On Being Trans and Feeling Bad
by Hil Malatino
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Pub Date 19 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 19 Apr 2022
University of Minnesota Press, Univ Of Minnesota Press
How the “bad feelings” of trans experience inform trans survival and flourishing
Some days—or weeks, or months, or even years—being trans feels bad. Yet as Hil Malatino points out, there is little space for trans people to think through, let alone speak of, these bad feelings. Negative emotions are suspect because they unsettle narratives of acceptance or reinforce virulently phobic framings of trans as inauthentic and threatening.
In Side Affects, Malatino opens a new conversation about trans experience that acknowledges the reality of feeling fatigue, envy, burnout, numbness, and rage amid the ongoing onslaught of casual and structural transphobia in order to map the intricate emotional terrain of trans survival. Trans structures of feeling are frequently coded as negative on both sides of transition. Before transition, narratives are framed in terms of childhood trauma and being in the “wrong body.” Posttransition, trans individuals—especially trans people of color—are subject to unrelenting transantagonism. Yet trans individuals are discouraged from displaying or admitting to despondency or despair.
By moving these unloved feelings to the center of trans experience, Side Affects proposes an affective trans commons that exists outside political debates about inclusion. Acknowledging such powerful and elided feelings as anger and exhaustion, Malatino contends, is critical to motivating justice-oriented advocacy and organizing—and recalibrating new possibilities for survival and well-being.
"Hil Malatino has become an indispensable thinker when it comes to trans scholarship, somehow able to put into words not just ideas but feelings that I had previously found ineffable and unspeakable, a talent that is familiar to me from the very best of literature." —Torrey Peters, author of Detransition, Baby
"Down with the narrative tyranny of gender dysphoria and euphoria! Side Affects dares invoke a trans right to feel bad, not as antidote to normativity but as a portal to the complex feelings of transition that have been buried by medicalization, activist urgency, and the collateral damage of transphobia. Hil Malatino delivers a powerful trans reckoning for feminist, queer, and affect studies." —Jules Gill-Peterson, author of Histories of the Transgender Child
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