other half focuses on the medicalisation of women’s bodies. So, let me begin with hormones.   I work as a historian and my research has involved looking at how different forms of medicine has impacted people’s sexual lives in many different ways. From the 1920s to the 1980s, hormone research, human experiments and ‘treatments’ were widespread in many Latin countries.   I am documenting this work, but I also wanted to...

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