Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies 9781350174795, 9781350174825, 9781350174801

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Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies
 9781350174795, 9781350174825, 9781350174801

Table of contents :
Half Title
Introduction (Ciara Cremin)
1 The ontopolitics of gender as transindividual relation
2 ‘How do you make yourself a trans-body without organs?’: Posthumanism and embodiment in trans-imperceptible subjectivity
3 Gender territory: A response to the charge of conservatism
4 Trans* teratologies
5 Dysphoric assemblage: How the gender binary was never supposed to work
6 Transmolecular revolution
7 Materializing transgender becoming: Norms, failures and ethics of ‘The Traveler’s Book of Gender Wandering’
8 The death and rebirth of transvestism

Citation preview

Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

Schizoanalytic Applications Series Editors: Ian Buchanan, Marcelo Svirsky and David Savat Schizoanalysis has the potential to be to Deleuze and Guattari’s work what deconstruction is to Derrida’s – the standard rubric by which their work is known and, more importantly, applied. Many within the field of Deleuze and Guattari studies would resist this idea, but the goal of this series is to broaden the base of scholars interested in their work. Deleuze and Guattari’s ideas are widely known and used but not in a systematic way, and this is both a strength and weakness. It is a strength because it enables people to pick up their work from a wide variety of perspectives, but it is also a weakness because it makes it difficult to say with any clarity what exactly a ‘Deleuzo-Guattarian’ approach is. This has inhibited the uptake of Deleuze and Guattari’s thinking in the more wilful disciplines such as history, politics and even philosophy. Without this methodological core, Deleuze and Guattari studies risk becoming simply another intellectual fashion that will soon be superseded by newer figures. The goal of the Schizoanalytic Applications series is to create a methodological core and build a sustainable model of schizoanalysis that will attract new scholars to the field. With this purpose, the series also aims to be at the forefront of the field by starting a discussion about the nature of Deleuze and Guattari’s methodology. Titles published in the series: Deleuze and the Schizoanalysis of Feminism, edited by Janae Sholtz and Cheri Carr Deleuze and the Schizoanalysis of Literature, edited by Ian Buchanan, Tim Matts and Aidan Tynan Deleuze and the Schizoanalysis of Religion, edited by Lindsay Powell-Jones and F. LeRon Shults Deleuze and the Schizoanalysis of Visual Art, edited by Ian Buchanan and Lorna Collins

Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies Edited by Ciara Cremin

BLOOMSBURY ACADEMIC Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3DP, UK 1385 Broadway, New York, NY 10018, USA 29 Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2, Ireland BLOOMSBURY, BLOOMSBURY ACADEMIC and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published in Great Britain 2022 Copyright © Ciara Cremin and Contributors, 2022 Ciara Cremin has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Editor of this work. Cover design by Charlotte Daniels: Cover image: Abstract landscape background (© StudioM1 / iStock / Getty Images Plus) All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc does not have any control over, or responsibility for, any third-party websites referred to or in this book. All internet addresses given in this book were correct at the time of going to press. The author and publisher regret any inconvenience caused if addresses have changed or sites have ceased to exist, but can accept no responsibility for any such changes. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. ISBN: HB: 978-1-3501-7479-5 ePDF: 978-1-3501-7480-1 eBook: 978-1-3501-7481-8 Series: Schizoanalytic Applications Typeset by Newgen KnowledgeWorks Pvt. Ltd., Chennai, India To find out more about our authors and books visit and sign up for our newsletters.

Contents List of Contributors Introduction Ciara Cremin 1 The ontopolitics of gender as transindividual relation Samuel Berlin and Sage Brice 2 ‘How do you make yourself a trans-body without organs?’: Posthumanism and embodiment in trans-imperceptible subjectivity Charlie Bowen 3 Gender territory: A response to the charge of conservatism Glen Melville 4 Trans* teratologies Janet B. Watson 5 Dysphoric assemblage: How the gender binary was never supposed to work Mat Fournier 6 Transmolecular revolution Abraham B. Weil 7 Materializing transgender becoming: Norms, failures and ethics of ‘The Traveler’s Book of Gender Wandering’ Kaochen Liao 8 The death and rebirth of transvestism Torkild Thanem Index

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35 59 81

107 129

151 175


Contributors Sam Berlin (he/him) is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Plymouth, UK. He is interested in using Deleuzian and non-representational approaches to understand the politics and ethics of subjectivity, difference and everyday experience. Samuel’s recent work has focused on topics including affective atmospheres of counterterrorism and securitisation, everyday class politics in China and the politics of transness. Charlie Bowen (he/him) is a doctoral researcher at the University of Kent in England. He works on a range of issues around the subjects of gender, subjectivity and ontology, and is particularly interested in how philosophy can help deal with the emergence of new forms of oppression in the contemporary world. Sage Brice (she/her) combines research in cultural geography with a lively contemporary art practice. She is a British Academy postdoctoral fellow and assistant professor at the Department of Geography, Durham University, UK. Her research interrogates the ontologies and politics of nature, particularly in relation to queer and trans ecologies of identity. She has an affinity for watery and fluid landscapes, and her recent work explores problems of identity and ecology in the Huleh wetlands, in northern Israel-Palestine. Ciara Cremin leads the gender studies programme at University of Auckland where she also teaches in the field of sociology. She has published a number of books that draw on Marx and psychoanalytic theory to examine how ideology and desire operate in an ever-changing and crisis-ridden capitalist economy. Her two most recent books, Man-Made Woman: The Dialectics of Cross-Dressing (2017) and The Future is Feminine: Capitalism and the Masculine Disorder (2021) approach these themes through a transgender lens. Mat Fournier is an assistant professor of French at Ithaca College, United States. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the Université Paris 8 – Vincennes-Saint-Denis, France (2014). His book manuscript, Dysphoric Assemblages: Writing Gender in the Interwar Years, investigates the emergence of the gender binary through French Modernist literature and argues that gender dysphoria is embedded in modern representations of gender. He has published articles and book chapters focusing on the articulation of trans studies and continental philosophy in Transgender Studies Quartely, L’Esprit Createur,



and the Journal of Postcolonial Writing and in collective volumes such as Transecology: Transgender Perspectives on the Environment (2020) and Deleuze on Children (2019). Before pursuing an academic career, Fournier worked as a popular science freelance author and journalist. His book on biomimicry, Quand la nature inspire la science (2011), has been translated in five languages. Kaochen Liao is associate professor in the department of Foreign Languages and Cultures at Fo Guang University, Taiwan. Liao’s research focus is on late capitalism, community, the gender binary related to intimacy and family, transgender studies, British writers such as Hanif Kureishi, Angela Carter and Oscar Wilde, and drama studies. Liao has directed graduate plays for her department for ten years. Glen Melville (they/them) is a PhD student in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Durham University. Their primary research interests include philosophical responses to the so-called crises of political imagination, contemporary French philosophy, and the intersection of queer theory and trans* studies. Torkild Thanem is Professor of Management & Organization Studies at Stockholm University, Sweden, and a Visiting Professor of Work Life Research at the University of Agder, Norway. Torkild’s research vacillates between the hyperfeminine, the hypermasculine and the genderful. When not exploring the theory and practice of what a transvestite life can be, he is examining the management of fitness and desire in corporate performance cultures. Torkild is an associate editor of the journal Organization and serves on the editorial board of Organization Studies and the Distinguished Advisory Board of Gender, Work & Organization. His most recent book is Embodied Research Methods (2019, co-authored with David Knights). Janet B. Watson PhD, has lectured and researched in sociology, gender studies and inclusive teaching and learning. Her doctoral research explored the intersection of bisexuality and sex/gender diversity in Australia from a Deleuzian perspective. She has published articles on bisexuality, gender, indigenous identity and inclusive education. Janet has also worked extensively providing specialist academic support to staff and students in a range of areas including cultural and linguistic diversity, disability, LGBTQI, low socioeconomic status, and mature age. Other areas of academic interest include transgender studies, social theory, textual analysis and philosophy. Janet lives in Melbourne, Australia. Abraham B. Weil Weil is an assistant professor in the department of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at the California State University, Long Beach, and the general co-editor for TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. His areas of



focus are Black Studies; Trans* Theory; Continental Philosophy; Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari; Affect Studies; Sexuality Studies; and Feminist Theory. His current projects include: Transmolecular Revolution: Transversality and the Mattering of Political Life, which focuses on radical political formations, antiBlack racism, trans theorizing and continental philosophy in the United States and France from the 1960s to the present; On Jargon, which focuses on the language of contemporary Black intellectual production; and two textbooks focused on feminist and transgender theory.

Introduction Ciara Cremin

In our androcentric society there is a greater taboo on those assigned male at birth adopting feminine styles than on those assigned female adopting masculine ones. The masculine position, in Deleuzian terms, is the majoritarian one in which a need to dominate and control is instilled and capacities to joyously affect others stunted. It is a position that trans women have refused and others, hostile towards them, reveal their dependencies on. Whether or not you recoil and feel disgusted in our presence or are affirmed and vitalized by it, is the difference between a libido that is invested in – one might say enslaved by – the molar aggregates of a gender binary or not. If, as Deleuze and Guattari aver, identity – molarity in their vernacular – operates like a kind of blockage to the free flow of desire, the trans person has broken free and places life on a trajectory that is no longer determined by parents or patriarchy. And they do this not in negation of identity but in negation of the idea that gender is determined by sex and sex is determined by genitalia. Trans women and men affirm the potential in us all to take flight from the desires that others – parents, teachers, psychiatrists, lawmakers and bosses – seek to impose. The trans person reveals a potentiality that resides in all of us to cut a line from the molar aggregates of gender and sex binaries essential to patriarchal and masculine domination. If identity is a blockage to the free flows and liberatory potentialities of desire, then, following Deleuze and Guattari and consistent with some queer scholarship, is not the declaration that a trans woman is a woman evidence of a kind of enslavement? If the purpose of a ‘schizoanalysis’ is both to reveal and overcome the blockages to our becomings, then how can there be a ‘schizoanalysis of trans’ for those such as myself who identify as women and dress in a conventional


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

feminine style? There are two things to consider here. The first is what is being inferred by the terms ‘trans’ and ‘man’ or ‘woman’. The second concerns whether Deleuze and Guattari regard the ‘deterritorializations’ of or ‘lines of flight’ from molar identifications to be inherently or in some unqualified way productive. These are the kind of issues the essays in this collection grapple with. Not for the purpose of defending Deleuze and Guattari. From a variety of different angles, through personal insights and by utilizing a broad range of concepts, the essays in this collection show the practical value of Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy for transgender lives and transgender theory. Not only to trans lives and becomings, in fact, but everyone defined by a sex and ‘given’ a gender regardless of whether they identify as trans or not. It is only in the late 1990s that the word ‘transgender’ became common vernacular; a theory in this name is still therefore in its infancy. As the philosophy itself is on the academic fringes, finding scholars who theorize transgender through Deleuze and Guattari is itself a challenge. There is no body of work or established field, as such, through which to orient such a collection. Yet for reasons elucidated below, and in these essays, Deleuze and Guattari are of immense value to the theorizing of trans. A number of the essays are written by early career scholars. Gatecrashing in on the established keepers of the field, a rising generation of trans scholars are opening up new pathways for thinking about trans lives and identities which this collection is keen to give voice to. It is impossible to cover every base. There is no essay that addresses ableism, for example. Not from want of trying but once again that the more marginalized a scholarship is the harder it is to find scholars who write on such topics from a trans Deleuzo-Guattarian angle. The collection is not a closed book but rather an invitation to scholars working across different fields and intersections to address such gaps and enrich the scholarship. Coming out as trans is fraught with many dangers. Ostracization from friends and loved ones, discrimination in the workplace and even physical violence, one cannot abandon oneself to one’s desires in a stroke: every step is tentative, every step an event with no possibility of returning to whichever metaphorical or literal closet desire was boxed into. As with de Beauvoir’s famous dictum, one is not born trans, one does not even become trans: just as it is with woman, trans is a becoming. What Deleuze and Guattari oppose are identifications such as those imposed from birth that block such becomings, not identities affirmative of life and in negation of the given name, the name, in psychoanalytic terms, of the Father. They explicitly warn of the dangers of abandoning identity altogether and instead propose a strategic testing of the socius through experimentations:



Lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers, find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flow conjunctions here and there, try out continuums of intensities segment by segment, have a small plot of new land at all times. Deleuze and Guattari (2003b: 161)

The object of what Deleuze and Guattari call schizoanalysis is to destroy myths, beliefs and representations: presuppositions and the questions that arise from them such as the far from innocent and often even damning: ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ The object of a schizoanalysis is to break apart the unconscious resistances and blockages that territorialize desire for the purposes of capitalist and patriarchal reproduction. Desire, for Deleuze and Guattari, is inextricably social but bound to the socius is deprived of its potential to overturn and transform the conditions that give rise to the petty despots, egos and their festering resentments. A schizoanalysis of trans interrogates the conditions under which we are gendered and more importantly our unconscious investments and dependencies on what materially it could be surmised ought to be in our interest to oppose. Desire, Deleuze and Guattari say, follows interest. It may not seem in the interest of a feminist who opposes the gender binary to deny the existence of a trans woman. However, just as someone proclaiming to be ethical in their choice of products relies on poverty in order to feel superior when making their choices, the self-proclaimed ‘gender-critical’ feminist relies on that which they are critical of for a sense of identity, purpose and belonging. They need what they disdain and disavow, the existence of trans women as a means by which to lay claim to the idea that only they are female and accordingly oppressed, especially by trans women who are really only men in disguise. A schizoanalysis of trans has the aim, put in Deleuze and Guattari’s (2003a: 105) words, to ‘analyse the specific nature of the libidinal investments in the economic and political spheres, and thereby to show how, in the subject who desires, desire can be made to desire its own repression’. If trans women, as Julia Serano suggests, are especially prone to abuse and ostracization, even from the so-called queer community, it is not simply because, as she avers, people are sexist. It is because what, as mentioned above, femininity has come to signify and that as Freud himself recognized, both men and women, to their detriment, repudiate. It is not only feminine dress that men repudiate. More troubling for Freud is that they repudiate qualities such as tenderness, empathy, sensuality and a range of emotional expressions essential to well-being. Cis women, by contrast, may dress in feminine styles and affect


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

feminine behaviours but in their own sense of inferiority come to depend on the strong male for security and, as Freud puts it, a penis of their own, namely a baby boy. In such ways, both men and women are invested and reinforcing in their desires the patriarchy. It was Freud who first diagnosed this condition but rather than fashion psychoanalysis as a weapon to liberate desire from the theatrical Oedipal play, therapy was instead focused on reconciling the subject to the part they were unable or unwilling to act out. A schizoanalysis, in contrast, takes place on the streets. It requires no fee and renders the therapist redundant. Trans women take therapy to the streets. They show that there is nothing to fear in the feminine and every reason for questioning and confounding a sexuality – which for Deleuze and Guattari is at core a pure multiplicity – constrained by a gendered imaginary. I used to be invested in the image of a man. Today, despite dressing in a feminine style, I am invested in neither the image of trans nor the image of woman but in what becoming a woman affords that being a man did not. If I hold to the word ‘trans’, it is because a common association with others considered ‘non-normative’ in their gender orientation is sometimes necessary to fight prejudice and discrimination. It also acknowledges that a ‘trans’ person encounters different obstacles and challenges to those who do identify as the gender given at birth. A trans woman/man is a woman/man, a woman/man who in their very being/becoming is in addition and ineluctably compelled in a confrontation with naturalized and normative notions of sex/gender. Their flights from the molar aggregates of sex/gender are often through necessity not choice, whatever transpires through them. Everyone has their opinion about trans. As if we are some homogenous group with the same perspectives on gender and with the same transition stories, trans men and women are frequently typecast. As Berlin and Brice point out in their essay, becoming trans deterritorializes the ‘given’ and binary concept of gender. However, at the same time – often out of necessity – it reterritorializes gender by conforming to an image of what society deems to be manly or womanly. As Mat Fournier notes in his contribution, it is not that trans people have suffered gender dysphoria but that regardless of how we identify gendering is itself a form of dysphoria that – while frequently disavowed – none of us are immune from. The medicalized discourse on gender dysphoria plays to the idea that gender is a naturally given; the problem is one of misalignment to sex that, putting to rest the idea that their sex and/ or gender is open to question, those who are cisgendered are likely to find comfort in. Trans people go further than the cis academic who acknowledges



the contingencies of sex and gender. They are compelled to think through and develop strategies for dealing with its consequences. A trans perspective on being and becoming trans is clearly required. It requires theory to blast away the fog of mystification both in respect to being trans – of sexed bodies – and the social conditions that binaries and our investments in them reproduce. But why Deleuze and Guattari when their writing is notoriously abstruse and, appearing in flux, their concepts difficult to get a handle on? This is evident in the different uses and abuses of signature concepts such as assemblages, affect, becoming and so forth that are fashionably deployed in academic circles. The contributors to this collection were set a difficult task: to bring clarity to the topic of being and becoming trans and also to the philosophy itself. Taking up these ‘difficult’ philosophers is not a macho exercise of the stakeholders of high theory whose own castration anxieties are all too apparent in their flashing of the proverbial high theory phallus. There is a more noble purpose for deploying Deleuze and Guattari. Their concepts are not merely tools through which to make sense of our socially given condition. Nor merely for introspection. As Foucault famously stated in his introduction to Anti-Oedipus, they are weapons of a praxis that is at one and the same time personal and political. They are weapons through which strength can be taken to break apart, scramble up and confound the order into which all of us are in degrees boxed in. We are boxed into the desires and demands of others to conform to gender norms. We are also compelled by the unquenchable need of capital for a subject to submit the forces that dwell inside of them to keep this monstrous machine of value extraction in motion. The schizophrenic does not so much lose a grip on reality. Reality is all too real and overwhelming for them. Schizoanalysis, as already pointed out, concerns the breaking apart of the ego and their investments in the social. It is about recognizing the limitations that in degrees we place on ourselves and to discover ways, relative to the situation, of freeing up the flows of desire which otherwise lock us into conditions that are self- and socially detrimental. Affect, in their usage, does not refer to emotion but to forces. Drawing on Spinoza, we have the capacity to affect and be affected. Our sad passions can have a diminutive effect on the capacity of others to act, a bad affect. In the world, and at variance to the norms that many of us subscribe to, the trans person affects – in their presence and through random encounters – others who affect them accordingly. It is a good affect, a joyous one even: a trans person demonstrates to others that they too have the capacity to exceed the gendered assemblage and thereby discover the strength to take flight.


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

Together the collection aims to achieve what Fredric Jameson describes as a ‘cognitive mapping’. Analogous to using a map to navigate a geographical space, the purpose of cognitive mapping is to develop the conceptual means through which both to navigate and gain a perspective on a totality that Deleuze and Guattari would not name as such. Not a ‘totalizing’ theory, as if the map is itself the precise circumference of the territory it represents. But the necessary means through which a bearing is gained and, crucially, a critical intervention can be made. Jameson declares that a cognitive mapping is vital to a socialist project for collective emancipation. It is crucial in respect to this collection for liberation in thought and in practice of desire from its gendered assemblages. Deleuze and Guattari described A Thousand Plateaus as a rhizome book. By this they assert their aim is not to produce an image of the world as such but, in their words, to assure its deterritorialization which a book unavoidably also reterritorializes. The book is a map not, they say, a tracing, the difference here one of experimentation and affect, to affect new modes of thinking and becoming relative to the plain on which each chapter intervenes. The orthodoxy when compiling works such as the present one is to categorize chapters according to themes imposed by the editor and which belies the aim of each author to intensify thought and exceed any fixed and arbitrary delineation. ‘A rhizome’, Deleuze and Guattari (2003b: 25) say, ‘has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo’. What this means in practical terms is that rather than approach this collection as one might a crime thriller where, in fear of ‘spoiling’ the mystery, each chapter is read in the order that it is presented, the book is arranged to be read in any order, with nothing gained or lost in doing so. This does not lead to chaos. A semblance of order is maintained through the trans motif that runs through it. Drawing strength and courage from it, concepts and intensities that surprise and provoke, each chapter experiments on the plane of immanence. With this in mind, I briefly summarize each of the contributions in the order that they are presented. For Deleuze and Guattari the body is relational, difference, as Samuel Berlin and Sage Brice point out in their essay, a ‘driver of existence’. This notion of the body as relation replies to the demands of cisgender that trans people fix their gender to certain ideas of masculinity and femininity. The diversity of transgender expressions enables, as the authors suggest, ‘a new and different kind of gender politics’ but which comes with its own challenges. Cautioning, therefore, against a common misreading of Deleuze and Guattari that all departures from a gender ‘normativity’ are necessarily liberating, Berlin and Brice advance on the work of Chu and Butler by laying stress on the socio-historical context in which trans embodiments are enacted.



Charlie Bowen is also mindful of the material conditions of trans lives and embodiments, here suggesting that the stress on ‘bodies’ presupposes an ‘objectivity’ that plays to cisgender notions of a gender binary. As per Berlin and Brice, Bowen qualifies aspects of Butler’s work, here contrasting the latter’s ‘politics of recognition’ with a ‘politics of imperceptibility’ that Grosz proposes in accord with Deleuze and Guattari’s becoming-imperceptible. There is a materiality to imperceptibility, Bowen argues, to affect relations that are not determined by the ‘recognition’ of others. Glen Melville criticizes the idea that non-binary and trans modes of identification lie outside of binary gender designations. This, they say, has the effect of demarcating a personal space ‘within gender’. To this end, Melville mobilizes Deleuze and Guattari’s notions of de- and re-territorialization to show what they call the limits of gendered territories. Butler’s reading of Venus Xtravanganza from Paris Is Burning is posited as an exemplary instance of the tendency in queer theory to devalue trans identities by situating them in respect to contemporary notions of a gender binary. This misses the lesson, they persuasively argue, that can be taken from Deleuze and Guattari’s dynamic concepts of de- and re-territorialization through which trans identifications and becomings can be situated and also affirmed. Janet Watson builds on her doctoral research into bisexuality and sex/gender diversity in Australia to ascertain how, as she puts it, the ‘master categories’ of sex, gender and sexuality are constantly being dismantled or, in DeleuzoGuattarian terms, deterritorialized. The lived realities of trans, non-binary and intersex lives operate according to her in the ‘in-between’ spaces of corporeality, thereby undermining the various binary matrices of these master categories. Here she conducts a schizoanalysis of identity formations that, overturning the presumption of stability and fixedness, lays stress on ambiguity, indeterminacy and liminality which both threaten and fascinate those who cleave to binary notions of sex, gender and sexuality. Mat Fournier intervenes on the territory of queer politics when shifting his focus away from sexuality and onto gender. Referring to Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of the assemblage in respect to gender, Fournier takes into account the various ways that organic and inorganic bodies intersect with desires and discourses to produce new modes of being and becoming. A trans queer theory is posited through a reading of French literature, specifically male homosexuality in the work of Proust and Gide. Situating Deleuze and Guattari’s principal collaborations in the context of May ’68, Abraham Weil describes the event and the many others – including the


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

Vietnam protests and uprising against white supremacy in the United States – as a rupturing of thought and liberation of desire giving rise to new subjectivities. It is in this context and the potentialities that arose through this history that Weil theorizes trans lives and racial politics in the United States today. Subject to co-option into a reformist agenda, an intensive molecular revolution of transversality stresses, in contrast, the potentialities that inhere at an everyday level to transform the social order in the liberating of desire from its molar identitarian constraints. Wenyu’s ‘The Traveler’s Book of Gender Wandering’, which Kaochen Liao describes as ‘a theoretical and autobiographical essay from a Taiwanese preoperative trans man’, is an exemplary instance of the problems of trans identities and the material and immaterial relationship to sex and gender norms. Here, being and becoming is a constant source of tension, as too the idea that for the transgender subject sex is a destination. Liao draws productively on Lacan’s theory that desire originates in the castrating effects of language which she contrasts to a Deleuzian becoming – becoming-imperceptible – in which desire is liberated from the need of an impossible to obtain (phallic) object intimating closure. A fitting end, middle and beginning to the collection, the transvestite, Torkild Thanem argues, is perhaps the most maligned of transgender subjects, if considered transgender at all. In light of this and defining himself as a (maleto-female) transvestite, Thanem challenges the moral conservatism that he identifies in this marginalization of transvestite subjectivities. In his affirmations of transvestism, which he acknowledges Deleuze and Guattari are not entirely sympathetic to, Thanem not only refuses the hypocritical stance of those who would deny the disruptive and liberatory force of a sexuality that, in his reading, is fundamentally queer – and in such respects normative – he shows that in doing so it has the potential for making trans lives more liveable.

References Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (2003a), Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Volume 1, London: Continuum. Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (2003b), A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Volume 2, London: Continuum.


The ontopolitics of gender as transindividual relation Samuel Berlin and Sage Brice

Introduction In this chapter, we will argue that within a Deleuzo-Guattarian ontology of bodies, gendered difference does not appear as the fixed property of a body but exists instead within and through a body’s relations.1 This assertion is important because cisnormative (or trans-exclusive) logics of sex and gender presuppose and demand fixity: it is only by pinning down the meaning of a body that that body can become recognized as a person, since all persons are by default required to be gendered subjects. Treating gender as pure relation, however, creates new problems. If, on the one hand, gender is strictly relational, then common understandings of transgender as an expression of originary or innate gender identity become difficult to maintain. Rejecting the terms of trans2 self-identification, on the other hand, risks acquiescing to cisnormative territorializations, that is, the imposition of cisnormative gender relations that induce dysphoria and discrimination. These territorializations are destructive to trans bodies and lives, as individual agency becomes subordinated to a contested public consensus over who trans people ‘really’ are. Making too quick a shift to a notionally horizontal, undifferentiated relationality ignores the fact that all difference is not created equal. Our use of Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts to understand trans difference therefore resists readings of their work (Deleuze 1988, 2004a, 2004b; Deleuze and Guattari 2004a, 2004b) as advancing a simplistically anti-normative position. Instead, it makes a claim on difference as the driver of existence and on the full diversity of transgender articulations and expressions as engendering a new and different kind of gender politics. Our argument here parallels one


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

advanced by Andrea Long Chu (2019) in her caution against investing too single-mindedly in the politics of self-identification. As Chu notes, taking on a gendered embodiment other than the one assigned at birth is not merely a matter of self-acceptance and self-understanding, or even self-expression, but rather a demand made on the world in order to create the necessary conditions for enacting gender differently. Chu (2019: 38) argues – contentiously – that ‘gender transition begins … from the understanding that how you identify yourself subjectively – as precious and important as this identification may be – is nevertheless on its own basically worthless’. Her point here is to underline the self-evident but often disregarded truism that if transition were purely a matter of self-identification, then it would be enough to merely think it in order for it to be accomplished. Self-identity, however, inevitably runs up against the limits of a world that sometimes refuses accommodation. The stakes of expressing an identity are, in fact, bound up with ensuring that the world participates in its formation. Thus Chu continues: If there is any lesson of gender transition – from the simplest request regarding pronouns to the most invasive surgeries – it’s that gender is something other people have to give you. Gender exists, if it is to exist at all, only in the structural generosity of strangers. When people today say that a given gender identity is ‘valid’, this is true, but only tautologically so. At best it is a moral demand for possibility, but it does not, in itself, constitute the realization of this possibility. The truth is, you are not the central transit hub for meaning about yourself, and you probably don’t even have a right to be. You do not get to consent to yourself, even if you might deserve the chance. (Chu 2019: 38)

Transitioning, then, is more than simply the realization of a pregiven, internal truth. It is a political act aimed at transforming not only the self but also the milieu. Treating gender as a relation in this sense is a recognition of the impossibility of separating gendered embodiment from the milieus within which it emerges – milieus that are frequently overdetermined by transphobia and misogyny. Ontological questions about gender are thus not only inseparable from the politics of gender but are in fact synonymous with it. It is this observation which leads us to engage with the thinking of Deleuze and Guattari to develop an ontopolitics of gender. Our interest here is not to present a perfect alternative system of thought for theorizing sex, gender and change through Deleuze. Rather, it is to ask what Deleuze can offer us in thinking about transness by providing an alternative to substantialist models of body and selfhood which still dominate conversations

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about gender and sex on all sides. Instead of exalting events of resistance that mark waypoints on a progressive telos, in the works of Deleuze and Guattari we find a more finely grained concern with the textures of life in which everyday acts of living (and conative action in pursuit of life and its flourishing) result in the formation of new kinds of relation that produce change. Deleuze and Guattari (2004b), while they reject the notion of the body as an organism with fixed properties and characteristics, nevertheless situate the body’s emergence in the tension between ordered social stratifications and indeterminate relations between transversal forces: We are in a social formation; first see how it is stratified for us and in us and at the place where we are; then descend from the strata to the deeper assemblage within which we are held; gently tip the assemblage, making it pass over to the side of the plane of consistency. It is only here that the Body-withoutOrgans reveals itself for what it is: connection of desires, conjunction of flows, continuum of intensities.

(Deleuze and Guattari 2004b: 176–7)This networked vision of change and of life is necessary in order to understand how many trans and, for that matter, cis people experience both their own, individual genders and gender as a phenomenon.3 A networked, fine-grained, molecular vision of gender identity and of the trajectories of change implied by ‘transition’ indicates a need to reconsider the function of norms in producing gender. In this chapter we argue that norms are more than just conservative and territorializing structures that inhibit transformation and the thriving of difference. Norms are also the conditions within which difference emerges. With this in mind, the chapter brings together Deleuze and Guattari with the work of Judith Butler4 ([1990] 2006, [1993] 2011, 2015) to argue that a simplistically anti-normative politics is sufficient neither to account for, or to accommodate, the diversity of trans articulations of gender and sex nor to adequately express the powerfully liberatory impetus that these articulations potentialize. What Butler’s work highlights, in parallel to Deleuze and Guattari, is the importance of processes of performative becoming. Performance is the stuff of life itself. It is this performative becoming which allows bodies to expand away from the maladies of their current relations and strive to continue in existence – to persist by changing. To use Spinoza’s ([1675] 1996) terminology, the becoming of bodies is their conatus. The conatus translates into an ethical demand upon bodies to become differently in order to maximize their vitality (Deleuze 1988; Sharp 2011). That


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

is to say, it is an imperative to strive towards more concordant relations that amplify the capacity for life and relation. For trans people, this typically means escaping the gender dissonance of dysphoria and transphobia by transitioning to more viable embodiments.5 But bodies and genders do not exist alone; they exist always in relation (Brice 2020). In this way, there is always a politics to the ethical demands of the conatus: to pursue forms of sociality in which norms do not prevent the flourishing of gendered bodies but provide a scaffolding for gendered becoming. Transitioning is about transforming not only the body but also the world in which bodies come to matter. This chapter will begin by examining the limits of trans, or indeed any, selfidentification as a political and self-subjectivizing act due to the relational nature of the self. It will then argue that a reductively anti-binary or anti-normative politics fails to recognize both the impossibility of normlessness and the fact that norms are not only oppressive but also productive for both cis and trans genders. To better understand the relationality of the self that underlies this recognition of the willing self ’s limits, we turn to the writings of Deleuze and Guattari to show how bodies and selves are necessarily relational and multipolar. The ontology we present indicates another kind of trans politics beyond battles of meaning with predetermined ends. Instead, we argue for an emergent, situated, everyday trans politics that affirms vitality rather than just opposition. We conclude by arguing that this kind of vital politics, which works not just against but also with the power of the normative, represents one facet of a budding trans theory that takes the body seriously in ways that queer theory has struggled to do.

‘You’ll want to lose the beard’ Sage: The first thing they said to me at the Gender Identity Clinic was ‘you’ll want to lose the beard’. So, here’s the thing. I quite liked my beard. It was cute and, in a strange way, quite feminine, I thought. If I looked more recognisably feminine (by which I mean, mostly, if I was able to grow my hair long and thick, and had more patience with makeup), I might have even entertained the possibility of keeping it. As it was, I did reflect long and hard before beginning the painful and costly process of permanently removing my facial hair. Despite the unsolicited advice I received on my visit to the clinic, I was fully cognisant that there is no earthly reason why a woman couldn’t, or shouldn’t, have a beard (though I lacked

Ontopolitics of Gender


role models at the time, a number of strikingly beautiful transfeminine people with beards have since gained public visibility, affirming a vision that had long appealed to me). I don’t regret my choices and don’t anticipate that I ever will. For me, the beard was too firmly attached to a sense of obligatory masculinity which I did not want to sustain. It was also too much of a barrier to being perceived, and related to, as a woman in my day-to-day interactions. Which for me is precisely the point. Trans bodily practices do not exist independently of societal relations, but nor are they fully determined by societal norms. The idea of an ‘authentic’ self-expression has no meaning outside of relational context, because we form a sense of self only in relation with others. Thus the decision whether or not to ‘lose’ my beard isn’t just a question of how I want to look, or what I want that look to say about me, or even which norms I wish to subvert or uphold – but of what kinds of relationships and interactions I want to have with other people. I chose not to have a beard primarily because I wanted to open myself up the experience of being related to as a woman by other people, including strangers and new acquaintances, without the alwaysattendant qualifier, ‘trans’ – or rather, without first having to correct the category error, ‘man’. This decision was not about being accepted, validated, or recognized as a ‘legitimate’ woman according to normative parameters, but about accessing a more congruous sense of myself through the embodied practice of living and relating with others in as uncomplicated as possible a manner as a woman.

The relationality of gender is perhaps most visible in the circulation of norms, in the moments of discipline and surveillance that threaten the work we do to pursue what makes our bodies and our lives liveable. The unsolicited advice about a beard, recounted above, came from a volunteer ‘greeter’ at the Gender Clinic. Sage was (and at time of publication, in all likelihood still is) years away from an actual diagnostic appointment with a National Health Service (NHS) specialist. Though the advice came from an untrained volunteer, it is typical of the patterns and problems that characterize trans experiences, both within the medical system and in how the daily choices they/we must make about how their/our bodies are framed. An extreme deficit of provision for gender-affirming healthcare and the dependency upon informal avenues of support which this deficiency engenders are part and parcel of the current hostile environment to transition in the UK.


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

Opposition to gender-affirming healthcare, especially for young people, often hinges upon fears for their hypothetical future regret (Pearce 2018). When trans people manage to overcome the many obstacles to accessing gender-affirming treatment, patient satisfaction rates for trans healthcare are consistently and unusually high compared to other parts of the healthcare system (Bockting et al. 2004; Davies et al. 2013; Mayer et al. 2019). The public fantasy that gendervariant people will be ‘pressured’ by the medical industry and/or ‘progressive’ liberal discourse to conform with a teleological and binary ideology of gender, however, is persistent.6 Following this rationale, barriers to trans recognition and acceptance are viewed as necessary ‘checks’ to an imagined inexorable and unidirectional flow towards medicalized gender transition, in order to prevent hypothetical future regrets (Pearce, Erikainen and Vincent 2020).

Friction Sage: I have regrets, but not those regrets. While I don’t regret losing my facial hair, I do regret even seeming to accommodate a world that sees fit to require it of me. And it troubles me that I can easily imagine someone else in my position taking the same actions I did, but living to regret it. And so, although I don’t have those regrets, it still concerns me that I easily could have had them. How can I or anyone ever know, really, what choices they might have made about their bodies in a world which didn’t attempt to categorize them according to these particular binary constraints, imposed in these specific modes? I didn’t hate my beard. What I absolutely hated (and still struggle with) is shaving. Shaving requires spending time closely observing my face in a mirror. It requires starting each and every day with intimate, tactile, sometimes painful interaction with what I least like about myself. Again, it’s not the beard I mind, it’s the bare fact that my body is determined to produce it. Left unchecked, it will continue relentlessly producing thick, dark hairs on parts of my face where they would not normally grow, absent the effects of testosterone poisoning – of which they are a painful and persistent reminder. For much of my adult life I settled instead on a short beard, which was preferable to a clean-shaved face simply because it was ‘low friction’, that is to say, it required the minimum of dysphoria-inducing maintenance.

Ontopolitics of Gender


Public discussions about trans regret largely miss the point that trans struggles frequently have less to do with the nature of our identities than with the forms of resistance and friction we encounter – both in the dissonance we may experience with our own bodies and from the societies we live in. What these debates fail to recognize is that barriers to accessing healthcare in fact force trans and non-binary people to formulate and adhere to narrower and more fixed ideas of trans genders and selfhood than trans people might otherwise feel free to articulate – as, for example, when transfeminine people are pressured to shave in order to satisfy a specialist’s expectation that trans people will identify consistently with the ‘opposite’ sex. In Sage’s case, shaving was a far more dysphoric activity than simply having a beard, but the latter was less compatible with a desire for congruent relations with a milieu that is tuned to particular gendered expectations. Dysphoria is here experienced as a friction – the daily friction of shaving and the social friction of knocking up against a normative presumption that expects or even demands it.7 The moves Sage makes are not oriented towards or away from governing norms but towards reducing friction, that is, towards creating the conditions in which to thrive relatively unimpeded. Norms, as such, are sometimes crucial and sometimes incidental to that process, but there is no straightforward linear relationship between transition choices and normative expectations. The severe gatekeeping and extensive delays that trans people must overcome to access gender-affirming healthcare or legal recognition, especially in the UK and other gender-sceptical countries, mean that trans people cannot afford to harbour much doubt, uncertainty or experimentation. Medicalized transition and legal recognition goals become, of necessity, overinvested objects of desire precisely because they are unobtainable without the heavy investment of desire and determination. This is not to imply that this desire stems solely from a medical or legal imperative. What it does suggest, however, is that the very atmosphere of hostility which is intended to mitigate the perceived dangers of a prescriptive pathway to transition has just the opposite effect. It forces trans people to hone and concretize desires, to take up and defend as coherent and consistent a position as possible regarding envisioned future selves. In other words, trans people are forced to cultivate exaggerated narratives of self-identity (where self-identity means the coherence of an entity with itself) in order to access the conditions which will enable achieving a liveable level of congruity. This is the reality which has given rise to so much tension around the historic figure of the transsexual (Stone 1992), but we propose a different approach to thinking about this problem – one which does not centre conformity as its


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

primary metric. For trans people, creating a liveable body is not just an exercise in overcoming traumatic histories and ongoing misgenderings in pursuit of a consistent, harmonious relationship between body and mind. The conditions in which such a relation can occur are themselves shaped within gender normativity. The example of medicalized transness is at an extreme end of this problem, but this is a matter of degree, not kind. Like most of life, trans desire cannot be easily separated from the constellations of relations that we think of as gender norms or cisnormative culture.

Gender self-identity as a condition of political subjecthood ‘Trans women are women!’ ‘Trans men are men!’ ‘Nonbinary people are valid!’

In a context of increasingly virulent transphobia in the UK and worldwide, assertions like these have become a commonplace of progressive discourse, scrawled on placards and echoing through streets as trans people and cis allies demand an equitable standard of recognition and inclusion. These pronouncements offer hearty defiance to cisnormative ideas about what bodies mean and, more fundamentally, what they are. In declaring that ‘trans women are women’, ‘trans men are men’ and ‘nonbinary people are valid’, trans people and allies (and the speakers are very often allies) refuse the terms of the scientistic ‘common sense’ that individual identity equates with sex assigned at birth. Their refusal operates by prioritizing self-identification over externally imposed classificatory regimes, resisting the automatic classification of people into sexed categories according to primary and secondary sex characteristics. The terms of this battle are drawn at the site of identity: that is, the location of events within which bodies become politically meaningful, which forms the basis of debates about how trans bodies are to be recognized and governed (Butler 2015: 19). Many trans commentators, however, have taken issue with the logic of statements like ‘trans women are women’ (see e.g. Burns 2020). As a mantra of primarily cis allies, this kind of discourse reproduces gender as a product of cisgender consensus. It also does little to disrupt the exclusions of binary gender beyond widening the male/female binary, leaving its heteronormativity, coloniality, racial inequities and exclusion of intersex and non-binary people intact (Gill-Peterson 2014). Thinking beyond the tactical questions of what

Ontopolitics of Gender


statements like ‘trans men are men’ can achieve, commentators such as Chu (2019) take umbrage with the facticity of stating that trans people are unproblematically members of the genders they identify with. The target of Chu’s critique is the very logic of self-identity inherent to this kind of sloganeering and to mainstream contemporary trans politics more broadly. The logic of self-identity is a tactic aimed at countering the constraints imposed upon self-identity, but it is also limited by these constraints. Self-identification can never be fully successful, because meaning-making about a self is a collective activity. This is the power of norms. As per Chu’s observations quoted above, we wish to argue in this chapter for the limits of the performative in trans politics. We adopt the term performative here in full appreciation of its divergent usages and meanings. In literature on gender, performativity generally refers to a set of theories about identity and embodiment vis-à-vis discourse developed by Butler ([1990] 2006; [1993] 2011). Butler asserts that it is through discourse that bodies literally come to matter – that the material exists to us as humans precisely because of the processes that make it meaningful. Although there is debate about the specifics of these processes (Charnes 1996; Hughes and Witz 1997; Nelson 1999), as well as significant criticism of the misuse of Butler’s work to argue that discourse and matter are equal, we understand Butler to argue for a theory of the material that refuses a clean distinction between epistemology and ontology (Meijer and Prins 1998). Instead of focusing on the reality or truth of matter, performativity here shifts the focus to how matter comes to matter, to be important, to be felt and to be meaningful. Butler’s use of the term implies that it is in how bodies and the material are inhabited and lived dialogically that authenticity, stability and meaningfulness come to be. The second, popular use of performativity is not independent of Butler’s formulation, but it takes on a somewhat opposite meaning. In everyday usage, performance implies inauthenticity, instability and experimentation. Butler, who has made heavy use of tropes of gender experimentation from drag and trans embodiment (Namaste 2009), has had to address this slippage directly in light of its mobilization by anti-trans writers who have focused on the connotations of gender inauthenticity that emerge from shallow readings of their work (Williams 2014). But it has also formed an important locus of queer boundary-pushing in the fight against oppressive sexual and gendered norms. It is these norms, however, that form the core of Chu’s critique. It is not just that the 1990s obsession with gender experimentation in queer theory and queer subcultures sometimes clashes with trans understandings of the relationship between bodies and identities, which can, but do not necessarily, emphasize


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

transgression or valorize distance from norms. The point is also that norms are not simply externally imposed but emerge in a process that includes and enables negotiation, iteration and subversion. Merely experimenting with performing identity differently is not a sufficient strategy for escaping the codification of the body along the lines of cisnormative gender. Keeping the beard would have been a valid choice but not a straightforwardly liberatory one. By virtue of its sexed and gendered codification, the presence (or absence) of a beard affects access to different qualities and configurations of encounters, embodiments and experiences, which give rise to different senses of relational becoming in the world. Gender does not belong to any one gendered subject, the same way that the body does not belong to any one sovereign, thinking individual (Colls 2012; Massumi 2015). The gender of a gendered subject is indissociable from their location in material-social worlds that make gender possible. These too are the same worlds that make their bodies, and all bodies, possible. This relational dynamic comes to the fore in Deleuzian theories of difference: ‘It is not difference which presupposes opposition but opposition which presupposes difference’ (Deleuze 2004a: 62). If difference is ontological, then the homogeneity of identity in popular discourse can only be understood as a papering over of that difference. Oppositional homogenization territorializes and negates the originary difference of life itself, of which trans genders are an expression. A trans ontopolitics, by contrast, makes it possible to affirm the importance of originary identity in terms that operate outside of the bodysociety opposition. As we will show, this produces a transformational politics of vitality, rather than simply acquiescence or resistance to gendered norms. It would be easy to interpret the deterritorializing imperatives in Deleuze and Guattari’s (2004a, 2004b) work (the rhizome; the body-without-organs; becoming-minor) as espousing a simple formula in which evasion or transgression of social norms equates with a move towards freedom from the fascism of fixed states. On this model, a host of new norms might be produced in which, for example, ‘binary’ trans identities are read as reinscribing hegemonic gender norms, while ‘non-binary’ identities refuse them. And indeed, for those who have felt constrained by historically narrow delineations of transness or transsexuality, this model has proven useful for articulating anti-prescriptive positions on trans identity (see e.g. Crawford 2008). Our aim here is neither to reject this liberating impetus of gender evasion and transgression as tactics nor indeed to deny the importance of that impetus within Deleuze and Guattari’s project. It is to affirm that there is more to

Ontopolitics of Gender


deterritorialization than simple opposition. What we see as the important contribution of Deleuze and Guattari’s work, for our purposes, is the idea of an excess outside of the restricted logic of imposition and opposition to societal norms (Colebrook 2014). This is a contribution that unsettles ideas of continuity as a basis of identity or individual existence. At the same time, it seems unwise to disregard the detailed and sophisticated labour and attention that trans and non-binary people, both individually and collectively, dedicate to interrogating and exploring individual trans relationships with gender. Successive generations of trans people have found that narratives of continuity (i.e. of an enduring gender identity) provide significant fit with their lived experiences and explanatory power with which to make sense of them. Allowing for the possibility that normative forces within public and medical discourses may exert a pressure on trans people to organize their/our life narratives within just such a framework of continuity, it is nevertheless clear that tracing a thread of continuity through individual lived experience plays a genuine and important role for trans people in recuperating what can often be highly fractured and deeply alienated lives. This belies the argument that early trans theorists such as Sandy Stone (1992) initially mobilized against the normative figure of the transsexual. Indeed, the narratives of continuity which trans and non-binary people actually put forward do not necessarily resemble the kind of fixed, binary, teleological and medicalized narratives evoked by that historic figure. A gender-fluid individual, for example, may experience the condition of fluidity itself as a consistent mode of difference from the cisgender condition of fixity. Similarly, a trans person who tends towards a binary gender may also experience, in the course of transition, a newfound ability to explore gender expressions traditionally associated with the gender they were assigned at birth. This shift becomes possible because these expressions no longer have the power to invoke a sense of incongruence triggered by the condition of being chronically misgendered. Continuity need not therefore correlate with either fixity or conformity. The proliferation and enthusiastic adoption of identity labels such as agender and gender-fluid, and of gender-subversive forms of trans masculinity and femininity, demonstrate that refusals of the binary and appeals to fluidity or change are not necessarily experienced by trans people as antithetical to the sense of an enduring, specific orientation within and towards the field of possible gendered and gendering societal relations (Primo, Zamperini and Testoni 2020). What the diversity of trans articulations and expressions of gender demonstrates, then, is that trans experience cannot be fully accounted


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

for without allowing for both (1) some as-yet-undefined concept of continuity or ‘inherent’ identity and (2) an ontological refusal of fixed categories of being. A critical site for the integration of these two seemingly opposing tenets is the body. An important impetus of queer theory has historically been an attempt to escape, or at least to fuck with, the confines of the body as inscribed by conservative appeals to ‘nature’, including sex-essentialist iterations of feminism. Trans articulations of identity, by contrast, insist on bringing the body back into the picture, but without a reversion to sex-essentialist formulations of identity, or to a naturalization of the body as ontologically prior to discourse. What trans experience underscores is the inadequacy of any attempt to parse body and mind, or nature and culture, as separate and independent fields that might act one upon the other, regardless of the presumed directionality of that relationship. To interpret any act of gender embodiment, expression, presentation or articulation as belonging entirely to one realm or the other is too simplistic and relies on superficial characterizations of transness that are rarely born out in practice (Brice, in press; Primo, Zamperini and Testoni 2020). This problem – the inseparability of body from mind or nature from culture – harks back to Butler’s ([1993] 2011) critique of the classic opposition between constructivist and essentialist theories of gender: namely, that strict linguistic constructivism necessarily presupposes an underlying ‘nature’ that somehow exists outside of cultural construction and which cultural construction acts ‘upon’. Butler’s theory of performativity demonstrates that norms are not so much imposed upon a pre-existing body as they are iteratively called into being through the embodied and discursive performance of everyday life. Butler therefore figures the prescriptive normativity of gender and the conditions of possibility for its subversive transformation as intimately related and as situated in precisely the same generative space. This amounts to a refusal of the distinction between epistemological and ontological regimes of knowledge, since existence becomes not so much a condition as a product of always-ongoing discursive and material processes (Meijer and Prins 1998). The persistent preoccupation with the body/mind question as a basis for theorizing sex and gender identity arises from an ontological fixation with the subject, treating identity as a characteristic attached (or not attached) to individual bodies, rather than a collective problem or field of possibility (Brice 2020). Butler’s refusal to separate out epistemology from ontology begins to address this problem and in doing so gestures towards what we are here calling an ontopolitics: a politics sited in the generative space of continual processes of worlding or becoming. However, because Butler stops short of engaging the

Ontopolitics of Gender


kind of process ontologies which inform Deleuze and Guattari’s work,8 Butler’s critique continues to prioritize discursive over bodily and affective registers. This has made it too easy for some queer theorists to skirt over questions of nature and the body, thereby inadvertently conceding the territory of the body to biologically essentialist forms of ‘gender-critical’ and feminist thought.

Beyond anti-normativity Deleuze offers new ways to think about norms and liveability without positing a naive anti-normativity in its stead (Colebrook 2014). Deleuze does this by questioning who the subject of norms is. The queer focus on norms generally assumes that norms are subjectivating and that an anti-normative politics would produce more liveable forms of subjecthood beyond their limits. However, queer theory has grappled much less extensively with the impossibility of the non-normative (Mahmood 2011) and has, as a result, risked embedding new norms in place of those it deems anti-queer (Serano 2007). Like Butler’s, Deleuze and Guattari’s work is frequently caricatured as anti-normative and focused on practice alone.9 However, while Butler conceptualizes practice in terms of meaning vis-à-vis discourse, in the writings of Deleuze and Guattari signification is but one part of a constellation of active relations and forces. The difference here may be one of emphasis, but its implications are far-reaching, as we can see in the queer literature that emerged from Butler’s work, which emphasizes individualized discursive action over the networking of relation and meaning over the force of matter. Butler’s argument that matter comes to matter precisely through the processes in which it becomes knowable represents a latent humanism (Charnes 1996) that Deleuzian theories of matter, by removing the need for an observing subject of the material, are able to do without. This is the difference that Hallward (2000), in his work on Deleuze and Foucault, identifies with the distinction between the singular and the specific. Where humanist thinkers propose difference as emerging through networks of relations that are fundamentally rooted in knowledge, for Deleuze, it is relations of bare existence that produce difference (2004a). That is to say, difference is itself ontological. Like Butler, Deleuze and Guattari propose a relational ontology of bodies, but where Butler emphasizes knowledge, Deleuze and Guattari emphasize force, speed and capacity, all explicitly detached from the demand for a sensing and understanding mind or self. This non- or post-humanist


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

turn is helpful for addressing the body in a way that does not centre discourse or create a hierarchy of relation within bodies.

Gender as relation, gender as process Thinking through the body, taking Deleuze and Guattari as our starting point, would look something like this: First, a body is not synonymous with an organic whole. In fact, for Deleuze and Guattari, all sorts of things are bodies which are not necessarily human or even organic. Bodies come into being as a result of their affects, that is, their relations, or the desires that produce those relations. Thus, bodies start from a position of mutuality and of change: ‘A body affects other bodies, or is affected by other bodies; it is this capacity for affecting and being affected that also defines a body in its individuality’ (Deleuze 1988: 123). Relations are always shifting as bodies change and move. It therefore makes little sense to think of a human body in terms of its stability and unity, since our bodies are always becoming in relation to their environments and the assemblages which they become part of and with (Deleuze and Guattari 2004b). This relational schema does not just extend bodies into what we normally think of as their excess but also demands rethinking the hierarchies that typify imaginaries of bodily ‘interiors’ as well. Rather than placing the mind at the seat of control over a compliant body, the body is understood as operating in parallel to the mind – a multipolar assemblage of relations between bodies: ‘Each body in extension, each idea or each mind in thought are constituted by the characteristic relations that subsume the parts of that body, the parts of that idea’ (Deleuze 1988: 19).10 As Deleuze and Guattari show in their theorization of the body without organs (Deleuze 2004b; Deleuze and Guattari 2004b), these relations are territorializing for the individual becomings of the different bodies, or aspects, that make up the ‘interiority’ of a human being. They hold each other in check. If bodies are typified by their affects, they become congruent with their functions, but because these functions occur in relation, there is no pure potentiality. The stomach is an eating machine, the throat a swallowing machine, the stomach and intestines digesting machines (Buchanan 1997). One cannot eat more than the stomach can hold (at least not without threatening the vitality of the stomach); the tendencies and potentialities of the throat are shaped by its relation to the stomach.

Ontopolitics of Gender


As Deleuze and Guattari (2004b: 178–9) warn of the body without organs in A Thousand Plateaus, the possibility of pure becoming – the dream of absolute liberation – can never be fully pursued because it would damage the conatus, or the viability of life: ‘You have to keep small rations of subjectivity in sufficient quantity to enable you to respond to the dominant reality.’ Here we start to see the parallels to trans embodiment. Queer theory has emphasized forms of anti-normativity (Wiegman and Wilson 2015) that resemble what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as deterritorialization, or ‘lines of flight’ away from capture by the overdetermined collections of forces that produce an illusion of hegemony. In contrast, a Deleuzian queer theory (Colebrook 2009), like our nascent trans theory, pushes back against this simplistic schema. While it is one thing to recognize the dominance of homologous gender and sex binaries as destructive, it is another to produce spaces to thrive from within their overdetermination. Rather than just working to carve out space beyond the binary (though this is the goal for many), for some trans people the goal is to create a liveable space within prevalent binary mappings of gender.11 This may sometimes look like pursuing a ‘passing’ embodiment, but even for those who do not pass or do not desire to, being able to inhabit pre-existing locations on the gender binary is often important, even if it means inhabiting these spaces differently than cis people might. The pursuit of a habitable space within existing orders of gendered possibility cannot be characterized as simple pragmatism, and still less as a reformist vision of gender, which would demand conceptualizing (trans) genders as only ever ‘authentic’ when they deny the strictures of the binary. Such a position conceives trans authenticity as necessarily oppositional and defined by its negative relation to cisnormative gender and sex. However, there is little reason to prioritize a presumptive gender authenticity that supposes a ‘deep’, originary self which meaningfully pre-exists gender normativity. In other words, gender normativity does not just provide the scaffolding on which decisions about how to live gender ‘otherwise’ are made and actualized. Indeed, there would be no possibility of an ‘otherwise’ if there were no norms. As a dominating striation that permeates social space, gender normativity is also inevitably present precisely at the moments in which bodies come into relation with themselves. These are not only the moments when dysphorias emerge as bodies brush up against organizing norms. They are also the moments when possibilities are found or created for more congruous relations of becoming. The relational encounter produces much more than oppression and discongruence but is a key locus for generating new vitalities.


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

Normativity and the power of enabling constraints Sage: When I talk about friction, what I mean is the ways in which I rub up uncomfortably against the distressing and negative aspects of being trans in day-to-day life. ‘Friction’ can be triggers for dysphoria – such as shaving or being misgendered – or instances of transphobia – such as hostility, discrimination, or exclusion. Transition choices are largely about reducing friction (or, more affirmatively, about generating euphoria). The point is that I make these choices not as a fully volitional and independent actor seeking to effectively express an authentic self, but as a being trying to find spaces to thrive in relation; to create the conditions in which I can become somebody I am happier being.

Here we should emphasize that normativity arrives not as an ideology but as a chorus of relational possibilities and constraints – or histories, actual and potential – acting in concert. The stares, the comments, the harassment, the dysphoria, the violence: singular events add up to wear away and to prevent thriving in such a similarly overdetermined way as to impress a unity of purpose onto the social and to produce a reactive image of self. Growing or removing a beard is one way of curating that stream of events. Though the presence of normative constraints is destructive for trans people (as well as for most cis people, we would add), it is generative too. How could it not be? Pure destruction would leave none of us standing in the end. This is self-evidently true for people identifying on the binary, whose genders are openly and indissociably tied to gender norms. It is, however, also true for people who position themselves outside the binary, because gender is still a productive force that compels gender transgression. Androgyny may react against binary gender, but it still exists in relation to it. Furthermore, non-binary people frequently explore the limits of masculinity and femininity, rearticulating and expanding what these terms mean. To non-binary people, limiting norms also become fields of potential from which new gender articulations can be produced.12 It is not just that gender normativity compels a reaction; it is also that this reaction is not purely negative but is also subjectivating in a positive sense (Colebrook 2009).13 To put this simply, the idea that the binary obscures the true self elides the fact that a self can only exist in relation to norms, which are currently overwhelmingly orientated to the binary. A process ontology approach to norms describes the emergence of difference without tethering it to oppositional reference points. This does not mean that

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external referents are irrelevant. It means that these referents cannot be presumed to have effects (as ideologies) but must be accounted for through processes of relation (affect), sensibility (logic) and repetition that mould but do not fully determine difference (Massumi 2015). Deleuzian process ontology can help delineate a trans politics that avoids the elisions produced when conceptualizing gender as either solely originary (an innate identity or aspect of a self) or as something inscribed onto a body from the ‘outside’ world or a sovereign mind (imposed on children at birth and through socialization or reworked through acts of resistance and discovery). Like Butler, Deleuze and Guattari understand not just the subjective or social as networked and relational but also the physical, material and embodied. Unlike Butler, however, Deleuze and Guattari do not prioritize a human subject in their depiction of the social and its emergence (Colebrook 2009) and thus do not limit the scope of enquiry to discourse or communication. Usefully, this posthumanism and its associated materialism bypass some of the problems that are associated with Butlerian theory and gender. In particular, by de-emphasizing meaning, it counters the transphobic critique that theories of performance neglect the nature or agency of the sexed body in favour of a sovereign, masculinist mind (Berlin 2015). Rather than positing a transcendent and essential truth of the body, Deleuzian process ontology emphasizes the contingency of both subjectivities and embodied forms as conjunctions of relations that do not evidence a broader ideal (e.g. of gender). Things (people, objects, ideas, singularities, flows, noumena, agencements) can only be explained within transversal histories (Sauvagnargues 2016) and possibilities engendered by their actual and potential conditions and not as representations of ideal forms. The linguistic and symbolic are important constituents of these conditions, but the conditions within which phenomena emerge cannot be reduced to effects of discourse, nor can discourse be understood as transcendent to the conditions within which it is enacted. Gender, then, is both indissociable from its real embodiment and, as a general ideal, insufficient to explain how it is lived in specific assemblages. Shifting priority from a transcendent ideal to singular instances does not mean reifying individual experience, however. The experiencing individual can also only exist contingently and within the assemblages in which they are produced. The ontological implications of Deleuzian transcendental empiricism for thinking about gender and identity parallel Chu’s critique of identity, mentioned above. Chu insists that an individual cannot simply identify with a gender and will it into the world, because the gender of an individual is necessarily of the world and not just a willing subject. Transphobes, it would seem, are not wrong about


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everything. Though their anger about self-identification may serve primarily as an excuse for bigotry, in the course of enacting the problem of self-identification it also reveals self-identification’s limits. In the transphobic and cisnormative refusal to accept trans self-identification, transphobes stake a claim on how gendered embodiments emerge and are lived. What is important, then, is not just to counter transphobic and cisnormative misrecognitions and normativities but also to rework the assemblages amidst which gendered embodiments emerge in order to create safer, more agreeable conditions in which trans people can thrive. This indicates a politics that pursues making the coincidence of trans embodiments and identities more liveable not as an insistence upon the reality or validity of trans identities but by pursuing the conditions that would allow for trans identities to be fully realized. A trans ontopolitics, then, must establish new assemblages in which gender can become differently. The problem then is how to bring together these kinds of assemblages that would allow for healthier and more vibrant trans becomings. Gender is not a transcendent ideal but a non-exhaustive and locally specific assemblage of ideas, discourses, expectations and norms – and the infrastructures and affects that these entail. As a constituent of the assemblages within which trans subjects emerge, the effects of normative, binary gender on trans bodies cannot be reduced solely to the deleterious – to how gender oppresses and represses. Trans genders exist both in spite of and in relation to the binary. Abolishing gender, whatever that would look like, would revolutionize cis genders for sure, but it would also untether trans genders both from the relations and forces that repress them and from those that are productive for them. Put bluntly: it is not necessarily a desirable outcome that trans genders cease to exist. For this reason, the goal cannot be simply to create lines of flight – deterritorializations – away from gender normativity. What Deleuze and Guattari refer to as the body without organs, that is, the plane of pure, deterritorialized possibility, serves as a generative limit for fleeing the unproductive stasis of Being and reductive meaning. As we have noted, pure becoming also brings its own dangers. For both gender ‘rebels’ and transsexual people accused of perpetuating cisnormative binary gender, normative gender is an important constituent of the assemblages in which their trans embodiments emerge. The political imperative that results from this recognition cannot be to pursue pure deterritorialization through gender abolition. Where lines of flight (trajectories of deterritorialization) end, fail and are reterritorialized, the reimposition of cisnormativity is not just destructive but also creative for trans becomings. Rather than singular moments of revolution, these smaller pursuits of an ‘otherwise’ to

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cisnormativity, which differ from cisnormative repetitions of gender norms in quality and intensity rather than kind (Colebrook 2009), can help shift gender norms towards more open and productive domains in which a multiplicity of genders can thrive.

Conclusion: Creating conditions for thriving The ‘otherwise’ that we are theorizing forms part of a larger concern with imagining a new trans politics and the production of images of thought in service of this project. The theoretical potential of trans does not lie solely in the power of transness to upset dualisms and transgress or transcend boundaries (beneficial as this power might be). As Chu and Harsin Drager (2019) put it, theorizing from a trans perspective – the production of a ‘trans theory’ – should not mean building ‘queering’s unasked-for sequel’ (105). Specifically, an ideal of transgressive transness should not be mobilized as a vehicle for newly prescriptive and programmatic concepts of gender abolition. Rather, trans theory offers the opportunity to approach gender and subjectivity as collective problems and not individual characteristics. The emphasis thereby shifts from questions of how identities cleave to bodies to the matter of what social and relational conditions enable a multiplicity of bodies to thrive. Contrary to the concerns of some transphobic feminists, such a trans theory will be predicated on an attention to the body as a site of experience that is not directed by a willing (or, perhaps, wilful) mind. Where queer theories often emphasize desires, transgressions and tactics that reinforce a dualistic schematic of mind–body relations, theorizing transness in its full diversity requires seeing the body as a reservoir of what we might term agency (or affect), rather than as matter awaiting moulding by the addition of meaning. The trans theory that thinkers like Chu and Drager call for is one in which the body really does matter. If the body didn’t matter, after all, there would be no need to struggle with it in order to achieve trans embodiments. The matter would already be settled. Such a trans theory would also question the transfixion in queer literature on resisting norms, instead of seeing norms as simultaneously both productive and inevitable: Whatever comes after trans studies – can I suggest transsexual theory? – will be impossible with antinormativity. The most powerful intervention scholars


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies working in trans studies can make … is to defend the claim that transness requires that we understand, as we never have before, what it means to be attached to a norm – by desire, by habit, by survival. (Chu and Harsin Drager 2019: 108)

The demand that trans theory find its home in a place away from the queer interest in (or even obsession with) the anti-normative has a long legacy. This demand does not necessarily tally with more nuanced arguments about the normative that appear in queer theory’s foundational texts. The frequent characterization of Butler’s work as a celebration of resistance to norms leads to caricaturing of their work as anti-normative. This represents a misreading of Butler. As Colebrook explains, for Butler: The queer is not radically outside or beyond recognition and selfhood; it is that which makes a claim to be heard as human – within the norms of speech, gender, the polity and the symbolic – at the same time as it perverts the normative matrix. (Colebrook 2009: 15)

Butler’s work is thus not anti-normative in the sense of seeking the dissolution of or escape from norms. Its task is more subtle: it is sensitive to norms as inhabited practices, rather than hegemonic ideologies that loom over those whose bodies and lives they control from above.14 We have sought to address this misreading in Butler’s work on norms by shifting to a Deleuzian ontology of embodiment and difference. As Colebrook (2009) explains, the shift is in the direction of establishing a more devolved model of agency in the production of difference with respect to the (differential) reproduction of norms through the becoming of a body/self beyond identity. This distributed agency, along with the potentiality and creativity of bodies in relation, results in forms of becoming that are radically open. A Deleuzian ontopolitics of the self, then, cannot be subsumed within the confines of any singular and static identity: For Deleuze, the conditions of theory require a going ‘beyond’ of the self and the organism. As long as we are concerned with identity, with the repetition of who we are, we remain within constituted matter and lived time. To think transcendentally we need to think the pure form of time and difference, the pure intensities which each present repeats and actualises both in the present and for all time. [… The resulting] queer politics would involve neither recognition of the self, nor a refusal of normativity, but the affirmation of the pre-personal. (Colebrook, 2009: 20–1)

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This pre-personal becoming, in which agency is distributed throughout and across ‘selves’, problematizes the logic of politics based on the affirmation of identities. Identities, trans and otherwise, are always problematic. In a Deleuzian framework, however, a problem is not only oppressive but also productive. Transness poses its problems by demanding new ways of theorizing becoming, in which new selves emerge by composing a cacophony of bodies and intensities into more productive relations. Transness emphasizes not just the territorialization of a yielding body by normativities, nor of the sovereign trans individual through embodied practices of gendered becoming (such as transitioning). Transness also emphasizes the agency of the body. After all, the body would not be a site of struggle if it did not have a role in producing the struggles it hosts. The hair, the breasts, the voice – these are not just made meaningful in cisnormative gender discourse but become points of relation to others regardless of the intentions of the willing subject to whom they ‘belong’ (or whose bodies they are also constituents of). Affirming this body and the assemblage rather than the subject is a priority of both a nascent trans theory and a Deleuzian-Spinozan theory of life. The greatest difference in emphasis that a Deleuzian theory of embodiment brings is its ethical orientation towards affirmation of becoming. Our trans theory is not concerned with dismantling loci of dysphoria per se; its concern is with nurturing more concordant relations that produce thriving. In this chapter we have argued for more attention to the affective micropolitics of everyday trans life instead of fixation on what Deleuze and Guattari (2004b) call the ‘molar’ politics of meaning and recognition that dominate trans political strategizing. Of course, this distinction is artificial. The micropolitical content of the banal is indissociable from the acrimony of the newspaper column or the sloganeering of the march. But the ability to live – to pursue concordant relations within and beyond a ‘self ’ – is a necessary precondition for enacting other, more easily recognizable politics. Living trans is a demand made on the world. It is also a queer repetition of the world, an iteration that creates difference. Whether the beard stays or goes is largely immaterial to our argument. What is at stake is not a gesture of defiance or of capitulation to regulating normative mechanisms but rather a modulation of the field of possible relations open to a body as it persists and tries to thrive within a milieu. Pursuing concordance and reducing friction demands action aimed at enabling a more vital life, though such demands may also contain tradeoffs. This vitality is not merely a reshaping of the self but also of the assemblages that the self becomes with and within. What might at first look like a capitulation


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

to a transphobic society or an attack on an uncompliant body is understood instead as part of a larger ecology of forces that, together, are reshaping our world by the repetition of sameness in order to produce difference. It is in this repetition and the pursuit of new, more conative modes of relation that we find a trans theory. Our trans theory plays the long game.

Notes 1 ‘We’ in this chapter refers jointly to Samuel Berlin and Sage Brice. We write this chapter to articulate an approach we have developed together as colleagues over at least four years of conversation. Sections of the chapter are written in the first person by Sage and are clearly formatted as such; the remainder of the chapter is written in a unified voice. Allowing for the limitations of such labels, Samuel is a cis gay man with a research interest in gender and embodiment, and Sage is a queer and non-binary trans woman with a research interest in trans and queer ecologies. We are both white and Jewish and from university-educated, middle-class families in the Global North. In writing about trans experience, we are conscious that our lives give us partial perspectives on issues that are highly contentious and have material impacts we may not appreciate. We are also mindful that our perspectives on these issues have been deeply informed and enabled by the work and words of many queer and trans people facing exclusions we do not face, not all of which is traceable or citeable. Without attempting to excuse ourselves for any oversights in this chapter, we therefore want to acknowledge that any argument we may put forward can and should only be evaluated amidst and alongside the thoughts of black and brown, working class, Global South and other marginalized scholars, organizers, artists and commentators. 2 We use trans here to refer collectively to transgender, transsexual, non-binary and other gender-variant identities. 3 The ontology of gender we advocate here is also relevant for understanding sexual difference. We view the sex/gender distinction as less useful than it may first appear, not just because sex is also ‘constructed’ but also because segregating sex from gender mirrors an artificial division between body and mind or biology and culture that we argue against in this chapter. 4 While we are aware that certain theorists – most notably Braidotti (2006) – posit Deleuze and Guattari’s affirmative politics as antithetical to Butler’s psychoanalytic concern with mourning and lack, we concur with Hickey-Moody and Rasmussen (2009), as well as Colebrook (2009, 2014), in finding a productive intersection between them for theorizing the production and subversion of norms as aspects of the same generative process.

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5 This statement requires the caveat that some trans people prefer to speak of gender ‘euphoria’ as experiences of affirmation and congruity, rather than ‘dysphoria’, which foregrounds distress and alienation. Neither concept denotes a universal or definitive aspect of trans experience. Similarly, trans ‘viable embodiments’ need not be understood to follow a prescriptive form. 6 An important secondary element at work here is the fantasy that lesbian and gay people are transitioning to the ‘other’ sex in order to ‘comply’ with heterosexual norms, again despite the evidence that a majority of trans people post transition, in countries where sexual diversity is not heavily persecuted, are lesbian, gay or bi/pansexual in orientation. 7 This use of friction makes an earlier appearance in Brice (2021; Figure 4). 8 A possible exception being Butler’s discussions of Spinoza (see e.g. Butler, 2015) 9 See Colebrook (2014) for an extended discussion of normativity and Deleuze. For Colebrook, rather than a subjective production of norms and recognition from an already consolidated anthropomorphic individual, a Deleuzian approach to the problem of the performative and norms entails grounding in ‘something like a new subjectivism of life’ (2014: 25) in which life is not synonymous with, or an effect of, performance but rather is an immanent ground. 10 This is an observation increasingly substantiated by neurological, genetic and endocrinological research that highlights the inseparable interrelatedness of bodies and selves. 11 We are grateful to our colleague Tom Keating for pointing out that Deleuze’s philosophy is not necessarily overly concerned with liveability as an ethical priority. Our reading brings Deleuze and Guattari into conversation with Butler for precisely this reason: that their differing commitments taken together produce a politics that answers to trans lives in ways that neither does, alone. 12 Agender people alone could perhaps be said to not engage with gender in some affirmative way. Further research with and/or by agender people might therefore yield new insights into this question. 13 We make this distinction between embodiment and subjectivity to highlight the difference between gender difference as it exists and the processes through which it becomes meaningful. 14 For a thorough discussion of the limitations of anti-normative feminist conceptualizations of agency and inhabited practice see also Mahmood (2011).

References Berlin, S. (2015), ‘Trans Space: Transition, Embodiment and the Politics of Passing’, MSc diss., University of Bristol, Bristol. Bockting, W., B. Robinson, A. Benner and K. Scheltema (2004), ‘Patient Satisfaction with Transgender Health Services’, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 30 (4): 277–94.


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Braidotti, R. (2006), ‘Affirming the Affirmative: On Nomadic Affectivity’, Rhizomes, 11/12. Brice, S. (2020), ‘Geographies of Vulnerability: Mapping Transindividual Geometries of Identity and Resistance’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 45 (3): 664–77. Brice, S. (in press), ‘Trans Subjectifications: Drawing an (Im)personal Politics of Gender, Fashion and Style’, Geohumanities, 7 (1): 301–27. Buchanan, I. (1997), ‘The Problem of the Body in Deleuze and Guattari, or, What Can a Body Do?’ Body & Society, 3 (3): 73–91. Burns, C. (2020), ‘The Big Problem with the Whole “Trans Women Are Women” Thing Is That It Forces Everyone to Conduct a Discourse on Territory Chosen by the People Who Don’t Like Trans People’, Twitter, 9 June. Available online: https://twit​​isti​nebu​rns/sta​tus/1270​2848​5394​3074​818 (accessed 1 January 2021). Butler, J. ([1990] 2006), Gender Trouble, New York: Routledge. Butler, J. ([1993] 2011), Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex, Abingdon: Routledge. Butler, J. (2015), Senses of the Subject, New York: Fordham University Press. Charnes, L. (1996), ‘Styles That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Ideology Critique’, Shakespeare Studies, 24: 118–47. Chu, A. L. (2019), Females, London: Verso. Chu, A. L., and E. Harsin Drager (2019), ‘After Trans Studies’, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 6 (1): 103–16. Colebrook, C. (2009), ‘On the Very Possibility of Queer Theory’, in C. Nigianni and M. Storr (eds), Deleuze and Queer Theory, 11–23, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Colebrook, C. (2014), ‘Norm Wars’, in Sex after Life: Essays on Extinction, vol. 2, 23–48, Ann Arbor, MI: Open Humanities Press. Colls, R. (2012), ‘Feminism, Bodily Difference and Non-Representational Geographies’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 37 (3): 430–45. Crawford, L. C. (2008), ‘Transgender without Organs? Mobilizing a Geo-Affective Theory of Gender Modification’, Women’s Studies Quarterly, 36 (3/4): 127–43. Davies, A., W. P. Bouman, C. Richards, J. Barrett, S. Ahmad, K. Baker, P. Lenihan, S. Lorimer, S. Murjan, N. Mepham, S. Robbins-Cherry, L. J. Seal and L. Stradins (2013), ‘Patient Satisfaction with Gender Identity Clinic Services in the United Kingdom’, Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 28 (4): 400–18. Deleuze, G. (1988), Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books. Deleuze, G. (2004a), Difference and Repetition, London: Continuum. Deleuze, G. (2004b), The Logic of Sense, London: Continuum. Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (2004a), Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, London: Continuum. Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (2004b), A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, London: Continuum.

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Gill-Peterson, J. (2014), ‘The Technical Capacities of the Body: Assembling Race, Technology, and Transgender’, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1 (3): 402–18. Hallward, P. (2000), ‘The Limits of Individuation, or How to Distinguish Deleuze and Foucault’, Angelaki, 5 (2): 93–111. Hickey-Moody, A., and M. L. Rasmussen (2009), ‘The Sexed Subject In-Between Deleuze and Butler’, in C. Nigianni and M. Storr (eds), Deleuze and Queer Theory, 37–53, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Hughes, A., and A. Witz (1997), ‘Feminism and the Matter of Bodies: From de Beauvoir to Butler’, Body & Society, 3 (1): 47–60. Mahmood, S. (2011), Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Massumi, B. (2015), The Politics of Affect, Cambridge: Polity Press. Mayer, T. K., A. Koehler, J. Eyssel and T. O. Nieder (2019), ‘How Gender Identity and Treatment Progress Impact Decision-Making, Psychotherapy and Aftercare Desires of Trans Persons’, Journal of Clinical Medicine, 8 (5): 749. Meijer, I. C., and B. Prins (1998), ‘How Bodies Come to Matter: An Interview with Judith Butler’, Signs, 23 (2): 275–86. Namaste, V. (2009), ‘Undoing Theory: The “Transgender Question” and the Epistemic Violence of Anglo-American Feminist Theory’, Hypatia, 24 (3): 11–32. Nelson, L. (1999), ‘Bodies (and Spaces) Do Matter: The Limits of Performativity’, Gender, Place & Culture, 6 (4): 331–53. Pearce, R. (2018), Understanding Trans Health: Discourse, Power and Possibility, Bristol: Policy Press. Pearce, R., S. Erikainen and B. Vincent (2020), ‘TERF Wars: An Introduction’, Sociological Review, 68 (4): 677–98. Primo, D., A. Zamperini and I. Testoni (2020), ‘A Struggle for Definition: Online Narratives of Italian Trans Women’, Journal of Gender Studies, 29 (5): 590–603. Sauvagnargues, A. (2016), Artmachines: Deleuze, Guattari, Simondon (trans. S. Verderber and E. W. Holland), Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Serano, J. (2007), Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, Berkeley, CA: Seal Press. Sharp, H. (2011), Spinoza and the Politics of Renaturalization, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Spinoza, B. ([1675] 1996), Ethics, London: Penguin Books. Stone, S. (1992), ‘“The Empire” Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto’, Camera Obscura, 29: 150–76. Wiegman, R., and E. A. Wilson (2015), ‘Introduction: Antinormativity’s Queer Conventions’, differences, 26 (1): 1–25. Williams, C. (2014), ‘Gender Performance: The Transadvocate Interviews Judith Butler’, The Transadvocate, 1 May. Available online: https://www.transa​dvoc​​derperf​orma​nce-the-transa​dvoc​ate-int​ervi​ews-jud​ith-but​ler_​n_13​652.htm (accessed 15 October 2020).



‘How do you make yourself a trans-body without organs?’: Posthumanism and embodiment in trans-imperceptible subjectivity Charlie Bowen

Iowa college student: ‘How many genders are there?’ 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate and 46th President of the United States Joe Biden: ‘At least three’.1

Recognition and imperceptibility In the preface to the second edition of her 1990 work Gender Trouble, Judith Butler states that if she were to write the book again she would include discussions of transgender and intersexuality. In her words, she would make them part of the ‘coalition of sexual minorities’ that will break down traditional hierarchical identity structures.2 For a project that had thitherto focused only on the problematics of masculinity and femininity, this was of course welcome, and some later work deals in more depth with the political and theoretical questions the categories raise.3 However, even as Butler states that such a coalition would be grounded in the ‘irreducible complexity of sexuality’, she insists that any political success be conditioned by ‘recognition’ of sexual subjectivities within this coalition.4 As I will show, this condition imposes an inherent limit on such subjectivities. For Butler, gender is always ‘performed’. By this, she means that gender identities are never simply given – whether through anatomy, chromosome


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distribution or physical appearance – but rather must be ‘acted out’ within historical conditions that set the stage for particular identifications. These conditions are never absolutely determinant, however, and so Butler’s theory entails a tension: between a subject’s historical context on the one hand, which sets certain limits on gender identity, and a subject’s personal agency on the other hand, through which the subject responds to and potentially challenges these limits. On this understanding, ‘the body is … an active process of embodying certain cultural and historical possibilities’.5 So, for example, if one ‘never is, but becomes a woman’, as Simone de Beauvoir says, then for Butler this means that ‘woman’ in abstract is a possible identification in our current conditions – one heavily encouraged or discouraged for different people, depending largely on morphology – but actually being a woman requires a performance of this abstract identity that attaches it to the subject.6 This does not imply that gender identification is simply voluntary; in the ‘heterosexual matrix’ of mainstream Western culture, identification based on morphology is generally assigned before the subject has any practical choice in the matter.7 It does, however, imply that gender identification is not essential – that there is a gap between the subject and their conditions, which means that this assignation is never fully stable. As such, there is no ‘true’ gender beneath social constructions of gender, and so – for Butler – it is possible to expose the artificiality of these constructions through assuming potentially subversive new identifications. Butler’s example is drag, which she says ‘reveals that the original identity after which gender fashions itself is an imitation without an origin’.8 By performing against one’s historical conditions, recalcitrant subjects are thus able to challenge the heterosexual matrix into which they are otherwise stuck. Nonetheless, these performances are judged as ‘thinkable’ or ‘unthinkable’ depending on their ‘cultural intelligibility’, which criterion – even as Butler wishes to expand its bounds – imposes a condition of coherence on possible subjects that excludes certain non-conforming subjectivities.9 In this chapter I explore the possibilities for those who do not conform, or who do not want to conform, to this basic constraint of intelligibility – that is, who reject the requirement that they be understood on others’ terms. As the Laboria Cuboniks collective argues in their Xenofeminist Manifesto, sometimes ‘the construction of freedom involves not less but more alienation; alienation is the labour of freedom’s construction’.10 By this they mean that our normative goal need not be alignment with some true ‘self ’ if this self is predicated on conditions – for example, cultural intelligibility – that actually restrict

‘How Do You Make Yourself a Trans-Body?’


subjective expression. Alienation, in this context, is not solely negative but can in fact be a positive embrace of a radical subjective ambiguity. As such, for Laboria Cuboniks it is not enough to expand the ‘disciplinary grid of gender’ to include those hitherto excluded, since such an inclusion will always entail a further exclusion.11 From this perspective, the condition of cultural intelligibility is akin to saying that ‘passing’ is a prerequisite for being trans-.12 What is necessary is rather an understanding of how this ‘disciplinary grid’ functions regardless of how many identifications it includes, which will allow us to see what possibilities it inherently excludes. I emphasize here that this is not a rejection of identity as such: to make it so would only replace one politics of exclusion with another. Rather, my point is to highlight the fundamental limitations of Butler’s approach in its application to trans-theory, which means that it is inadequate in certain contexts and for certain subjects. This is the criticism that Elizabeth Grosz, among others, has made of Butler’s work: that by seeking a ‘politics of recognition’, in a Hegelian vein, it reifies certain categories (of ‘identity’, of ‘the human’) that inherently limit who or what can in fact be ‘recognized’. Against this, Grosz suggests a ‘politics of imperceptibility’, drawing on Nietzsche and Deleuze to suggest a model of the subject defined by non-recognition, by the ‘pragmatic’ relations of immanent forces separate from any hierarchizing determination by the Other.13 This politics of imperceptibility is also what Donna Haraway calls ‘cyborg politics’ and Rosi Braidotti calls ‘nomadic subjectivity’14 – a subjectivity that, in Haraway’s words, rejects ‘identification’ per se as essentially hierarchical, instead calling for ‘permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints’.15 According to this model, a subject should not rely on any external figure or idea for its existence. Rather, a subject should exist simply ‘in itself ’, as an expression of ‘that which it is’ – as the forces that constitute its material existence. As Grosz describes, this means being free not only of the ‘structure of recognition’ in which the subject lives – this is the general requirement to be ‘intelligible’ to others – but also of its own ‘structures of identification’ on a psychic level, which refer to more abstract notions of ‘language’ and ‘personal identity’ that make someone ‘who they are’.16 These ‘structures of identification’ – for example, my ability to think of myself as ‘me’ – are the determinants of existence, as it pertains to unique, personal subjects. That is, they are the grounds on which claims to personal identity can be made, through language. Despite this claim to the personal, however, they are nonetheless external in that they are a priori conditions and so are transcendent in relation to the subject itself. According to these


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conditions, subjectivity cannot exist outside of identity, which always attaches it to ‘a’ subject corresponding to ‘a’ pre-existing, coherent individual. This individual is the one who is ‘recognized’ in Butler’s politics according to their performance of some gender identity or other – binary or not.17 Imperceptible subjectivity, on the other hand, works beyond or beneath the category of ‘the individual’, on the level of relations of forces in themselves. Rather than these forces being proper to any individual, which would subordinate them to an external power, the individual is always a secondary effect of their relations, not given but created. As such, imperceptibility is – Grosz says – a ‘theory of the impersonal’.18 This requires thinking about subjectivity in a different way from before: no longer as the subjectivity of someone or some thing but simply as a state of existence in the world in accordance with some force or other, where that force is coextensive with the state of existence it engenders. These forces are not countable, however, and there are no ‘singular’ or ‘plural’ forces; ‘force’ as such exists only in its relations, which is to say, in this engendering process itself. It is therefore impossible to think of ‘a subject’ apart from the forces that constitute it, which change depending on their relations at any one time; this is the pragmatism of subjectivity Grosz describes. In the politics of imperceptibility, then, a subject should be what Deleuze calls a ‘singularity’ or, in his work with Guattari, a ‘haecceity’: a being whose existence is definable only by tautology, as ‘that which it is’. The singular subject is an absolute ‘thisness’, an ‘anti-generality’.19 It is specified by its particular spatio-temporal coordinates and changes its existence when these coordinates shift.20 Individuality, in this understanding, is necessarily intrinsic, against the extrinsic individuation Butler describes: that is, it refers to the individuality of a state of existence simply as that state of existence, according to an internal principle of consistency, but nothing more. Furthermore, in real terms it can in fact refer only to a process of individuation, rather than the being of an individual as a nameable person or thing. Since the singular individual is defined by their spatio-temporal coordinates, and these are necessarily always shifting, the individual is never stable – never actually in-dividual – but only knowable within ‘metastable’ systems that define what it does, not what it is.21 As Foucault says in his preface to Anti-Oedipus, for Deleuze even the individual – the basic unit of political discourse – is always an ‘effect of power’.22 From the Deleuzian perspective that Grosz, Braidotti and others adopt, ‘the individual’ is only a retrospective placeholder for processes that we can never directly know, and positive statements of ‘recognised individuality’ are oxymoronic and potentially harmful.

‘How Do You Make Yourself a Trans-Body?’


Forms of power Somewhat puzzling in this debate is that Butler does acknowledge the fundamentally pragmatic and processual nature of gender identities. Gender is always performed, she says, under ‘duress’, in response to societal demands, and recognizing this artificiality should lead us away from an objectifying ‘subjectverb substance metaphysics’ (that of ‘the individual’) towards an ‘ontology of present participles’ (that of ‘individuation’).23 We might expect this to bring Butler to a theory of imperceptibility such as that described above, where this ‘present-participle ontology’ would challenge the tyranny of identity in any form. The subtitle of Gender Trouble, ‘Feminism and the Subversion of Identity’, supports this impression, as do her criticisms of the ‘identitarian logical systems’ of the ‘heterosexual matrix’.24 What we find, however, is a somewhat gentler subversion of ‘foundationalist’ identity – identity grounded in some absolute referent, such as genital or chromosomal binaries – in favour of an ‘anti-foundationalist’ approach of gender fluidity and creativity that nonetheless remains rooted in an appeal to identity as such.25 The basis for this is the Foucauldian claim that ‘there is no outside of power’: as Butler puts it, it is impossible to ‘refuse representational politics’ because ‘the juridical structures of language and politics constitute the contemporary field of power; hence, there is no position outside this field’.26 Criticism of identity as such would, for Butler, amount to a ‘liberation of the subject’ that is philosophically untenable, since this ‘contemporary field of power’ is the ground for subjective existence in itself.27 This is why Butler criticizes Foucault’s account of the life (and death) of Herculine Barbin, the nineteenth-century French hermaphrodite whom Foucault makes exemplary of an ‘ontology of accidental attributes’ that ‘exceeds the categories of sex and of identity’.28 While this pragmatic ontology is similar to the ‘ontology of present participles’ Butler herself adopts, she believes that Foucault here ignores his own precepts regarding the all-encompassing nature of power and falls back into the romanticized ‘liberation’ narrative that he elsewhere warns against. The proof of this, she thinks, is in Herculine’s eventual suicide, which reveals a ‘fatal ambivalence’ in the face of a ‘prohibitive law’ that demands the assumption of one identity or another – in Herculine’s case, male or female – and literally erases those who do not conform.29 But what is this law, and why does a contingent failure to live within it prove the necessary impossibility of escaping it? There is no outside of power, this is true. But if Herculine did manage to live ‘beyond gender’ for even a short while, that would


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suggest not a failure of the model of power but an expansion of its bounds – which, undoubtedly, were snapped back into place with Herculine’s death. The question here is not an empirical one – the goal is not to find a limit case that would prove or disprove some working or other of ‘power’ – but a theoretical one concerning the scope and efficacy of power’s ‘laws’. For if Herculine’s death is absolutely necessary, according to the universal prohibition of representation and identity, then this prohibition must stand outside the social sphere Herculine inhabits, beyond any challenge to it that h/er existence may raise. As a gender non-conforming individual, Herculine’s life is not ‘recognized’. Therefore, for Butler, s/he is beneath and subordinate to the representative demands of power and hence unable to challenge it on its own terms. But if Herculine is unable to participate positively in these power relations, then, is s/he somehow half outside of power, stuck to its underside unable to look up? In this case Butler would be wrong, and there would be an outside of power – it is where those who are entirely, not just practically, powerless are stuck. If s/he has subjectivity in this case, it is (only) imperceptible, composed of impersonal relations of forces unable to stake their claims in power’s representational field. Seen this way, Butler’s conception of power differs from Foucault’s in a quite particular way. For Foucault, while power is primarily expressed in linguistic determinations of ‘truth’, this is not its ground. Rather, ‘one’s point of reference should not be to the great mode of language (langue) and signs, but to that of war and battle’.30 Where there is power, Foucault famously says, there is resistance, so power is never entirely repressive.31 Power (mostly) manifests itself in linguistic – that is, representational – forms, but representation is not a precondition; it is at base a matter of the imperceptible relations of forces. This is why Foucault allows for Herculine’s existence beyond representation but still inside power – because, although h/er gender was not representable within h/er historical context, s/he nonetheless lived alongside but not necessarily within the representational field of nineteenth-century France. Butler, on the other hand, comes at the issue with an idiosyncratically Lacanian bent, which shapes her ideas of power into something very different. For her, power is fundamentally tied to language, as the vehicle of the ‘symbolic order’. Subjectivity without representation does not make sense for Butler, because participation in the symbolic is a condition for subjectivity, and the symbolic is what grounds representation as a fundamental psychic principle. The ‘prohibitive law’ of representation is then precisely this – a universal bound on subjective existence and relations of forces.32 An extended conversation with Braidotti makes Butler’s position in this regard clear: for Butler, the symbolic

‘How Do You Make Yourself a Trans-Body?’


is ‘a set of structures and dynamics which set the limit to what can and cannot be elected’.33 In Butler’s psychoanalytic terms, it is that which gives expression to the imaginary – that which conditions subjective thought, in relation to the structures of recognition and identification described above. Against this, Braidotti notes the problem of talking of the symbolic as something singular and essential, rather than as a contingent ‘term in a relation’ that is always only partially determinant and that therefore does not have the universalizing power over thought that Butler ascribes to it.34 As Braidotti puts it, Butler ‘claim[s]‌a “queer” identity as a practice of resignification and resistance’, as an appropriation of the power of the symbolic, whereas Braidotti seeks ‘a sort of epistemological anarchy, a psychic and social guerrilla warfare against the kingdom of identity per se’, as a denial of its power altogether.35 For Butler, then, being ‘inside’ power is also being ‘under’ power, insofar as it conditions subjectivity and subjectivity is a condition for any existence at all. Braidotti and Foucault seek a way up from this conditioning, which would remain ‘inside’ power but interact with it on a level, actively partaking in its workings. And what are the consequences of Butler’s Foucauldian-Lacanian synthesis for this current project? If power is conditioned by the symbolic, then transsubjects must be nameable, according to whatever determines the bounds of this symbolic order. For Lacan, according to Butler, this is the ‘Phallus’: as she describes, he divorces the Phallus from the penis and makes it an immaterial and foundational ‘privileged signifier’, ‘the delimiting and ordering principle of what can be signified’.36 This divorce strips the Phallus of its material, imaginary aspect, which attaches it to particular subjects, and allows it to become a universal figure of subjectivity itself, which determines subjects according to the Oedipal triangle of father, mother and child. Through the figure of the ‘lesbian Phallus’, Butler criticizes and uncovers the constructedness of this, which appropriates the symbolic in the name of masculinist and heterosexist ideology.37 Thus, in a Foucauldian move, Butler is able to expose the power dynamics at work in the Oedipus Complex, which imbue patriarchal signification with a particular transcendent force. However, as Braidotti notes, Butler leaves intact the power of the symbolic as a universal determinant of thought, ignoring the power dynamics still at work in this universalization, which make representation coextensive with power. Butler therefore makes implicit use of the very imposition of power she criticizes and so ignores the presuppositions on which it is based: these are the psychic structures of identification with which any viable subject must conform. For Butler, any possible trans-subject must be understandable in these psychoanalytic


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

terms, and any attempt at a radically new form of subjectivity is – as in the case of Herculine Barbin – doomed to fail. As Deleuze and Guattari show, however, ‘the psyche’ can never be understand as an a priori ground: ‘There is no unconscious that is already there; the unconscious must be produced politically, socially, and historically.’38 Just like everything else, the psyche is a product of power too. Against Butler’s psychoanalytic paradigm, I therefore adopt Deleuze and Guattari’s method of ‘schizoanalysis’, which deals not with structures but with the intrinsic relations of forces that produce them.

Post-humanism and posthuman-ism It is not enough to say that Butler essentializes the symbolic and so makes power coextensive with representation; this is true, but there is more. By taking a certain psychic structure as a ground – the triangle of the symbolic, the imaginary and the real – she privileges a certain configuration of forces, uniting them under an extrinsic form of individuation that is exclusionary of other configurations. This structure therefore applies only to certain entities – those deemed to have personal psychic existences – and denies others any psychic status at all. Here we see the humanism implicit in Butler’s approach: psychic existence is always human psychic existence, which is a particular, transcendent form of being without relation to any other. Deleuze and Guattari also criticize this in Freud’s treatment of animals: the wolf (or wolves) of the Wolf-Man does or do not actually exist but can only represent intercourse between the patient’s parents, in line with the Oedipal, human family structure Freud demands.39 In this essentialization of a human psychic structure, there is no room for the non-human to have a meaningful subjective existence. This then explains, but does not resolve, another curiosity of Butler’s work – that despite being avowedly opposed to humanism, she consistently and frequently returns to the idea of ‘recognition as human’ as a political end. Humanism, Butler says, implies some emancipatory theoretical goal and instates a subject who is always implicitly gendered along the male-female line.40 At the same time, the symbolic ‘determine[s]‌in advance what will qualify as the “human” and the “livable” ’.41 The symbolic should therefore seem to instate such an implicitly gendered subject at the base of political thought and so reinforce the humanism Butler criticizes; holding both positions, however, Butler still aims at the expansion of this symbolic in deference to the univocity of its power. This expansion would encompass a broader and more fluid range of subjects,

‘How Do You Make Yourself a Trans-Body?’


who could thus be ‘humanized’ as they deserve to be, but animals, cyborgs and those who simply reject humanity are politically excluded on the basis of their ontological status.42 The trans-subject for Butler is therefore always already gendered, even as Butler rejects the essentialized male-female binary, and they are forced into the field of identity as such, whose limits are set by this humanist and representational symbolic power. One can therefore say that Butler instates a sort of ‘neo-humanism’ that, even when it escapes the rationality of Enlightenment humanism, retains the baggage that differentiation by species brings. This neo-humanism is not, however, limited to psychoanalytical theorists. Braidotti, perhaps the arch-theorist of so-called feminist posthumanism, mixes concerns for the ontological status of humanity with its historical and political figurations. At times, Braidotti talks of the posthuman as an ontological matter: the ‘environmentally bound subject’ is not simply an individual within an environment but part of that environment, in a way that breaks down the individuality of the individual into its constituent forces.43 This correction of past ontologies, which uncovers the processes that have always constituted what we call ‘human’, is what I call ‘posthuman-ism’ – an ‘ism’ of the ‘posthuman’, which rejects the category ‘human’ as inherently limited.44 At other times, however, Braidotti subordinates this ontological understanding to criticism of ‘Man’ as a historical and political figure, which does not correct past conceptions but describes new conceptions emerging. Posthumanism, in this sense, is the ‘historical moment’ that breaks with the Enlightenment idea of Man as rational, white, male and every other hegemonic label.45 It is the opening up of subjectivity to Man’s ‘others’ in ways that challenge modern manifestations of humanity but still retain the category of ‘human’ itself. This form of posthumanism, which does not challenge the category of ‘human’ so much as its hegemonic forms, is then what I call ‘post-humanism’ as a historical comment on our relation to Enlightenment ideals. This is no contradiction, as Braidotti clearly describes this distinction: ‘posthumanism’, she says, has two separate aspects: ‘post-humanism’, the criticism of traditional ideas of Man, and ‘post-anthropocentrism’, the criticism of the concept of ‘Man’ as such.46 The two work together to form a ‘political ontology’ that allows for a posthuman subjectivity beyond identity.47 There is, however, a risk of overlap, as posthumanist normative goals impinge on a posthuman-ist ontological ground – and this is what happens, I argue, when Braidotti leads with a call for a ‘posthuman humanity’48 or says that the task for feminist theory is to consider ‘what counts as human in a posthumanist world’.49 Insofar as ‘humanity’ denotes simply a set of laudable normative goals, such as respect, equality, self-determination and so


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on, there is no problem here. When this normative element of posthumanism is emphasized, however, as happens in Butler’s work, its ontological side risks becoming figurative. In this case, ‘posthumanism’ becomes only a way of thinking, a means to a political end, which by ignoring the ontological denial of the category of ‘human’ inadvertently returns to the neo-humanist assumptions it is meant to remove. Any effective trans-politics of imperceptibility must therefore be overtly and emphatically posthuman-ist in a way that deconstructs the implicitly gendered idea of species identity and does not raise any new identity in its place. This is what Jeffrey Cohen and Todd Ramlow aim at with their ‘Deleuzian inhumanism’ – a way of doing queer theory that challenges the idea of ‘humanity’ as ‘a category built upon normalizing and exclusion’, in favour of a ‘becoming-queer, becoming-world’ that ‘precisely depends on our becoming-inhuman’.50 For Cohen and Ramlow, this becoming-inhuman is exemplified in the suicide of Deleuze, which as the ultimate loss of identity marks entrance into a ‘ “Great Alive”, a great but affirmative unknown’.51 If all existence is simply a matter of forces – or of ‘desire’, in Deleuze and Guattari’s terms – then death is just another reformulation of their relations, which creates a new mode of existence; and as Cohen and Ramlow say, ‘in such a realm, where the human is simply beside the point, death barely seems possible’.52 This discussion of death then opens queer and trans-theory up to an important aspect of Deleuzian posthuman-ism – that it is not just opposed to ‘the human’, as though this figure encompassed all political limitations, or just to ‘identity’ in a superficial, personal sense, but to being itself, insofar as it implies the coming-into-being or coming-out-of-being of particular entities in the world. If death is an end, then it implies the being of an entity which, at a certain point, stops being. But if, on the other hand, there is no entity in the first place, then there is nothing to end and no being to stop being – ‘I’ cannot die if there is no ‘me’ in the first place. Rather, death represents only a continuation of the forces that constituted this entity, which are now free to take on other forms. This is the posthuman-ist death Braidotti describes, which ‘marks the becoming-imperceptible of the subject as the furthest frontier of the processes of intensive transformation or becoming’.53 Death, in this sense, is not an ending of life but an ‘overflowing’ of it that frees the subject from the bounds of representation.54 What is freed, however, is not a predetermined subject that will achieve self-fulfilment, as in the humanist tradition that both Butler and Braidotti criticize. Rather, what is liberated is force itself, the singular subject that can only be understood as ‘that which it is’.

‘How Do You Make Yourself a Trans-Body?’


This posthuman-ist death is then, Deleuze says, a ‘moment of individuation’ but where this individuation is the ability of force to exist as it is, without extrinsic determination as an individual.55 But this must not be taken as a valorization of suicide as some radical political act. As Deleuze says, death is always ‘doubled’.56 In one sense, it is a negation, in its ‘extrinsic’ relation to representation; death marks a change in the identity of the subject, as they are determined through external structures of recognition. This is the sense Butler talks of in regard to Herculine, which Deleuze calls ‘personal’ death. But in another, ‘hidden’ sense, it is an affirmation, as the very liberation of forces described above, and this is the death we should normatively work for in Cohen and Ramlow and Braidotti’s formulations.57 In this sense, death frees the forces underlying the individual from their structures of recognition, allowing them to exist solely according to their singular, ‘intrinsic’ existence. As a unification of extrinsic and intrinsic deaths, however, suicide necessarily fails, as it annihilates any radical potential these forces may have in the very moment of releasing them.58 When we advocate for some form of death, then, it is vitally important – on a political and moral level – to clarify that this is only an intrinsic death, and that extrinsic death remains a negation of political subjectivity in any form. Instead, these discussions of death must be understood as a provocation – a challenge to enable intrinsic death without doubling it with extrinsic. This is precisely what the posthuman-ist rejection of being entails: not a nihilistic rejection of existence as such, which would simply repeat the doubling of death Deleuze describes, but a rejection of extrinsic determinations of being, which always carry this negative possibility of non-being with them. This is the base of the politics of imperceptibility Grosz describes, which lacking any other ground is always a pragmatic negotiation of the constraints being attempts to impose. This non-negative intrinsic form of existence is then what Deleuze calls ‘(non)-being’, or ‘?-being’, in an attempt to overcome the representational being/non-being binary; it is a form of existence that ‘denounces simultaneously both being and non-being’ in the name of a paradigm of pure difference, or of becoming.59 ‘Being’ is understood as an extrinsic determination, which subordinates dynamic relations of forces to a single static position. The fundamental nature of these forces, however, is to be changing but with no prior determination of what they are changing into. ‘Becoming’, or ‘difference’, therefore refers to the open-ended reconfiguration of forces into newer and newer forms, which never stops and allows these forms to ‘be’ in any determinable sense.


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

Embodiment and (the) body This is the schizoanalytic paradigm. As s/he appears in Anti-Oedipus, the schizophrenic does not resolve contradictions as though these negative and positive deaths simply cancelled out but rather lives and affirms the contradiction as an internally disjunctive state of ?-being. This is to say, then, that the schizophrenic is trans- in the strongest sense: ‘He [sic] is not simply bisexual, or between the two, or intersexual. He is transsexual, he is transalivedead, trans-parentchild. He does not reduce two contraries to an identity of the same; he affirms their distance as that which relates to two as different.’60 It is fear of extrinsic death that leads Butler to make the symbolic the guarantee of coherent subjectivity, with all the problems this causes, lest the subject fall into the nothingness Cohen and Ramlow’s theory implies. As I have shown, however, this dependence on the symbolic prevents her from conceiving of the?-being in between, which is why all trans-subjectivity is either successful and ‘human’ or unsuccessful and ‘inhuman’ under the symbolic law. A schizoanalytic approach reveals the concrete possibilities beyond the symbolic law. What remains now is to understand the specific materiality and lived experience of such subjectivity. The concern about intrinsic death is that through ‘dying’ in this way a subject would risk dissipation into etherous mist and thus the loss of any practical existence at all. As Butler fairly notes, even from a social constructivist perspective we must allow an ‘arrow of “materialities” that pertain to the body’, such as anatomy, illness and aging, which are already established and inescapable by the time we come to be an embodied subject of any sort.61 Subjects do not exist outside of their embodiment – that Cartesian battle has long been won. On this basis, Butler argues the normative goal must be the achievement of a ‘valued and valuable body in the world’ whose materiality is objectively recognized as the subject’s ‘own’.62 The differential forces of becoming seem to threaten the materiality of such a subject: this is why Patricia Elliot, writing from a psychoanalytic perspective, argues that the unintelligibility – that is, imperceptibility – of trans-bodies is a form of ‘abjection’, which is solely negative and so impossible to ground a positive political theory on.63 And this fear is not limited to psychoanalytic thinkers, and even Grosz believes that Deleuze never developed a ‘theory of the body’ – for Grosz, in fact, Deleuze for the most part ignored it as a question altogether, leading to practical gaps in his work.64 In a similar way to Butler, Grosz argues that the nature of the

‘How Do You Make Yourself a Trans-Body?’


body is shifting and always contested – ‘volatile’, in the title of one book – but nonetheless must remain a material ground for any new politics. It should go without saying that trans-imperceptible subjectivity cannot be a rejection of bodily existence tout court. But the problem lies in thinking of ?-being as absolutely distinct from any other form of being – as though imperceptibility were a transcendent state that freed one from the burden of the world. In fact, the state of ?-being is never achieved: it is always a relation with the world, a pragmatic and material negotiation of real political and ontological demands, and it is precisely this negotiation that constitutes the?-being of the trans-subject. So, replying to Grosz, Claire Colebrook argues that we should not simply reprise body boundaries in a ‘volatile’ form – as Grosz does – but instead ask ‘is it possible to think beyond that image of the bounded body’ in the first place?65 As Colebrook puts it, the experience of intrinsic death ‘would shatter the bounded body, and occur not as the body’s other or limit but as a pure predicate, potentiality or intensity taken away from the coordinates of the organism’.66 In other words, rather than inserting the body into Deleuzian theory – which would reinstate a ground of sorts, even if it is a ‘volatile’ one – we stop thinking of ‘the’ body in any sense and instead focus on the imperceptible forces that constitute the trans-subject’s materiality, not necessarily in an organic way. This would be the shift from ‘the body’ as an object to ‘embodiment’ as a state of being – as the process of constructing material (which is to say, ‘embodied’) subjective existence, without reference to any objective body on which this existence rests. Thought this way, Grosz’s criticism is misplaced: while Deleuze never theorized the body, his writings on bodies in a non-organic, non-objective sense are voluminous and, in many senses, central to his thought. In work on Nietzsche and Spinoza especially, bodies are clearly defined: they are points of relations between forces, or rather the relations themselves, which are defined solely by these forces and the new relations with new forces they form. So for Nietzsche, Deleuze thinks, ‘every relationship of forces constitutes a body – whether it is chemical, biological, social or political’.67 Force, which Nietzsche calls the Will to Power, is the basic ‘matter’ of the world, and ‘bodies’ simply describe the various forms and relations force takes. Similarly, according to Deleuze, Spinoza defines ‘a body’ in two ways: it is ‘the relations of motion and rest, of speeds and slownesses between particles’, and it is a ‘capacity for affecting and being affected’.68 Although couched in different philosophical lexicons, these understandings together form a unified ‘Spinozo-Nietzschean’ conception of bodies that runs through Deleuze’s work. The mistake Grosz and others make therefore is treating bodies as pertaining to subjects, rather than


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constituting the subject itself as a mode of existence in the world. A body ‘is’ what it ‘does’ – forming affective relations – and as I have shown, this ‘doing’ is subjectivity itself minimally defined. Where the imperceptible subject is defined solely by such multiplicitous relations of forces, then, the idea that they can ‘have a body’ is clearly mistaken; they rather are this constantly shifting?-being that is never objectified or objectifiable. They do have a material existence in the world, however, and this is my central claim: that, even without ‘a body’, they are nevertheless ‘embodied’ as long as this?-body is nothing more than the materiality of the forces as the subject lives them. This is why Nikki Sullivan does not go far enough in observing that, since the perspective of becoming shows us that ‘all bodies mark and are marked’, the trans-body is no more constructed or artificial than the cis.69 More than this, it implies that what it means to ‘have’ a body is not fixed either but similarly an effect of power: not only are trans-bodies, as objects, constructed, but so too is trans-embodiment itself, as a facet of subjectivity. There is no preset way of materially existing in the world, but rather, as Deleuze says, ‘the body’ is an effect of the ‘affective constellations that determine it’.70 This is T. Garner’s point, as ze describes how becoming ‘makes visible the technologies … through which bodies and borders become possible and suggests that by deconstructing the idea of ‘individual bodies’ as such and showing that ‘things do not precede their interactions but emerge through them’, becoming ‘opens up the possibility of a posthumanist ontology’.71 In this posthuman-ist ontology it is not just a matter of how pre-existing bodies are coded – or ‘marked’ – but how the very idea of the lived body is constructed, solely in terms of affective relations. So, for example, Lucas Cassidy Crawford finds trans-embodiment in a transitional spatiality, which deconstructs the rural/urban distinction in search of the liminal?-territory in between. Highlighting the role of ‘place’ in forming subjectivity, Crawford notes that trans-subjectivity is often tied to strictly urban settings: in film and literature, queerness is often expressed through a migration from the countryside to the city, where the queer subject is finally able to express themselves free of the shackles of traditional rural life.72 Such a move to the city may, as Butler might say, enable ‘recognition’ of the trans-subject; however, for Crawford this condition is arbitrarily limiting, as it makes trans-subjectivity essentially urban and so denies trans-rural subjectivity any existence.73 Against this, as a negotiation of the pragmatic issues rural life can undoubtedly pose for trans-subjects, Crawford considers how to form relations with a territory that does not fit the rural-urban divide – not simply by locating himself in a peri-urban setting halfway between city and country but by ‘deterritorializing’

‘How Do You Make Yourself a Trans-Body?’


significations of space such that the rural/urban divide no longer holds.74 This is not about situating himself in this liminal space, which would have only superficial power, but about cultivating a ‘style of relationality that threatens the borders of bodies and identities’.75 The point is that it does not matter whether Crawford is ‘actually’ in an urban or rural setting, since he rejects the distinction insofar as it determines the ‘form’ of his trans-subjectivity; instead, through forming affective relations with the space ‘in the middle’ he deconstructs the boundary between himself and that space on an ontological level.76 In this way, Crawford serves as a radical example of the ethics of imperceptibility, as a practical way of existing that ‘revels in the deterritorializing potential of not being recognized, not being counted’.77 Such an ethics is of course particular and situational, but that is just the point: embodiment is never determined a priori but always experienced in its specific material relations as a unique ‘way of being’. If embodiment is always ethical, then the foregoing ontological discussions only go halfway. The trans-imperceptible subject is a singularity, or a haecceity, but this says nothing about their bodily existence in such a state. How do you live as a purely constructed body, undetermined except for the relations of forces that constitute who you are? Deleuze and Guattari attempt to show us: you must ‘make yourself a Body without Organs (BwO)’, as a pure expression of forces, through pragmatic ‘experimentation’ with ways of existence that escape ‘being’ but are not simply ‘non-being’.78 Against the humanist essentialization of ‘the body’, which has a fundamental symbolic structure that must be uncovered, ‘the BwO is what remains when you take everything away. What you take away is precisely the phantasy, and significances and subjectifications as a whole.’79 Becoming a BwO – and it is always a ‘becoming’ – is a rejection of what a body is in favour of discovering what it can do: an uncovering of the processes of embodiment that takes these processes as primary. Embodiment is always dynamic, always reconfiguring the relations of forces that constitute ‘a body’, and therefore entails a certain self-destruction – or ‘death’ – but this self-destruction is always also creative and so never falls into the complete negativity of suicide. This is how intrinsic death is separated from extrinsic: in the self-destructive creative expression of ?-being as differential becoming. The body is destroyed, but in this destruction a new body emerges, formed of new relations of forces – and this process is constant and ubiquitous, occurring in every moment of change such that ‘the body’ never actually comes to be. ‘Death’ thus takes on a positive sense, as the deconstruction of those forms of representation and identity that stifle and divide up imperceptible forces. It is


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

not a loss, as in the extrinsic negation of ‘my’ self, but a hopeful emergence of a new existence as a ‘unity … of a multiple phenomenon’.80 This existence is not determined by identity, as a representational imposition, but is the haecceitic expression of forces as ‘that which they are’, which are paradoxically ‘united’ in their self-identity as difference. Becoming a BwO involves self-death, then, but only in the birth of another, truer self, whose existence is fulfilled in a way that representational notions of self can only hinder. As Deleuze and Guattari say, ‘dismantling the organism has never meant killing yourself, but rather opening the body to connections that presuppose an entire assemblage’, in which the movements and relations of forces can freely express their?-being.81 Embodiment as a BwO therefore deconstructs the humanist idea of the body while preserving the?-existence of bodies as such, as being constantly formed and reformed in the relation of forces. The trans-imperceptible subject never exists outside of their trans-manner of embodiment, which unbound from hegemonic ideas of ‘the body’ can express their trans-existence in itself. It is therefore necessary to seek a posthuman-ist trans-theory because, as Colebrook says, it is only by doing away with the idea of ‘the human’ that we see how transitivity in itself comes ‘first’. As Colebrook says, pure lived experience has ‘always been “trans” ’ – that ‘what is original or primary is a not-yet differentiated singularity from which distinct genders, race, species, sexes, and sexualities are generated in a form of relative stability’.82 When transitivity is primary it is borders and boundaries that must be accounted for, not the points where they break down. Just as Crawford describes this transitivity in terms of space, for Colebrook this posthuman-ist embodiment is best thought through humananimal interactions, which are always ‘preceded, conditioned, and haunted by a condition of transitivity’83 and which reveal in this transitivity the potential for ‘thresholds of indifference, where the style of being human emerges from a perception of the nonhuman’.84 As Deleuze and Guattari show, the becomingwolf of the Wolf-Man or the becoming-horse of Little Hans in Freud’s work is not a surface interaction between animal and human, where ‘animal’ and ‘human’ remain distinct in ‘essence’, but an opening up of the transitivity inherent in any interaction at all. There is a real, non-symbolic connection between the two singularities – one animal, one human, although these labels are only secondary – which forms a new animal-human singularity, rendering the words ‘animal’ and ‘human’ meaningless. It is important to emphasize here that there is no metaphor: Hans does not become ‘like’ a horse and the horse ‘like’ Hans such that they are figuratively inseparable. Deleuze and Guattari aim at precisely ‘the abolition of all metaphor’.85 Beyond representation, Little Hans

‘How Do You Make Yourself a Trans-Body?’


and the horse have an ‘affective’ relation that unites them such that Hans does not exist independently of the horse but only in a new, hitherto unseen embodied subjectivity of the ‘becoming-horse of Hans’.86 This is a purely ontological matter, which must be taken seriously as such, rather than being reduced – as in post-humanist thought – to a useful theoretical tool. What ‘becomes’ in transsubjectivity need not, therefore, refer to what it was ‘before’. Becoming is in no sense derivative but rather creative of its own mode of existence – whether this mode is truly ‘experimental’, as in the case of Crawford, or experienced more as an affirmation of what was always already there. Deleuze and Guattari’s reading of Little Hans therefore shows how becominganimal can create new forms of trans-embodiment – as with the ‘tranimals’ Lindsay Kelley describes87 – but one must not stop here. As Deleuze and Guattari define it, the BwO is ‘not space, nor is it in space, it is matter that occupies space to a given degree – to the degree corresponding to the intensities produced’.88 These ‘intensities’ are the affective relations of Crawford with his liminal situation such that he – the BwO he becomes – ‘occupies space’ to the extent that he partakes of this liminality and is embodied as that scholar-liminality relation. Similarly, Jasbir Puar discusses the interrelation of trans- and disabled bodies as subjects of neoliberal partition and medicalization and suggests an alternative, experimental, ‘deeply pragmatic manipulation of the partitioning capacities of bodies’, which would embrace ‘piecing’ as a non-teleological, un-economized form of transembodiment.89 In this context, the imperceptibility of trans-embodiment is actively utilized against medicalization of ‘the body’ such that trans-subjectivity is defined precisely by its non-bodily position. And as multiple keyword entries in the “PostPostTransexual” edition of Transgender Studies Quarterly – in which Garner and Kelley also write – show, trans-existence is never separate from race, either in its (relatively) normative white form or in the anormative existence of trans people of colour.90 The skin is never the simple surface of a trans-body but is constitutive of the materiality through which trans-subjectivity necessarily exists in the world. The point is that it is not possible to determine or foreclose manners of transembodiment in advance but only to experience them in movements of forces or desire. Gender (or sex) is, as Braidotti describes, simply a ‘historically contingent mechanism of capture of the multiple potentialities of the body, including their generative or reproductive capacities’, which is channelled into certain forms of embodiment by masculinist and heterosexist powers of representation.91 Thought differently, however, embodiment becomes solely a term for the necessary situatedness of trans-expression such that in this ontology of becoming


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

one can determine and represent nothing at all. The epigraph of this chapter therefore serves two purposes. On one level, it shows the ignorance and cynical appropriation of trans-issues by the hegemonic political class, which – even if it is sometimes well meaning – makes those issues ridiculous to conservative pundits and voters.92 And on another, more fundamental level, it demonstrates the inadequacy of much civil-rights discourse in accounting for the complexity of trans-theory. The correct response to ‘there are not two genders’ is not ‘well how many are there?’, since numerical concerns simply do not apply. The only valid response to the question the Iowa college student asked would be to reject its premise. Rather, there are as many trans-genders as there are ways of not being cis, which is to say, an unlimited and indefinable number, which increases with every experiment made. Sexuality cannot be a system of identification but is rather a field of infinitely interlocking relations and becomings of desire, in which as soon as one identifies ‘a single sex’ it is already gone. As Deleuze and Guattari say, this field is nothing other than the production of ‘a thousand tiny sexes’, so tiny as to be imperceptible, and each embodied as absolutely, definitionally unique.93

Conclusion The materiality of the trans-imperceptible subject is therefore abstract – it cannot be represented in terms of being and non-being – but still entirely real. Through an exposition of the ‘politics of imperceptibility’ described by Grosz, opposed to the ‘politics of recognition’ on which Butler’s theory is based, I have shown that power is not coextensive with representation but rather that viable existence is possible outside of the symbolic law. This symbolic law, reified in Butler as an implicit model of the psyche, carries with it a certain humanism (or ‘neo-humanism’), which a turn towards imperceptibility aims to do away with in favour of a properly posthuman-ist ontology. As a means of achieving this politics of imperceptibility, I have argued for the liberatory potential of ‘intrinsic death’ as the release of forces from structures of recognition, emphasizing that for this potential to be realized such death must not be doubled with ‘extrinsic’ death, which would imply the annihilation of any subjectivity at all. This ‘doubling’ is what any essentialization of ‘the human’ demands, since ‘the human’ is definitionally alive, meaning intrinsic death is equated with extrinsic in the idea of ‘death of the human’. A turn towards intrinsic death is therefore a turn towards posthuman-ism, as a way of accounting for the reconstruction

‘How Do You Make Yourself a Trans-Body?’


of existence that every moment of intrinsic death implies, which is the driving force of imperceptible subjectivity. And this threat of extrinsic death is why it is necessary to not lose track of the materiality of the trans-subject even when they are becoming imperceptible and why such subjectivity must be conditioned by embodiment in some form – even when this is not grounded in any single, recognizable body. There must always remain a modicum of subjectivity for one’s existence to mean anything. But as the case of Crawford, among others, shows, the demand to hold any identity at all – as a politics of recognition requires – can be oppressive and amount to a denial of ‘true’ subjective existence that exceeds these bounds. Unlike the Laboria Cuboniks collective, I am not sure that such an approach requires being ‘gender-abolitionist’ – as least not insofar as gender is a historical subjective condition, regardless of how this condition may change.94 Nonetheless, any assumption of gender must be made to work for the subject of such gender and never – as it often does – against them. The ‘truth’ of subjectivity is therefore not a return to any prior, pre-social existence – which can only obscure the constraints it attempts to remove. Rather, it is the truth of a singularity (or a haecceity), whose embodiment is that of a BwO, which exists solely in the dynamic relations of forces that constitute its materiality. It is a form of self-identity but only in the absolute lack of identity that such a subject has. Paradoxically, then, it is only by rejecting the unity of ‘a subject’ – by achieving intrinsic death – that such a non-conforming life can escape the fracturing and commodifying effect of representation. By taking control of the categories of gender, identity and humanity, the trans-imperceptible subject finds embodiment in their affective relations which correspond to no prior determinant, as an infinitely divisible individual who is nothing more or less than the?-being that is itself.

Notes 1 This exchange occurred on the campaign trail during the 2020 US election campaign and was widely reported. See, for example, https://www.pinkn​ joe-biden-three-gend​ers-turn​ing-point-usa/ (accessed 29 September 2021). 2 Butler (1990/2007: xxvii). 3 Butler (2001). 4 Butler (1990/2007: xxvii). 5 Butler (1988: 521).


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6 Butler (1988: 522). 7 Butler (1990/2007: 7). 8 Butler (1990/2007: 188). 9 Butler (1990/2007: 40). 10 Laboria Cuboniks (2018: 15). 11 Laboria Cuboniks (2018: 45). 12 In this paper I follow Stryker, Currah and Moore (2008: 11) in using the term ‘trans-’, with a hyphen, to indicate an ‘explicit relationality … which remains openended and resists premature foreclosure by attachment to any single suffix’. 13 Grosz (2002). 14 Haraway (1985/2016); Braidotti (2013: 49). 15 Haraway (1985/2016: 15). 16 Grosz (2002: 465). 17 Butler (1988: 522). 18 Grosz (2002: 470). 19 Deleuze (1969/1990: 99). 20 Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987: 262). 21 Deleuze (1969/1990: 103). 22 Deleuze and Guattari (1972/2013: xiv). 23 Butler (1988: 521–2). 24 Butler (1990/2007: 53). 25 Butler (1990/2007: 21). 26 Butler (1990/2007: 7). 27 Butler (1990/2007: 126). 28 Butler (1990/2007: 33, 128). 29 Butler (1990/2007: 135). 30 Foucault (1977/1980: 114) 31 Foucault (1976/1978: 95). 32 Butler (1990/2007: 77). 33 Butler and Braidotti (1994: 57). 34 Butler and Braidotti (1994: 57). 35 Butler and Braidotti (1994: 50). 36 Butler (1993/2011: 47). 37 Butler (1993/2011: 97). 38 Deleuze (1973/2004: 274). 39 Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987: 28). 40 On Butler’s criticisms of humanism, see Butler (1988: 530; 1990/2007: 130; 1993/2011: xvi). 41 Butler (1990/2007: xxiii). 42 Butler (1990/2007: 178).

‘How Do You Make Yourself a Trans-Body?’

43 Braidotti (2013: 139). 44 This is elsewhere also called ‘inhumanism’ (Cohen and Ramlow 2006; Grosz 2002: 467) or ‘nonhumanism’ (Puar 2015: 60). I prefer posthuman-ism for two reasons: first, that it is easily understandable according to academic conventions, being analogous (for example) with the relationship between structuralism and post-structuralism, and second, that (as in the case of Braidotti here) it highlights the ambiguity of the term ‘posthumanism’, showing that we are not in fact talking about one consistent strand of thought. 45 Braidotti (2013: 37). 46 Braidotti (2013: 60). 47 Braidotti (2013: 115). 48 Braidotti (2013: 11). 49 Braidotti (1994: 162). 50 Cohen and Ramlow (2006: 10). 51 Cohen and Ramlow (2006: 27). 52 Cohen and Ramlow (2006: 29). 53 Braidotti (2013: 136). 54 Braidotti (2013: 137). 55 Deleuze (1968/2017: 338). 56 Deleuze (1968/2017: 337). 57 Deleuze (1968/2017: 337). 58 Deleuze (1968/2017: 338). 59 Deleuze (1968/2017: 265). 60 Deleuze and Guattari (1972/2013: 95). 61 Butler (1993/2011: 67). 62 Butler (1993/2011: 22). 63 Elliot (2010: 70). 64 Grosz (1994: ix). 65 Colebrook (2011: 15). 66 Colebrook (2011: 18). 67 Deleuze (1962/1986: 40). 68 Deleuze (1970/1988: 123). 69 Sullivan (2006: 561). 70 Deleuze (1993/1998: 64). 71 Garner (2014: 31). 72 Crawford (2008: 129). 73 Crawford (2008: 130). 74 Crawford (2008: 135). 75 Crawford (2008: 133). 76 Crawford (2008: 140).



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77 Crawford (2008: 129); emphasis original. 78 Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987: 150). 79 Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987: 151). 80 Deleuze (1962/1986: 40). 81 Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987: 160) 82 Colebrook (2015: 228). 83 Colebrook (2015: 228). 84 Colebrook (2015: 241). 85 Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987: 69). 86 Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987: 258). 87 Kelley (2014: 226). 88 Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987: 153). 89 Puar (2015: 66 and throughout). 90 For example: Green and Ellison, ‘Tranifest’; La Fountain-Stokes, ‘Translatinas/os’; and Vidal-Ortiz, ‘Whiteness’ (all 2014). 91 Braidotti (2013: 99). 92 The interaction was publicized via Twitter by the right-wing pundit Charlie Kirk and picked up by numerous news outlets, such as The Federalist, which claimed that ‘contradicting the facts of human biology is not at all a moderate position, but an extreme one’: https://thefed​eral​​ate-joe-biden-tells-repor​ ter-least-three-gend​ers/ (accessed 18 February 2020). 93 Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987: 213). 94 Laboria Cuboniks (2018: 55).

References Braidotti, R. (1994), ‘Toward a New Nomadism: Feminist Deleuzian Tracks; or, Metaphysics and Metabolism’, in Constantin Boundas and Dorothea Olkowski (eds), Gilles Deleuze and the Theater of Philosophy, 159–86, New York: Routledge. Braidotti, R. (2013), The Posthuman, Cambridge: Polity Press. Butler, J. (1988), ‘Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory’, Theatre Journal, 40 (4): 519–31. Butler, J. (1990/2007), Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, London: Routledge. Butler, J. (1993/2011), Bodies That Matter: On The Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’, New York: Routledge. Butler, J. (2001), ‘Doing Justice to Someone: Sex Reassignment and Allegories of Transsexuality’, GLQ, 7 (4): 621–36. Butler, J., and R. Braidotti (1994), ‘Feminism by Any Other Name’, differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 6 (2): 27–62.

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Cohen, J., and T. Ramlow (2005/2006), ‘Pink Vectors of Deleuze: Queer Theory and Inhumanism”, Rhizomes, 11/12, http://www.rhizo​​e11/cohe​nram​low. html (retrieved 3 January 2020). Colebrook, C. (2011), ‘Time and Autopoesis: The Organism Has No Future’, in Laura Guillaume and Joe Hughes (eds), Deleuze and the Body, 9–28, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Colebrook, C. (2015), ‘What Is It Like To Be Human?’, Transgender Studies Quarterly, 2 (2): 227–43. Crawford, L. (2008), ‘Transgender without Organs? Mobilizing a Geo-Affective Theory of Gender Modification’, Women’s Studies Quarterly, 36 (3/4): 127–43. Deleuze, G. (1962/1986), Nietzsche and Philosophy (trans. H. Tomlinson), London: Continuum. Deleuze, G. (1966/1991), Bergsonism (trans. H. Tomlinson and B. Habberjam), New York: Zone Books. Deleuze, G. (1968/2017), Difference and Repetition (trans. P. Patton), London: Bloomsbury. Deleuze, G. (1969/1990), Logic of Sense (trans. M. Lester and C. Stivale), London: Athlone Press. Deleuze, G. (1970/1988), Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, San Francisco, CA: City Lights Book. Deleuze, G. (1973/2004), Desert Islands and Other Texts, 1953–1974 (ed. S. Lotringer). Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e). Deleuze, G. (1993/1998), Essays Critical and Clinical (trans. D. W. Smith and M. A. Greco). London: Verso. Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (1972/2013), Anti-Oedipus (trans. R. Hurley, M. Seem and H. Lane), London: Bloomsbury Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (1980/1987), A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (trans. B. Massumi), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Elliot, P. (2010), Debates in Transgender, Queer, and Feminist Theory: Contested Sites, London: Ashgate. Foucault, M. (1976/1978), History of Sexuality Volume 1: Introduction (trans. R. Hurley). New York: Pantheon Books. Foucault, M. (1977/1980), Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972–1977 (ed. C. Gordon, trans. C. Gordon, L. Marshall, J. Mepham, and K. Soper). New York: Pantheon Books. Fournier, M. (2014), ‘Keyword: Lines of Flight’, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1: 121–2. Garner, T. (2014), ‘Keyword: Becoming’, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1: 30–2. Grosz, E. (1994), Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Grosz, E. (2002), ‘A Politics of Imperceptibility: A Response to “Anti-Racism, Multiculturalism and the Ethics of Identification” ’, Philosophy and Social Criticism, 28 (4): 463–72.


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Haraway, D. (1985/2016), A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and SocialistFeminism in the Late Twentieth Century, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Kelley, L. (2014), ‘Keyword: Tranimals’, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1: 226–8. Laboria Cuboniks (2018), The Xenofeminist Manifesto, London: Verso. Malatino, H. (2014), ‘Keyword: Nomad Science’, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1: 138–40. Puar, J. (2015), ‘Bodies with New Organs: Becoming Trans, Becoming Disabled’, Social Text 124, 33 (3): 45–73. Stryker, S., P. Currah, and L. J. Moore (2008), ‘Introduction: Trans-, Trans, or Transgender?’, WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, 36 (3 and 4): 11–22. Sullivan, N. (2006), ‘Transmogrification: (Un)Becoming Other(s)’, in S. Stryker and S. Whittle (eds), The Transgender Studies Reader, 552–64, New York: Routledge.


Gender territory: A response to the charge of conservatism Glen Melville

While a growing number of academic discourses now welcome queer and trans*1 work, resistance to the idea of lived (and not merely hypothetical) queer and trans* identification remains all too common. Leaving aside even old-guard social conservatives and the so-called ‘gender-critical’, many within otherwise progressive and open academic communities often hesitate to take seriously the concrete concerns of queer and trans* people, playing into what Viviane Namaste terms ‘the absolute neglect of everyday life for transgendered people’ (2000: 9). At the same time, however, the relative novelty of queer and trans* studies motivates a great deal of speculation.2 One result of this dissonant orientation towards trans* research is that questions often foreign to real queer and trans* people remain ‘pressing’ to those engaging with queer and trans* issues on a solely theoretical level. One such question is whether or not – given many trans* identifications rely upon reference to the gender binary – trans* identification is to some degree inherently conservative. To level this ‘charge of conservatism’, it is necessary first of all to draw a distinction between intra-binary and non-binary forms of identification. In the first, a person identifies with the gender ‘opposite’ the one they have been assigned at birth, while in the second they no longer identify with this assigned gender but are not drawn to identify exactly with its ‘opposite’. While the first of these forms relates a subject to gender in a manner which is still non-normative, worries about conservatism arise because it nevertheless seems to conserve a structure in which only two positions are possible. In contrast, the second form departs not only from cisnormativity in effacing the gender assigned at birth but also the conceptual division of gender into the two distinct categories of male and female.


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While in practice there are many non-binary trans* people who complicate this distinction,3 those who raise the issue of conservatism are often content to equate trans* identification with the first of these forms and to reserve the second for the non-binary or otherwise-queer. Despite the speculative nature of the charge that trans* identifications are conservative, more is at stake than the clarification of the relation of each kind of identification to the conceptual integrity of the gender binary. Contemporary queer theory has its roots in both the writing of radical queer and trans* authors and the work of those advocating for the recognition and empowerment of those from marginalized communities. This being the case, an orientation towards the liberation of marginalized people from oppression and repression alike is generally taken for granted. With this orientation comes, unsurprisingly, a distaste for conservatism. Rather than their deconstruction or subversion, conservatism is linked historically to the preservation of oppressive or repressive structures. The charge of conservatism is not a simple description, then, but implicitly a critique. The suggestion that trans* identifications are inherently conservative functions as a critique only if one is able to answer each of the following questions in the affirmative: 1. Do all trans* identifications involve the negation of one pole of the gender binary in favour of the other? 2. Is this form of identification conservative? 3. Is the potential conservatism of this identification grounds for preferring the affirmation of a non-binary alternative? I problematized the first of these questions in advance by acknowledging that people may (and frequently do) identify as at once non-binary and trans*. I provided a brief answer to the second with reference to the conservation of the structure of the gender binary. It will become clear below that this brief answer is insufficient. In fact, when the meaning of ‘conservative’ is interrogated, no affirmative answer to the second or third of these questions will satisfy us. In order to provide a clear explanation of the ways in which these terms relate, and the ways in which these relationships morph over time, it will be useful to decide on a consistent vocabulary. I propose making use here of Deleuze and Guattari’s language of territory. From territory as first and foremost limited, inhabited space, Deleuze and Guattari form the concepts of deterritorialization and reterritorialization. Unpacking these concepts will give flesh to the notion of territory and will allow the following analysis to account for the play of forces, movements, and representations in relation to which gender is experienced.

Gender Territory


Territory Even relatively stable identity positions can face disruption, and even the most precarious are able to reaffirm their own legitimacy. Despite the fact that technologically advanced capitalism still takes on a patriarchal form, for example, it undermines conceptions of manhood staked on professional identity. When careerism is undercut by the rise of gig work, the corresponding devaluation of the idea of ‘profession’ throws an entire swathe of relatively stable men into crisis. Meanwhile, though they occupy social positions which are far less stable, technologically savvy members of minority groups, and particularly young trans* people, have found in online crowd-funding platforms a means for the assertion and realization of their gender identity. In both cases the digitalization of economy stimulates change in the situation of people in relation to gender identity and self-expression. Deterritorialization and reterritorialization describe movements such as these, through which the limits of territories are displaced and in turn reconstituted. In A Thousand Plateaus (2013), Deleuze and Guattari develop these terms by describing the way in which certain orchid varieties use wasps as an essential part their pollination process. A section of the flower is made to resemble a female wasp in both appearance and scent so that male wasps of a particular species are drawn to attempt to mate with it. When a wasp comes into contact with the pollen of the orchid, the pollen sticks to the wasp’s thorax, and when the wasp is eventually lured by another orchid it then pollinates the new flower by depositing the attached pollen. In order to interact with the wasp in the way necessary for pollination, the orchid deterritorializes in at least two ways. Firstly, the physical territory of the orchid – the space which it occupies – is transformed. The limit, or border, of this territory (the physical surface of the orchid) is altered to allow for the creation of an insect lure. Secondly, it can be said that the figurative territory of the orchid, the idea of this particular plant as this specific orchid variety, is transfigured: the limits of this non-physical territory are set in part by the orchid’s defining characteristics, one of which being that it is part only of the reproductive system of other genetically similar plant life. Even if the reproductive process is ultimately frustrated, when the orchid makes use of the male wasp it becomes a potential wasp-mate, part to some degree of the wasp’s reproductive process. By the same token, in coming to play a part in the orchid’s reproductive process the wasp becomes a means for the orchid and is deterritorialized insofar as this


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

makes the wasp something other than simply a wasp. The wasp nevertheless reterritorializes by re-staking its territory. By following its reproductive instincts appropriately in the presence of the form and scent of a potential mate the wasp asserts itself as a wasp. At the same time, by transporting its pollen the wasp facilitates successful pollination and reconstitutes the orchid’s territory.4 What the language of territory makes possible is the description and modelling of complex series of movements and transformations, no less conceptual than physical and separable out into these two categories only through unwieldy abstraction. Translation into territorial language might serve to make clear exactly how differences between kinds of gender identification result in different relationships to gendered concepts like those which accompany the gender binary. If so, new and more satisfying answers may be given to the questions raised above. Departing initially from this hypothesis, in respect to gender discourse, I discuss in the first of the three following sections the possible significance of ‘territory’, ‘deterritorialization’, and ‘reterritorialization’. In the middle section, I put these terms to use in responding more carefully to the second of the listed questions, reframing the issue of conservatism in terms of the deterritorialization and reterritorialization complicated in trans* identification. In order to enact this reframing, I bring into play Deleuze and Guattari’s understanding of the distinction between relativity and the absolute. I argue through this distinction that the attempt to compare and prefer a non-binary alternative mistakenly assumes that the deterritorialization implicated in trans* identification can be located solely on the side of a well-constituted individual subject. In contrast, I suggest that we should situate this deterritorialization within a field of relations that precedes and exceeds any one participant. Making clear the consequences of this presupposition requires critical reading of a queer theoretical text in which it appears: in the third and final section below, I have selected a chapter of Judith Butler’s Bodies That Matter (1993) titled ‘Gender Is Burning’.

‘Personal’ territory If adopting territorial language is to be at all helpful in formulating a response to the charge that trans* identifications are inherently conservative, it is necessary first of all to explain how gender can be said to inform territory. In the case of the wasp and orchid pairing, I described the physical territory occupied by the orchid as the space which it filled and its figurative or conceptual territory as its

Gender Territory


classification as a certain kind of plant with specific, determinable characteristics. This was a decidedly simplistic overview of how the orchid’s territory may actually be constituted and should not be considered sufficiently detailed for use as the standard model for interpreting territorial situations. For similar reasons, it is not particularly helpful to explain the effects of gender identification on the territories staked out by hypothetical persons abstracted from the many broad social networks in which they are situated. As such, I will instead offer a description of ‘personal’ territory which makes clear the social, intersubjective and even unconscious mechanisms through which the staking of this territory is possible. Only after this is it meaningful to treat gender identification as one territorial mechanism among others. The ways in which identification allows for the situation of personal territory in relation to the broader social phenomena which determine its limits can then be specified. Among these phenomena I include hetero- and cisnormativity and particularly in these the presupposition that our currently dominant gender norms are ‘natural’. As the wasp–orchid case indicates, it is not feasible to give a complete description of a territory without providing at the same time an explanation of how that territory was constituted and how its limits might be subject to change. This means that in the case of personal territory, three bases must be covered for an acceptable description: (1) the character or make-up of the territory itself; (2) the ways in which this territory is deterritorialized (how it is possible for the territory to change or be changed); and (3) the means by which this territory is reterritorialized (how it is possible for the territory to survive change while retaining something of its original character). The most basic starting point for a description of personal territory might be that it is the space (physical and/or figurative) in which a person is most ‘at home’.5 This includes not only the physical space occupied by the body but also the rough figurative space of a person’s mental life. At the same time, this territory can be said to extend physically beyond immediate bodily space, including also physical spaces in which each of us are most comfortable, and figuratively to include ways of thinking or applying concepts that are familiar or which have even become second nature. In this regard my personal territory might extend spatially to include my childhood home and figuratively so far as my taste in music and my political bent. This might give the impression that everything constitutive of personal territory is inseparable from my intentional interaction with the world and my more or less deliberate way of thinking about it. For Deleuze and Guattari,


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

however, beneath conscious and personal intentionality there are impersonal forces at work. They write of ‘molecular assemblages of enunciation’, agencies permeating each person which comprise and express various elements from discrete social, medical and political discourses, disparate forms of thought and action, stereotypes and traumatypes and much else constitutive of all shared sociocultural funds. It is this impersonality at work behind all conscious effort to form territory that leads Deleuze and Guattari to write that, however intentional my curation of ‘personal’ content, ‘I always depend on a molecular assemblage of enunciation that is not given in my conscious mind, any more than it depends solely on my apparent social determinations, which combine many heterogeneous regimes of signs’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2013: 98). Each of us might indeed be somewhat responsible for what is included in our personal territory but not without the support of vast and complex systems of external signs, processes and forms of action whose formative powers cannot be attributed to any one person: ‘not peoples or societies but multiplicities’ (2013: 42). The consequence of this is that each personal territory is comprised not simply of the elements listed above in aggregate but also incorporates and weaves together various forms of speech and action particular to the social situation or culture to which each of us can be said to belong. This also includes the habits we have formed through repeated action or imparted through conditioning and ways of thinking influenced in large part by broader social trends. All of these are required even for basic expression and communication of personal experience and thought. They cannot be omitted from an account of the formation of a territory in any sense worthy of being called ‘personal’. While linguistic and gestural differences raise interesting questions in their own right, identity classifications such as class, race, and gender account perhaps for the greater part of social influence on the formation of territory. Bound as these are to complex and ever-shifting networks of concepts, political ideologies and unconscious social investments, they quite literally limit the forms of territory vast swathes of people are able to construct and occupy. While Deleuze and Guattari insist that this social determination is not the sole form of territorial limitation (2013: 98), the set of physical and conceptual elements available for appropriation into personal territory seems – whether through more or less explicit racial segregation, from apartheid to redlining, or as patriarchal gender inequality reserving positions of power and prestige for men – unavoidably socially determined. For trans* people, gender may be said to limit territorialization in at least two ways. On one hand, the transphobia which flows from an excessive investment

Gender Territory


in the idea of a ‘natural’ gender binary serves as a strict limit on what can be appropriated as ‘homely’. The threat of transphobic violence often prevents even familiar spaces and mental states from becoming sufficiently comfortable or secure. On the other hand, while for many the feeling of gender euphoria is a rich form of self-affirmation, this too can be said to result from the gendered limitation of territory. The selection of phenomena which ‘fit’ our gender identities in ways which produce euphoria happens largely ‘behind our backs’ in the social investments in given conceptions of these identity classes. If personal territory comprises all that each person is familiar enough with to claim as physical and/or figurative home ground, countless means exist by which this territory could be transformed. Simply being thrown outside of one’s comfort zone and made to react and adapt to new situations deterritorializes each person: I am deterritorialized when I enter any new social situation no less than the orchid is deterritorialized by interacting with the wasp. Anything which breaks with established continuity deterritorializes me by forcefully bringing change. Similarly, if deterritorialization is roughly equivalent to the disruption of continuity, reterritorialization may take on many forms of its own, so long as some semblance of continuity, normalcy and familiarity are re-established. It is not necessary, however, for this new familiarity to perfectly replicate the original – ‘reterritorialization as an original operation does not express a return to the territory’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2013: 592). Another example: when I move to a new city, much of my day-to-day life is quite radically changed; the spaces I move through are far from homely, the people I come into contact with might speak or act differently to the friends I’ve left behind and differences in infrastructure from city to city might mean that I travel, shop and live in entirely different ways. I’m deterritorialized by all of these changes – spatially, socially and with regard to my habits and perhaps even my basic patterns of thought. Regardless, over time I’ll likely come to find the new environment familiar, perhaps even making it into a new home in which I form new habits and relationships no less comfortable and stable than those I’ve had in the past. In this case I reterritorialize on the new city, not by making it a substitute for my hometown but by coming to relate to it as a new home ground. Once again, the possibilities for reterritorialization are themselves determined in large part by social structures and unconscious investments – I cannot reterritorialize on a new environment if by virtue of my race/class/ gender I am prevented from living safely, with enough freedom and comfort to establish stable continuity.


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

If several social categories jointly, yet incompletely, determine territory, what can be said of gender in particular? What can be said in turn of gender identification as it relates to not only the construction of territory but also deterritorialization and reterritorialization? Gender can constrain territorialization, deterritorialization and reterritorialization by limiting access to various elements required at each stage for the establishment of comfort, safety and stability. It constrains territorial possibility but precisely because it is a system of classification which operates in the first instance through a strict separation of classes and then by further differentiation modelled at least to some degree on this initial division (core concepts like masculinity and femininity referring back to the binary separation of persons into male and female). As a result, some variable proportion of each personal territory will not only be coloured by their situation in relation to the gender binary and the concepts derived from it but will directly depend upon their individual relationship to gender classification. That each person is classified through reference to a conception which is first of all socially dominant means that this relationship requires some form of social recognition. As such, even this ‘individual’ relationship to gender is determined in large part not by each individual for themselves but by and through others on their behalf. This said, there remains a definite possibility for negating or in some way altering the relation to gender assumed for, or forced upon, each person. It is under this aspect that I would like to finally examine gender identification and its relationship to the gender binary.

A note on identification While there are various levels of complexity on which gender identification might be analysed, here I intend to understand it only as a form of selfrecognition in which a person situates (consciously and/or unconsciously) the conception they hold of themselves in relation to the categories of the dominant conception of gender.6 Insofar as this situation plays a part in self-definition and self-understanding, it determines to no small degree the way in which each of us approaches daily life, forms habits and interacts with others. In this way, gender identification necessarily informs territorialization, part of the process in which each of us comes to find home ground and demarcate a physical and figurative space which is familiar and comfortable.

Gender Territory


However subjective this understanding of it may appear, gender identification brings into play all of the complex ideological baggage of the social conception of gender. For example, if I were to identify as male, I would situate myself as part of a class of people more or less masculine, more or less stoic, more or less arrogant according to the set of gendered presuppositions currently dominant. While this is only true within certain limits, particularly with regard to the element of recognition acknowledged above, it remains true that through gender identification each person’s means of territorializing, being deterritorialized and reterritorializing are coloured. How might this ‘colouring’ of territorial life support or undermine the normativity of gender and the staying power it seems to have in social consciousness? Only when this is clear may these notes on gender and territory be put to use in answering what I described above as ‘the charge of conservatism’ – only when identification and territory are situated in relation to the gender binary and its preservation can distinctions be made between more or less subversive or conservative ways of identifying.

Queering the absolute In order to determine how subversion fits in to this still-fuzzy scheme of territorial processes, it is helpful to take a closer look at deterritorialization and to note the ways in which things other than persons are affected by the ‘break with normalcy’ it expresses. While the examples of deterritorialization given above occur for the most part independently of gender, many forms of deterritorialization are explicitly and inescapably gendered. Moving cities, for example, might not obviously deterritorialize a person in relation to gender, but the same cannot be said of deciding to dress in ways which challenge gendered norms of aesthetic presentation. Even minor acts in this domain represent a break with gendered normativity, its fixity and its relation to masculinity and femininity as, at least in part, aesthetic categories. Acts like these deterritorialize a person, breaking even with a normativity they have themselves likely internalized. The understanding of gender shared socially, as the backdrop against which this subversion takes place, is itself affected. However natural and obvious gendered normativity may appear to some, when subverted its impermanence is laid bare, and gender itself is deterritorialized. It is made to reckon with phenomena outside of the boundaries set in its system of strict divisions and classifications.


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

If this kind of individual aesthetic subversion were all it took to undermine gender, however, then no question of trans* conservatism could ever be reasonably posed. Even if gender were only a vulgar, shared conception of sexual difference and its impact on social role, trans* identification falls decidedly further from the supposedly ‘natural’ relation to gender than any single aesthetic alteration. It can therefore be assumed that even when deterritorialized, gender has means at its disposal for ensuring its reterritorialization, for recovering from subversion and remaining dominant. Gender, as present in the social imaginary and as concept of binary gender identities, reterritorializes by continually embracing the aesthetic and non-threatening components of subversion at the exclusion of their more radical conceptual force. Reinforced ceaselessly in marketing campaigns and government legislation alike, gender can reterritorialize on the shaved head of an otherwise conventionally feminine woman or the shaved legs of a muscular man with relative ease. These are simply embraced as new ways of being masculine or feminine, as new ways of affirming gender rather than new means by which it would be subverted. Deleuze and Guattari insist that this is not to be taken as a sign that deterritorialization has necessarily ‘failed’ – reterritorialization should in fact always be anticipated: In short, there is no deterritorialization … that is not accompanied by global or local reterritorializations, reterritorializations that always reconstitute shores of representation. What is more, the force and the obstinacy of a deterritorialization can only be evaluated through the types of reterritorialization that represent it; the one is the reverse side of the other. (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 316)

If the reterritorialization of gender is simply ‘the reverse side’ of its deterritorialization, what can be said of the endeavour to ‘subvert’ gender in the first place? Is it hopeless to work towards deterritorialization, to attempt to subvert gendered presuppositions, given that reterritorialization will always follow? As Deleuze and Guattari indicate, there are deterritorializations of differing force, some more likely than others to produce great and lasting change. If truly progressive subversion is possible, it must accompany a specific form of deterritorialization that is especially forceful and which is mirrored by a reterritorialization that achieves something more than simply giving new expression to gendered hierarchy and repressive ideals of masculinity and femininity. Deleuze and Guattari distinguish ‘relative’ deterritorializations from those which are ‘absolute’. Relative movements concern pre-constituted individual

Gender Territory


bodies moving in relation to one another in spaces which are well-ordered and well-defined. Though distinct, ‘absolute’ here ‘expresses nothing transcendent or undifferentiated. It does not even express a quantity that would exceed all given (relative) quantities. It expresses only a type of movement qualitatively different from relative movement’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2013: 592) This qualitative difference amounts to a freeing of absolute movement from any prefabricated frame of reference or system of stable pre-existing relationships between bodies. In other words, relative movements are those of fixed, individual bodies each ‘considered as One’ (592) which move at the same time in relation to one another and to their environment. This environment is well-defined in advance, and the bodies involved can therefore move through it only in ways and by routes which are determinable in advance. Absolute movements, on the other hand, are involving bodies which are not fixed, or perhaps not-yet fixed, and which move without reference to other bodies, and through environments which need not be pre-constituted, and may even be constituted and continually re-constituted by this movement ‘in the manner of a vortex’ (592). Returning again to the example above, the deterritorialization I associated with moving between cities is relative in a number of important ways: even though leaving my hometown displaces the limits of ‘my’ territory, this displacement is deliberate and fairly well-defined. Regardless of the distance involved, and regardless of the time I’m given to prepare, I am deterritorialized only for a limited span of time. After this period of disruption, I know I am likely to reterritorialize, re-establish some familiarity with my surroundings and come to feel at home again, even if this likelihood incorporates some deal of contingency and even if the exact form this familiarity will take is uncertain. In contrast, if rather than moving cities my home is destroyed, and I am forced out into a world that is radically unstable, as the survivor of an immeasurable catastrophe, say, this anticipation of re-established comfort is withheld. It is not the case that this deterritorialization differs from the first simply in degree, by displacing me a greater distance or by forcing me to adapt with less notice. The difference is rather qualitative: I am deprived even of the system of reference which would allow me to properly relate my movement to a starting point or a destination, and I am unable to straightforwardly project from my current state of disruption to any future stability. I am therefore deterritorialized in a way better described as absolute. This deterritorialization occurs with no determinable end in sight, relative to no given fixed span of time and operating with regard only to myself and an environment in which I have no means of situating myself.


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

Analytically speaking, it is true that this absolute deterritorialization can be described in terms of a series of relative or partial deterritorializations. My home destroyed, I might first find temporary shelter nearby, moving then to shelter outside of the city limits, crossing significant distance each time I relocate. This does not render the absolute deterritorialization relative, as it remains unclear how many of these relative movements might follow and how many reterritorializations are possible as a result. Deleuze and Guattari acknowledge this explicitly: Now what complicates everything is that this absolute D7 proceeds by way of relative D, precisely because it is not transcendent. Conversely, relative … D itself requires an absolute for its operation: it makes the absolute something ‘encompassing’. (Deleuze and Guattari 2013: 592)

Even deterritorialization that is absolute proceeds step by step through moments of relative disruption, precisely because any movement ‘out’ of a territory always involves a movement ‘to’ somewhere else. This holds even if the endpoint is temporary or merely predicted and even if the reterritorializations which follow are themselves quickly followed by further deterritorialization and disruption. The converse, which Deleuze and Guattari highlight here, is somewhat less intuitive: relative movements themselves require an absolute movement. In what regard is this a requirement, and how is the absolute made to appear both ‘encompassing’ and apparently destructive? The case of disaster is perhaps misleading; while being forced from my home in this way would plausibly constitute a kind of absolute deterritorialization, it would nevertheless be particularly harrowing in a way not necessarily tied to its being absolute. The features of this deterritorialization which make it absolute are in many other instances precisely the reasons for which one might actively value absolute deterritorialization. For example, qualities such as nonlinearity and unpredictability are positively desirable in liberal education. Provided the educational programme is successful in deterritorializing the student by putting in question their reasons for accepting or defending given perspectives, the absence of a set end to the educational process may motivate students to engage with diverse materials and sources of knowledge. In this way liberal education staves off the temptation to think of learning as a finite process of relative self-improvement. Instead, learning is framed as a constant effort to adapt to, and participate in, a malleable and unpredictable world. It is this connective and productive open-endedness that Deleuze and Guattari have in mind when they champion certain forms of absolute

Gender Territory


deterritorialization as ‘positive’ and insist that though the process may be incredibly dangerous, ‘we’ll never go too far with … deterritorialization’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 382). However, this positivity is conspicuously absent from the absolute movement which relative deterritorialization requires. From standpoint of relative movement, absolute movement appears as nothing less than the destruction of all given bodies and the environment in which they coexist. The stability proper to relative movement is staked on the indefinite deferral of this potential destruction. Relative deterritorialization therefore requires a hypothetical deterritorialization that is too unstable, in relation to which it can define and justify its limits. Though it will become clear below that associating trans* identification simply with the relative is misguided, gender-affirming surgeries seem perhaps to exemplify this dynamic of limitation and situation. To affirm the relative deterritorialization represented by facial feminization surgery, for example, one must affirm that surgical intervention can significantly affect gender expression. With this, however, comes the possibility in principle of all forms of surgically produced embodiment, including at the extreme limit botched creations and creaturely figures lifted straight from body horror canon. Strictly from the perspective of the relative movement between two bodily states differentiated merely by a few millimetres of bone, this imaginary becomingabject can serve as both motivation and constraint. On one hand, it attests to a certain malleability of the body and signals a way out from claustrophobic dysphoria itself already experienced to some degree as abjection. On the other, it evokes a possible break down of all bodily signification and of a transformation so intense that it can hardly be situated in relation to gender at all. In this way, the absolute functions from the perspective of the relative as the terrifying opening of the possibility of movement. It is what makes the change of a territory possible, while at the same time being that which must be deferred for this possibility to be realized. With this understanding of the complicated distinction between absolute and relative deterritorialization, territorial language is finally useful in responding to allegations of conservatism. When gender identification is reframed in terms not only of deterritorialization and reterritorialization but also of relativity and the absolute, it becomes clear that the ‘conservatism’ which accompanies trans* identification is resolutely not the social or political kind ordinarily, if implicitly, carried by the charge. Rather, as I demonstrate below, ‘conservatism’ accompanies trans* identifications only insofar as these too defer to some extent the wholesale destruction of gender as a frame of reference.


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

Trans* movement Adding caveats, I distinguished in the introduction between intra-binary trans* identification and non-binary identification. In the territorial terminology developed above, it appears that the former is staked on a kind of relative deterritorialization in relation to gender, and that the latter represents the absolute. I say that trans* identifications appear relative because the deterritorialization at play in the disruption of the supposedly ‘ordinary’ acceptance of the gender one is assigned at birth has relatively well-defined limits and (at least theoretically) an end. In contrast, I say that non-binary identification appears absolute because, in the deterritorialization of one’s ‘natural’ relationship to gender identity as set in the dominant cultural conception of gender, no fixed endpoint can be set. Moreover, no duration may be fixed in advance, and while many relative movements and changes may be necessary along the road to non-binary living, no given number of minor changes will ever ‘complete’ the process. These appearances, however, are somewhat misleading. Non-binary identification can certainly be both destructive – for example, of certain repressive ideological restraints brought on by strict adherence to the gender binary – and profoundly positive insofar as it abandons set, determinate ends in favour of an open and experimental attitude towards variation. It is difficult, however, to square this abstract power of positive destruction with the reality of non-binary identification. While subversive in relation to dominant norms, can the deterritorialization which accompanies this identification ever be realized as a purely absolute movement? If trans* identification is truly relative in itself, meanwhile, then it should be sustained in some way by a complementary movement which is both absolute and negative. Trans* identification might then be considered ‘conservative’ insofar as the relative movement it represents is both situated against and staves off the wholesale destruction of gender identity as conceptual tool for articulating all relation to gender. If it were relative in this precise sense, then trans* identification would always lead to reterritorializations which preserve the binary form of classification through which the deterritorializations move. This is how the ‘charge of conservatism’ might best be translated into territorial language. Missed entirely by this initial formulation is that deterritorialization affects not only the person whose identification is thematized. When the

Gender Territory


effect of deterritorialization on the dominant conception of gender is taken into account, things look rather different. Compared to the first impression outlined immediately above, non-binary identifications now appear even more destructive, displacing the individual in relation to the social conception of gender and undermining the claim of this conception to any degree of necessity or naturality. And yet, the limits of this destruction are themselves more clearly defined. Non-binary identification can be destructive only within the ambiguous limits of social intelligibility. While it appears absolute, the movement involved begins necessarily from within gender and therefore encompasses something of the relative. Even more striking, however, is that trans* identifications cease in turn to appear relative. The movement involved no longer occurs between two pre-existing and static identity positions but between one ‘initial’ position (the naturality of which is itself challenged) and a new position (the nature of which is incompletely determined however much it may draw inspiration from the currently dominant understanding of gender). This suggests that the degree to which trans* identification appears conservative is largely dependent on whether or not it is taken merely to represent a change in relative position within the system of classification of gender. If this relativity is decided upon in advance, then trans* identifications appear as conservative of the gender binary. If trans* identification is credited with undermining the supposed naturality and necessity of this sort of classification however, then it no longer seems to conserve the binary in its reterritorialization, instead appearing to set the social understanding of gender down a path of indefinite transformation. Now by definition, deterritorialization of any kind is possible only on the condition that the territory involved and the continuity proper to it are disrupted. One of the most notable characteristics of the dominant societal understanding of the binary separation of gender positions, however, is that it is both natural and exhaustive. Under what conditions, then, can it be denied that trans* identifications subvert and deterritorialize the individuals involved and the naturalized binary at the core of gender normativity? Instead of simply deciding this matter in favour of trans* identification’s subversive potential, it is worthwhile engaging carefully with an account of gender, subversion and trans* identity which acknowledges some form of broad social influence brought hypothetically by trans* identification, while nevertheless charging it with something like conservatism.


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

Burning the binary Judith Butler dedicates a chapter of her Bodies That Matter to commentary on Jennie Livingston’s Paris Is Burning (1990). The latter documents drag culture in New York City toward the end the 1980s, and while often touted as groundbreaking for its foregrounding of African American and Latinx queens, the film also shed some light on trans* experience within New York’s drag ball scene. The film’s treatment of one of particular trans* woman, Venus Xtravaganza, is particularly striking. Venus is featured throughout the film while engaging in sex work to save for gender-affirming surgery and its associated costs. Late in the film we are shown Venus’s house mother, Angie Xtravaganza, reacting to the news that Venus has been found dead, murdered (the viewer is left to assume) by a client. Butler writes the following about Venus: Clearly, the denaturalization of sex, in its multiple senses, does not imply a liberation from hegemonic constraint: when Venus speaks her desire to become a whole woman, to find a man and have a house in the suburbs with a washing machine, we may well question whether the denaturalization of gender and sexuality that she performs, and performs well, culminates in a reworking of the normative framework of heterosexuality. (Butler 1993: 133, my emphasis)

Worth investigating here is precisely what Butler frames innocently as a ‘question’. Venus is indeed shown to desire a certain kind of identificatory home ground, and it is seemingly that of the ‘housewife’ with all of the ideological baggage with which this term is laden. Does this ideological baggage mean that Venus’s identification boils down to a simple ‘reworking’ of normative femininity? Does her investment in a feminine stereotype render the deterritorialization involved relative, staked on negativity? Is Venus merely moving in order to reterritorialize on one of the two preformed identity position offered by the gender binary? What does this critique of Venus suggest that we, readers of Butler, should prefer to her ‘performance’? Unlike those who might simply deny outright the subversive potential of trans* identification, it appears that Butler acknowledges something subversive in Venus. It is noted, at least, that she enacts a ‘denaturalization of sex’. Butler locates this subversion, however, only in the obvious and visible signs of Venus’s departure from the supposedly ‘natural’ relationship to gender identity (her ‘performance’). The features of Venus’s identification which entail conformity with traditional or culturally accepted gender norms of aesthetic presentation, however, Butler condemns as mimetic and regressive.

Gender Territory


I am certainly not the first to problematize Butler’s commentary. To Jay Prosser, for example, Butler embodies a kind of ‘critical perversity’ (Prosser 1998: 49). She celebrates only those subversive attributes of Venus which lead in fact to her death and condemns precisely those ‘normative’ attributes which might have kept her safe, ‘at least from this instance of violence’ (49). Butler therefore valorizes the visible and performative precisely while acknowledging that violence is not uncommon as a reaction to the most visibly performed signs of trans* subversion and in doing so ‘locates transgressive value in that which makes the subject’s real life most unsafe’ (49). At very least, Butler acknowledges that trans* identification contributes towards the denaturalization of sex. In this regard, Butler’s remarks indeed improve upon the hypothetical criticism of trans* identification voiced above. It therefore cannot be said that she simply ignores the extra-personal effects of the deterritorialization involved.8 Nevertheless, when Butler refers to a ‘reworking of the normative framework of heterosexuality’, it is clear that she does not distinguish between the clichéd image of femininity that Venus’s identification draws upon and the femininity that results from fidelity to this identification. Butler frames Venus’s reterritorialization on femininity as a simple return to the repressive norm of femininity proper to the gender binary. It seems that there are two conceivable ways for a hypothetical ‘alternate’ Venus to evade Butler’s critique. Either her trans* identification is affirmed and lived out only in ways which avoid reference to the terms of the dominant social conception of gender, including ideas of masculinity and femininity which refer back to preformed male and female gender identities or to sexual difference. Or she disposes of trans* identification entirely in favour of an alternative non-binary identification which eludes entirely the confines of binary gender identification. Both options amount to the same thing: a dangerous reduction of the needs and desires of trans* subjects to theoretical-strategic means for ‘good gender praxis’. If critique demands of trans* identification that no reference be made to the aesthetic or descriptive terms of dominant gender discourse, trans* people are forced to occupy only discursive positions completely ‘outside’ of gender in selfdescribing or articulating the character of their identification.9 As Emi Koyama points out, however, access to medical resources which aid in the realization of a great number of trans* identifications is still often denied to those who do not self-articulate or present in ways the medical community recognizes as definitively masculine or feminine:


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies Trans women in particular are encouraged and sometimes required to adopt the traditional definition of femininity in order to be accepted and legitimized by the medical community, which has appointed itself as the arbiter of who is genuinely ‘woman’ and who is not. (Koyama 2003: 246)

Trans* identification cannot be adequately framed as object of critique unless its jointly social, historical and medical context is accounted for. When one demands that trans* identifications be affirmed only when purged of reference to conventional gender typology, this context is ignored. It then becomes possible to refer to gendered baggage as betrayal of potential, rather than as trace of a long and storied struggle against societal and medical repression. This is to say no more than that deterritorialization and reterritorialization are here again inseparable: reterritorialization on traditional gender roles and aesthetics cannot be criticized as conservative, unless the relationship between this reterritorialization and the construction of the ‘original territory’ is understood. When this condition is met, it becomes clear that a great qualitative divide separates the new territory from the old: deterritorialization has not occurred merely in a relative or limited manner but has instead contributed to an ongoing and indeterminately long process of transformation. This process has already brought about demotion of ‘natural’ binary-gender archetypes to outmoded standards of medical establishments with control over access to useful technologies. If to avoid conservatism intra-binary trans* identifications are devalued in favour of non-binary identifications, it appears that both forms of identification suffer conceptually. The feature of trans* identification that is problematized (reference to binary gender categories and descriptors) must be banished from whatever non-binary identification is championed in its stead. Not only are trans* identifications reduced to affirmations of gender stereotypes, but nonbinary identifications too are forced to maintain impossible distance from conventional gender tropes and discursive categories. Once again, converting the issue at hand into the language of territory, this form of critique appears to problematize trans* identification for enabling relative deterritorialization. But in doing so it loses all ability to account for the necessity of the relative movement upon which even absolute deterritorialization relies. The result is that the only affirmable alternative to trans* identification is one which skips over relative movement entirely, holding only to an absolute, totalizing deterritorialization. The only deterritorialization that fits the bill in this regard, which at no point could be said to ‘rework the normative framework’,

Gender Territory


is the purely destructive and negative kind, body horror, or what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as ‘abolition pure and simple’ (2013: 268). With regard to gender the reality of this negative deterritorialization is almost incomprehensible, requiring that one be situated so radically outside of gendered experience that communication, connection and comparison with any aspect of conventional gendering practice and classification be impossible. So destructive is this process that Deleuze and Guattari frequently equate it with suicide: ‘double suicide, a way out that turns the line of flight into a line of death’ (2013: 268). The ‘anti-conservative’ preference for non-binary identification thus turns out to be something of a misdirection. Trans* identification is not in fact charged with being conservative but rather is wrongfully defined as such in advance, separated artificially from its historical context. For its part, nonbinary identification is not in fact shown to be a liberating and progressive alternative; it too is reduced to caricature, separated artificially from its relation to contemporary gendering practice and morphed into nothing more than a reaction against the erroneously presumed fixity of gender identity. That ‘nonbinary’ elides through this discourse into something unliveable demonstrates all too well that while ‘the ongoing academic erasure of nonbinary people is … compounded by the tendency to conflate “nonbinary” with “transgender” ’ (Darwin 2020: 2), the opposition of the two can prove no less harmful. It appears that Deleuze and Guattari’s warning against overzealous destruction is particularly insightful here: In its destructive task, schizoanalysis must proceed as quickly as possible, but it can also proceed only with great patience, great care, by successively undoing the representative territorialities and reterritorializations through which a subject passes in [its] individual history. (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 318)

There is much to subvert in the contemporary construction of gender. Insofar as this subversion requires deterritorialization, it must pass through various stages in order to effect great and broad social change. When trans* identification is deemed conservative in advance and devalued in favour of a non-binary alternative that in fact may never be truly realized, this is forgotten, and subversion comes to mean only reaction. As in Butler’s analysis of Paris Is Burning, the lives and concrete needs of those people most at risk in the current social paradigm can then be cast aside, denied care so long as they fail to live up the impossible standard of an absolutely mobile yet impossibly negative relation to the gender binary.


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

Conclusion I began by pointing to three questions which the challenge that trans* identification is inherently conservative presumed to answer. I argued that the first of these, concerning the status of trans* identification relative to the gender binary, relied upon a simplification of both trans* and non-binary identification, assuming the non-existence of identifications which are at once both trans* and non-binary. The second question concerned the status of trans* identification relative to the preservation and subversion of gender taken as a historically embedded social construction. While I answered this initially with reference to the conservation of the gender binary in intra-binary trans* identifications, discussion of territory enabled a more sophisticated response. Trans* identifications do indeed conserve something of the gender binary, in that they subvert gender norms in what appears to be a thoroughly relative manner. They nevertheless deterritorialize gender in a fashion which is absolute and profoundly positive, in that they open the fundamental assumptions of the contemporary social conception of gender (the necessity and naturality of a strict binary distinction between gender identities) to an indefinite series of changes and reinterpretations. That in the process of enacting this change specific and temporary reterritorializations are noticeable, and elements are drawn from pre-existing categories and tropes, does not in fact demonstrate a fundamental conservatism, and as such the charge of conservatism once again provides an answer that cannot suffice. The third and final question concerned a hypothetical preference for nonbinary identification over trans* identification, the former seemingly more progressive in that it evaded the challenge of conservatism by relying upon nothing in the contemporary binary classification of genders. Translation into the language of territory made clear that not only does this comparison require simplification of both trans* and non-binary forms of gender identification, the conclusion that non-binary identifications might be preferred on this basis sets as a standard for subversion an absolute incommensurability with contemporary understandings of gender. It appeared that the setting of this standard caused even non-binary identification to suffer from a reduction in complexity, then little more than a negation of prefigured gender identity with no room for positive self-determination. Stating this once again in the language of territory, the supposedly progressive preference for non-binary identification amounted ultimately to nothing more than a denial of relative deterritorialization,

Gender Territory


even in its capacity as the practically necessary support for positive absolute deterritorialization. This left no room for reterritorialization of any kind, as a result requiring of any preferred subversion that the deterritorialization involved be not only absolute but also totalizing, immediate and negative. Under each of these aspects, and in each of its affirmative answers, the charge of conservatism fell short of providing a satisfying and internally coherent account of relation between gender identity, trans* identification and the ‘conservatism’ proper to trans* conservation of the gender binary.

Notes 1 I have chosen to adopt ‘trans*’ over alternatives (‘transgender’, ‘transsexual’ or ‘trans’) owing to the deliberately ambiguous lack of suffix, attesting to the difficulty of holding to trans* as either solely a matter of gender expression or as simply bodily (as in the sense common to historical, medical discourses of ‘transsexuality’). 2 For more on trans* thought within academia and an overview of a number of challenges currently faced by trans* academics, see Marvin (2019). 3 For more on the overlap between trans* and non-binary identifications, see Darwin (2020). 4 ‘The orchid deterritorializes by forming an image, a tracing of a wasp; but the wasp reterritorializes on that image. The wasp is nevertheless deterritorialized, becoming a piece in the orchid’s reproductive apparatus. But it reterritorializes the orchid by transporting its pollen’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2013: 9). 5 Deleuze and Guattari often write of territory in relation to ‘home’ or ‘homeland’ (2013: 362, 374, 377), most notably in the prescription: ‘Discover the territorial assemblages of someone, human or animal: “home” ’ (586). 6 In particular, identification should not be understood here in the narrow sense given to it by psychoanalysis (Cf. Shepardson 2006: 97–8). 7 Within this concluding section of A Thousand Plateaus (2013), Deleuze and Guattari adopt “D” as shorthand for deterritorialization. 8 Though, as Namaste points out, Butler’s analysis still ignores trans* activism entirely and needs to in order to frame Venus as conservative of binary normativity: ‘Once we acknowledge the energies transsexuals [sic] have invested in repealing legislation that enforces a compulsory sex/gender system, it is impossible to reduce transsexual identities to those that enact an “uncritical miming of the hegemonic” ’ (2000: 14). 9 Cf. Stone (2014): The transsexual currently occupies a position which is nowhere, which is outside the binary oppositions of gendered discourse. For a transsexual, as a


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies transsexual, to generate a true, effective and representational counterdiscourse is to speak from outside the boundaries of gender, beyond the constructed oppositional nodes which have been predefined as the only positions from which discourse is possible. (12) Here I think it is necessary to distinguish between speaking from ‘outside’ of gender in Stone’s sense – which refers to the fact that trans* identifications can only begin from a place ‘beyond’ the assumed naturality of the gender binary – and the more exclusionary ‘outside’ I refer to here, which is purely artificial and results from the construction of yet another ‘oppositional node’ between discourses which may reference gender typology and those which may not.

References Butler, J. (1993), Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’, New York: Routledge. Darwin, H. (2020), ‘Challenging the Cisgender/Transgender Binary: Nonbinary People and the Transgender Label’, Gender & Society,​4322​ 0912​256. Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (1983), Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (trans. R. Hurley, M. Seem and H. R. Lane), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (2013), A Thousand Plateaus (trans. B. Massumi), London: Bloomsbury. Koyama, E. (2003), ‘The Transfeminist Manifesto’, in R. Dicker and A. Piepmeier (eds), Catching a Wave, Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century, 244–59, Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press. Marvin, A. (2019), ‘A Brief History of Trans Philosophy’, Contingent Magazine. Available online: https://con​ting​entm​agaz​​loso​phy/ (last accessed 4 April 2020). Namaste, V. (2000), Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Paris Is Burning (1990), [Film] Dir. J. Livingston, United States: Off-White Productions. Prosser, J. (1998), Second Skins: The Body Narratives of Transsexuality, New York: Colombia University Press. Shepardson, C. (2006), ‘(selection from) The Role of Gender and the Imperative of Sex’, in S. Stryker and S. Whittle (eds), The Transgender Studies Reader, 94–102, New York: Routledge. Stone, S. (2014), The ‘Empire’ Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto (version 4). Available online: https://san​dyst​​ire-stri​kes-back.pdf (last accessed 20 March 2020).


Trans* teratologies Janet B. Watson

Introduction While transgender theory and research has proliferated in recent decades, there is nonetheless an apparent lacuna in terms of a more complex and nuanced exploration of sex/gender-diverse people and their relational, sexual experiences (Doorduin and van Berlo 2014; Galupo, Henise and Mercer 2016; Halberstam 2018; Latham 2019; Pfeffer 2014; Schilt and Windsor 2014; Stone [1991] 2006). In particular, there is a noted ‘dearth of empirical data’ that focuses on that of non-binary people (Shuster and Lamont 2020: 104). I therefore foreground this dimension of lived experience and illuminate the multiple issues that preclude any sense of foreclosure of the embodied sexed/gendered/sexual self. Through delving into labyrinthine lives of sex/gender-diverse people, I will demonstrate how the abstract categories of sex, gender and sexuality intertwine in creative and generative ways.1 Understanding the relationship between sex, gender and sexuality for sex/ gender-diverse people demands a creative conceptual approach that challenges and destabilizes the binary sex/gender model, which suffocates, excludes and invalidates the ontological realities of proliferating subjectivities. It is here that a schizoanalytic approach – which forms the cornerstone of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s philosophy – answers a much-needed call in sex/gender-diverse studies. For schizoanalysis challenges psychoanalytic notions of a unified self through privileging the unfolding configurations in which the self is assembled and disassembled as a body in motion. Trans* and intersex bodies overturn any psychoanalytic diagnosis of ‘lack’ – which pathologizes the body as damaged or diseased – in favour of how desire is a positive and productive force. This allows us to reimagine the intricacies of the sex/gender/sexuality matrix in


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

non-binary and non-divisive ways to elicit what inhabits and moves within, through, between and beyond the borderline spaces that attempt to corral bodies into the categorical binds of man/woman, masculine/feminine, male/ female, heterosexual/homosexual. To explicate the virtues of schizoanalysis, I draw on selected case studies, and direct quotations from interviews, of the embodied and relational lives of sex/ gender-diverse people who contributed as part of a larger sample comprising forty-seven adult participants to my doctoral research on bisexuality and sex/ gender diversity in Australia (Watson 2012).2 While ‘bisexuality’ formed the epistemic and ontological focus of my intellectual endeavour, I sought to prise apart the dualistic model that the prefix ‘bi’ instantiates. The sex/genderdiverse case studies I present problematize any reductionist stance towards such binarism, demonstrating a complex and complicated interface between sex, gender and (bi)sexuality – in particular, how the schizoid manifestations are in constant motion, shaping and reshaping each other in ways that challenge dominant assumptions and perceptions of a fixed, coherent and unified self. Significantly, the schizoanalytic Deleuzo-Guattarian lens illuminates the border regions of anomaly, ambiguity, indeterminacy and liminality that allow for potent expressions of embodiment and, moreover, haunt the sociocultural and biological imaginary as monstrous incarnations, synchronously compelling and confronting, threatening and fascinating. This is the locus of teratologies – a term derived from scientific codification of births that fail to conform to ‘normal’ male or female bodies (Fausto-Sterling 2000). The figuration of the monster therefore finds some simpatico in discussions of trans* identities and practices (e.g. Gressgård 2010; Halberstam 1995; Nordmarken 2014; Pearce, Moon and Gupta 2020; Shildrick 2002; Stryker [1991] 2006). Here, the monster is variously configured in visual and discursive representations as mutant, deviant, inverse, abnormal, anomalous, ambiguous, aberrant or atypical. Such descriptors and conceptualizations inscribe that which deviates from normative constructions of human physiology and in particular the sexed body. Discursive constructions – ‘the deviant’, ‘the mutant’ – become something other than ‘the norm’; they become ‘othered’ as objects of scrutiny variously inciting fear, horror, fascination and speculation. The cultural and social history of monsters and monstrosity is widely covered elsewhere (e.g. Canguilhelm 1962; Cohen 1996; Foucault 2003; MacCormack 2012; Moraña 2018; Picart and Browning 2012; Shildrick 2002), so it is not the intent here to replay this. Rather, I wish to focus on the monster’s oppressed marginalized status and concomitant potentiality to open up new vistas of

Trans* Teratologies


thought, action, corporeal process and agency. Often consigned as aberrant objects by virtue of the dominant gaze, we can tilt the lens of inquiry and re-vision the concept of trans* to reclaim its monstrosity and speak truth to power. Deleuzian philosophy offers a productive and generative way of locating the gaps or fissures in the dominant regimes that govern sexed and gendered bodies. Such creative spaces open up the territory of the monster to critical examination that demonstrates the radical potentiality of trans* bodies to challenge such governance and remake not only how we consider the conceptual terrain of sex and gender but also what this means in terms of intimate relationships, encounters and sexualities. In other words, ‘monsters are indicators of epistemic shifts’ (Weiss 2004: 125). Utilizing the tropes of Deleuze and Guattari’s (1983, 1987) Body without Organs (BwO) and Guattari’s (1995, 1996) autopoiesis as central schematics, this chapter demonstrates how anomalous borderline corpora are enacted as hybrid-becomings, which are not reducible to their component parts.

The ‘middle’ ground Empirical studies of transgender populations are largely dominated by clinical research, which focus on pathologies or dysphoria of gender identity such that sexuality is neglected or minimized (Coleman, Bockting and Gooren 1993; Denny and Green 1996; Ekins and King 2006; Hines 2007; Latham 2019; Namaste 2000). Here, the medical model fails to take account of the everyday lived realities of what it is to be transgender (Hines 2007; Namaste 2000). Moreover, clinical studies are eschewed by social researchers for being heteronormative (Hines 2007), heterosexist (Denny and Green 1996) and hetero-hegemonic (Rosario 1996). These commentaries commonly underscore that medical intervention is expected to ‘correct’ sexual responses in a heterosexual direction after gender ambiguities have been successfully treated. Addressing the dearth of transgender people in studies that are allencompassing of LGBTQI populations, Australian researchers conducted a groundbreaking study on the health and well-being of 253 transgender participants from Australia and New Zealand (Couch et al. 2007). However, the report only addressed sexuality briefly, noting that a small number conveyed uncertainty of sexual identity, some avoided self-identifying their sexuality while others used alternative phrases, such as ‘non-specific’ and ‘variable’, to indicate lack of fit with traditional sexual identity labels. Social science research


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

that offers more than cursory insights into the complex intersections of sexuality and transgender is limited to a relatively small body of work (notably Cromwell 1999; Denny and Green 1996; Devor 1993, 1997, 2016; Doorduin and van Berlo 2014; Ekins and King 2006; Galupo, Henise and Mercer 2016; Hines 2007, 2010; Latham 2019; Lawrence 2005, 2013; Rossario 1996; Schilt and Windsor 2014; Schleifer 2006). The transgender narratives related herein commonly underline fluid sexual practices and desires that are experienced in dialogue with multiple reconfigurations of sex/gender. Crucially, the interplay of sexuality and nonnormative sexes/genders steers a ‘middle’ ground in border regions, which, Valerio (1998) opines, offers thresholds of experience that are at once heretical and revelatory – contravening and threatening the ‘natural order’, while synchronously liberating ways of being from hegemonic regimes. In other words, the diversity of non-normative expressions of sex/gender and sexuality defies easy categorization and signification. For the naming of identity categories as a group (whether LGBTQI, queer or heterosexual) imposes certain characteristics that impute it as a ‘type’. Weber (1949) grappled with this problem in his formulation of ideal types, but as he noted, an ideal type is an abstract notion, a mental construct that will never accurately reflect empirical reality. This premise is pivotal to Deleuze and Guattari’s (1994) philosophical problem of the concept. Figuring centrally in their writings, concepts must be flexible and mobile, constantly questioned and open to reconfiguration, and thus challenge the organization of the body that occurs in transcendental juridical fields such as religion, science, the state, family and especially psychoanalysis. Such transcendent universals (abstract concepts) organize elements into coherent entities: ‘forms, functions, bonds, dominant and hierarchized organizations, organized transcendences’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 159) that seek to unify the subject and rein in the disordering affects of desire. Deleuze variously refers to transcendent representations as molar entities, strata, organisms and majorities. The grand structures of social scientific measurement – race, class, sex, religion – are cases in point.

Concepts, multiplicity and assemblages The schizoanalytic method presented here brings a conceptual revision of corporeality. This acknowledges and builds on the lessons and limitations of current feminist, queer and sociological theories of trans* and intersex bodies, which have variously stalled at an ontological impasse – an impasse

Trans* Teratologies


that overlooks or elides the complex relationships, fluidities and connections between non-normative presentations of both sex/gender and sexuality. Although empirical and theoretical interrogations of trans* and intersex lives thus often reside uncomfortably in feminist and queer domains (Connell 2012; Heyes 2013; Johnson 2012; Nagoshi et al. 2014; Namaste 2009; Stone [1991] 2006), schizoanalysis renders productive affinities and alliances possible. The benefit of schizoanalysis lies in its capacity to rupture the dominant view of a concept as unitary. Adopting this approach, terms such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex, which often go unquestioned in LGBTQI literature, are not defined according to an essentialist meaning or ‘despotic’ signification, but following Deleuze, are a multiplicity. Multiplicity is not synonymous with conventional understandings of difference and diversity as empirical ‘types’ of individuals across gender, race, sexuality and culture. Conversely, the Deleuzian lexicon of multiplicity and difference invokes a constant movement within each individual, transforming subjects so that subjectivity can never be fixed to a particular point. It is a difference in itself rather than distinguishing from something else (Deleuze 1994: 28). Therefore, multiplicity is not reducible to its component terms. Rather, it is what the relational space between the elements produces and assembles that matter. Thus, concepts are not totalities or unities but encounters between bodies, which ‘may be physical, biological, psychic, social, verbal’ (Deleuze and Parnet 2006: 39). A Deleuzian approach, therefore, opens up conceptual boundaries, depending upon how and where trans* bodies are located in complex and mobile networks of relational assemblages, and refocuses analysis on motion and process. As Macgregor Wise (2005: 77) points out, ‘assemblage’ does not refer to a static state of ‘arrangement or organization’ but to the ‘process of arranging, organizing, fitting together’. Significantly, this transfers theoretical emphasis away from categorical naming to capacity. Each assemblage presents one of a multiplicity of arrangements that has the capacity to undo the homogenizing and authoritative effects of dominant signifiers, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Hence, bodies are refigured as multiplicities that unfold within a particular ‘geography of relations’ (Deleuze and Parnet 2006: 42) in which ‘the notion of unity appears only when there is a power takeover in the multiplicity by the signifier’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 8). Accordingly, assemblage is not simply a philosophical concept but a method that focuses on not what bodies are but what bodies do. Thus, for Deleuze, bodies produce positive differences in their encounters with other bodies, which emphasizes the body’s generative capacity. Importantly, assemblages cannot be conceptualized as ‘collections of


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

things’ (Buchanan 2020: 65). As Buchanan eruditely argues, assemblages are complexly constituted through material, expressive and affective dimensions in which desire is the central and activating force of arrangement and therefore fundamental to the schizoanalytic project.

Schizoanalysis and monstrosity The generative impulse afforded by schizoanalysis thus flips the psychoanalytic script to conceive of desire as a productive force that flows between and erodes the totalizing signifiers of man/woman, male/female, masculine/feminine. Understood in such productive terms, Deleuze and Guattari wrench desire from repressive and negative constructions consigned by the authority of the Oedipal law wielded by the priests of signification – psychoanalysts; their writings are unashamedly anti-Oedipal (Deleuze and Guattari 1983, 1987), schizoanalytic rather than paranoic. The Oedipal version of desire is grounded in lack: I (subject) desire a ‘thing’ (object) that I do not have (lack). Classic psychoanalysis reduces such lack to a single object – mother, father, phallus (Deleuze and Parnet 1996). Here, the split subject is represented as a conflicted Oedipal topography (ego, id, superego) that requires resolution in order to produce the ‘whole’ subject. For Deleuze, this incapacitates desire by introducing lack and rendering it subservient to the law of the phallus (Deleuze and Parnet 2006). The legacy of Freudian discourse and its metamorphosis into Lacanian analysis (both clinical and cultural) has cemented an Oedipalized view of sexuality that pivots on repairing a hitherto fractured self (excavating the unseen, unvoiced, unheard realms of desire). Deleuze and Guattari thus critically view psychoanalysis as an organizing system of social and psychic realms that concretizes dualist notions of man/woman, masculinity/ femininity, heterosexual/homosexual around the sovereign signifier of the phallus (castration/lack defines woman). Schizoanalysis opposes this reparative impetus, which is welded to the solidified ground of subjectivity and despotic universal law. Its task is to ‘overturn the theater of representation’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 271), via advocating a logic of flux, which ‘goes beyond all dualities’ (Guattari 2009: 72). Therefore, schizoanalysis views the self not as a reified object but as autopoietic – that is, a flow of processual creativity moving towards ‘ontological heterogeneity’ of an emergent self (Guattari 1995: 61). In other words, subjectivity is a mobile assemblage of component parts, entering into proliferating connections and

Trans* Teratologies


becomings. A schizoanalytic reading of sex, gender and sexuality thus shatters the dominant medico-scientific model of male-female dualism. This opens up multiple ‘trans’ pathways to reconceptualize and understand those whose lives and bodies move between hegemonic categories – transitions, transformations, transmutations, transgressions, translocations and more. Adopting Deleuze and Guattari’s language of ambiguity, anomaly, mutation, liminality and deformation renders visible the conceptual field of teratologies and monstrosity, a complex and contested site of transformative and metamorphic affects that reside in the borderlands and resist the shackles of moral governance and normative categories. Liminality threatens social order and hygiene: variously positioned in relation to purity and danger (Douglas 2002), moral hygiene and the abject (Kristeva 1982), wherein constructions of monstrosity menace the sociocultural terrain. Hailing from nineteenth-century study of biological monstrosities or anomalies (OED 2020), the language of teratology has found its way into cultural, queer and feminist examinations of monstrous and hybrid figurations (both real and phantasmagorical), which slip between the cracks of categorical veracity (e.g. Baumgartner and Davis 2008; Braidotti 1994, 1996; Cohen 1996; Creed 1993; Halberstam 1995; Haraway 1991; Shildrick 2002). These theoretical ideas are mobilized to show how my participants creatively invent the self – an autopoietic process, which is produced through ‘breaking apart’ the coherent, organized body and rearranging corporeality in the liminal spaces of experiential and ontological reality. Sexed bodies, gender expression and sexuality thus co-mingle in complex non-linear relationships, which, moreover, foregrounds the epistemic problem of tailoring polymorphous realities to hegemonic paradigms that discursively structure the body into organized forms. The ‘organized body’ is thus enshrined by medico-scientific discourse and sociocultural norms to name that which is ‘normal’ and acceptable in terms of the whole body as ‘man’ or ‘woman’. Sex/gender-diverse bodies challenge this schema and produce the BwO, the disorganized body as it moves in connection with self, others and sociality. Importantly, for Deleuze and Guattari, the domain of desire is not an object (a thing that is desired) but a constructivism; it constructs an assemblage such that desire operates as a relation between elements in an aggregate (Deleuze and Parnet 1996). Hence, desire is reconfigured as productive – an activating force that produces the BwO (Deleuze and Guattari 1983, 1987). The BwO is an ongoing process of becoming that divests the body of transcendent planes, values and regimes of signification, which name, unify and order subjects. Simply put, the BwO is the ‘death of the subject’ (Braidotti 1991: 110). Importantly, such de-subjectification does not


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

evacuate the body of substance. Rather, according to Deleuzian thought, it is a politically productive action that strips the inscribed body of the organization of its organs. The BwO is a body without image (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 8) – a body without representation by master signifiers. Our bodies are stolen from us in every declaration that unifies the subject. It is not a matter of the ‘subject of enunciation that oppose[s]‌masculine to feminine in the great dualism machines’ but rather is ‘fundamentally that of the body – the body they steal from us in order to fabricate opposable organisms’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 276). The BwO, therefore, seeks to reclaim what has been stolen. Although the teratological vista of the following narratives is filtered through dominant representations (fear, threat, moral impropriety, etc.), these exceed notions of deviance and otherness constructed by circulations of power and socio-structural inequity. Rather, my evidence reveals that monstrosity is actuated through the positive production of desire (as opposed to the psychoanalytic view of desire as lack) and is, hence, enlightening and enabling. The journey of the trans* and intersex self is at once deconstructive and reconstructive – an ongoing process of becoming self that travels across multiple and interconnecting border regions. Reconfigured as such, the transformative affects of these mobile monstrous assemblages reveal the possibility of revolutionary worlds, wherein the epistemic relation between body and society is thus reimagined as metamorphic. While monstrosity is situated within and emerges from domains of power, its existence subverts and challenges these through ‘revolutionary inversions of the social order’ (Moraña 2018: 11). Such inversions of thought, being and movement are engendered through ‘mutant’ flows that ‘elude or escape’ rigid codification and categorization (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 219). In Deleuzian language, this is known as deterritorialization in which ‘lines of flight’ wrest the codified body from dominant regimes of signification. Viewed from the schizoid habitus of the ‘middle’ therefore radically reorients the ontology of sex/gender diversities and their (per)mutations to teratology.

Intersex and ‘borderless love’ The teratological landscape is palpably drawn in the story of my intersex participant, Dana (fifties, intersex, female). In the largely invisible realm of intersexuality, academic attention commonly understands intersex through biomedical discourse (Rubin 2017), which moreover upholds and promulgates a

Trans* Teratologies


discourse of abnormality – that is, how intersex profiles are deemed abnormalities of the male or female condition. These corporeal deviations have given rise to a competing ground of nomenclature including atypical sex, hermaphrodite, pseudo-hermaphrodite, intersex and disorders of sexual development (DSD). Such terminological variance is set against a battleground of medical, cultural, political, moral and ideological discourses that accords weight to pathology and correction of corporeal anomalies and the ensuing human rights issues concerning forced surgical intervention in infants (Delimata 2019; Dreger 1998; Fausto-Sterling 2000; Holmes 2009; Rubin 2017). The debates and tensions surveyed in these texts surfaced in Dana’s interview. Dana, self-describing as intersex, considered ‘hermaphrodite’ to be a demeaning term that consigned the complexity of sexual variations to mythological stereotypes, while DSD, in her view, pathologized physiological difference as medical conditions warranting treatment, correction or cure. Historically, intersex births fell under the scientific gaze of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century biologists, which spawned a new science of teratologies (Fausto-Sterling 2000; Shildrick 2002). Foucault’s (2003) juridico-biological analysis of abnormality elucidates that from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century the monster was a mixture of two realms, species, bodies or forms – a transgression of natural limits and classifications. The monstrosity of the ‘hermaphrodite’ accordingly materialized under a discourse of malformation, defects of nature and imperfection, thus defying the natural law of two sexes (Foucault 2003: 72). As Halberstam (1995: 6) notes, the monster represents a ‘crisis of knowledge’ and, borrowing Garber’s (1993: 17) term, a ‘category crisis’ that becomes all the more monstrous in the uneasy alliance between sexuality and gender. It is not simply an epistemic crisis but an ontological one as ambiguous corpora escape the policing of sexually organized bodies. At birth Dana’s body was judged by medical authorities to be a breach of nature, bearing attributes that required modification in order to conform and perform according to morphological standards. Foucault (2003) argues that the monster is both impossible and forbidden, therefore her corporeal make-up was deemed impermissible and unruly. That the monstrous figure represents the uncontrollable through inciting both ‘horror and fascination, aberration and adoration’ (Braidotti 1996: 136–7), the notion of monstrosity ultimately pivots on the construction of a morally appropriate (and functioning) body. Genital surgery therefore delivers the means of taming monsters (Roen 2008) – to ensure moral compliance. The medical criteria regarding ‘successful’ surgery for intersexed children is still based on how the finished genitals will measure


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

up (Cornwall 2009). That genitals must work for heterosexual penetration reinforces heteronormativity. Thus, Cornwall (2009: 223) asks: ‘Who has been closeted in such delineations?’ Dana’s account of her life goes some way to answer Cornwall’s question. The surgical (re)construction of Dana’s body, as in many intersex cases, was not disclosed to her – she discovered it when a series of health circumstances conspired to reveal the secrets of her corporeality. The covert aspect by which family and doctors contrive to withhold knowledge from a child of their intersex status is referred to as ‘social surgery’ – a practice that seeks to uphold and preserve gender and sexual norms (Preves 2011: 131). Unbeknownst to both herself and medical practitioners for some four decades, Dana was born with a life-threatening metabolic disorder – congenital adrenal hypoplasia (CAH) – a condition that affects hormone level uptake and may lead to ‘ambiguous’ or ‘atypical’ male-female external physiology, as in Dana’s case. Assigned ‘male’ at birth, Dana was raised mostly as a boy. Yet, a residual ‘ambiguity’ of physical sexual characteristics rendered her vulnerable. Shildrick (2002: 6) comments that without the security of boundaries, vulnerability is the ‘irreducible companion of the monstrous’. As a child, Dana was secretly dressed up as a girl and suffered significant child sex abuse by male offenders. Up until her metabolic condition was diagnosed and treated, she told me her appearance was quite androgynous but perhaps more (conventionally) male than female. Following treatment, Dana’s hormonal balance and outward appearance gradually altered to that of an apparent ‘female’, at which point she changed her name and lived as a woman. Identifying as a lesbian, intersex, XX chromosomal female, Dana made clear that these labels do not confer any sense of molar identity as lesbian, woman or female. Echoing the sentiments of Stryker’s monster ([1991] 2006: 252–3), Dana speaks to the policing of boundaries and limits of signification such that she embodies a transformative power through the ‘disidentification with compulsorily assigned subject positions’. Dana commented that she likes to challenge people’s understandings of bisexuality, lesbianism and homosexuality, which are ‘iffy’ concepts. Dana remarked: How does intersex fit in with gender and sex stereotypes? … For every single feature – fertility, ways of reproducing, external genitalia, internal reproductive organs – those things that you would like us to define, there are exceptions. And it then becomes apparent that the idea of male and female is very much a human construction, just as gender is.

Trans* Teratologies


Dana asked: ‘When my [female] partner and I have sex is that bisexual – that all three sexes are involved at once?’ Dana’s case is instrumental in realizing the micro-possibilities of sexuality as a teratological intervention – one that unravels the correlates of sex, gender and sexuality and creating linguistic ruptures that make us ‘strangers’ in our own language (Deleuze and Parnet 2006: 42–3). Questions concerning the veracity of the two-sexed model, which present ‘male’ and ‘female’ as discrete objective entities, therefore resound throughout intersex literature (e.g. Dreger 1998; Fausto-Sterling 2000; Holmes 2009; Kessler 1990; Rubin 2017). The transcendental signifiers of ‘male’ and ‘female’ do not in actuality reflect the complexities of physical embodiment. What becomes apparent is how the intersexed subject disorganizes the expected order of biological elements and subsequently fails to ‘add up’ to a complete whole. Dana evinces Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) molecular BwO, which breaks down the organization of the physical body into a collection of parts rather than aggregating these under tyrannical signifiers (whether male, female, lesbian or bisexual) – molar identities that codify how we should look, behave, think or function. As Stryker ([1991] 2006: 247) poignantly comments, monsters announce the extraordinary and profound. Dana’s case does not simply jettison the male/female binary into a transcendental abstract wilderness. Transcendent universals such as dualist models of human codification are not separate from ‘reality’ or ‘materiality’ but emerge from within planes of immanence. Deleuze and Guattari (1987) refer to immanent planes or zones as unstructured processes, flows, fluxes, states and content of life such that entities (human and non-human) are always ‘within’ life. Transcendent universals are thus not dichotomously opposed to the immanent but are processes of inscription that emerge from within immanent planes of ontological existence. Consequently, the master categories of sexuality (gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual) are processes of signification, which despite attempts to arrest or delimit multiplicities of corporeality are open to continual revision. Dualisms, as Deleuze insists, are a necessary enemy. We need to understand their modalities and affects – what bodies do in response and how actions at the micro level might weaken their univocity. Thus, Dana indeed weakens the signifying sovereignty of not only the male/female sexed model but also the heterosexual/homosexual schema. But the scientific authority invested in this binary, one that has manufactured the ‘male’ and ‘female’ body out of a mosaic of physical elements located within the immanence of life (gonads, hormones, chromosomes, genitals, muscle mass, fat distribution, facial and bodily hair), has profoundly affected


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

Dana’s entire biography. Her intersex narrative replays Deleuze and Guattari’s exclamation: The BwO howls: ‘They’ve made me an organism! They’ve wrongfully folded me! They’ve stolen my body!’ The judgment of God uproots it from its immanence and makes it an organism, a signification, a subject. (1987: 159)

Replaying Deleuzian thought, Dana’s body was literally stolen from her at birth in order to manufacture a semblance of normative sexed physicality. The binary sex/gendered division of humanity indeed presented material concerns for Dana, for in her words: The idea of maleness and femaleness and gender roles are real issues because that is what informed the surgeons who decided … to make me a male at birth. And they did some fairly extensive surgery way back in the 1950s, so that I wouldn’t insult the idea of heteronormative binary lives. And I’ve suffered. I’ve paid dearly … so that the binary [and] gendered expectations can be kept in place and we are the ones that pay the cost, the exceptions.

Although now stating a preference for women as intimate partners, when referring to her relationship Dana explains that even if her partner were male she believes their relationship would be no different: We have never actually felt that we are lesbian; same-sex reinforces the gender binary and it’s all very iffy. From the moment we met we were just in love – a kind of borderless being in love.

Dana’s experiences highlight how the body figures centrally as a malleable and morally freighted object of scientific scrutiny, technological intervention and socio-sexual functioning. For the notion of intersex troubles the sexual landscape in portentous ways; it shakes the very foundations of how we have come to see the division of the human species into male and female as a natural or scientific ‘truth’ of nature – a truth that has incontrovertibly welded the concepts of gender and sexuality to the binary model of sexual difference. Epitomizing the schizoanalytic process of disassembling the unified subject, Dana’s ambiguous and anomalous status, according to Gressgård (2010: 548), threatens the ‘limits of cultural order’ that upholds the ‘liminal monster as a figure of display’. It is a spectral condition that haunts the sociocultural imaginary so that ‘the intersex body is not ontological, but rather hauntological’ (O’Rourke and Giffney 2009: x).

Trans* Teratologies


Strange encounters: Monstrous (trans)formations The ontological elusiveness of trans* and intersex lives pivots on unhinging an obsessive Western epistemic concern with the coherent constitution of the human form and the relations into which it enters. Positioning corpora within this teratological exchange renders visible human-technological relations that reimagine the stable and normative corpus as a creative potentiality. Such a connection realizes a new symbiotic unity of the Deleuzian kind, a becomingmachine that refashions how we conceptualize sexuality and procreation (Braidotti 2002). The co-extension of human and technology, as witnessed in Dana’s case, was life-altering in terms of the surgical intervention at birth and life-saving with regard to her metabolic condition. Both events produced an affect that metamorphosed her libidinal profile. The issue of identity boundaries, therefore, ‘raises its monstrous head’ (Braidotti 2002: 191) as we saw in Dana’s story, where attempting to label her sexual identity and intimate partner relationship is fraught by an undecidability of not only language but also ontology. Such undecidability telescopes a radical alterity in monstrous bodies, which, as Cohen (1996: 18) argues, illuminates possibilities of other genders, sexual practices and social customs. Deleuzian thinking recalibrates the sociological field of the borderline subject (and its relation within the structure/agency dynamic) from ontology to teratology through elucidating the productive regions of liminality and monstrosity. Inhabited by BwOs, the categorical disturbance of corpora announces ‘a thousand tiny sexes’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 213) and multiplicities of libidinal encounters beyond the majoritarian paradigms of sex/ gender. Rather than confine analysis to a molar category of ‘transgender’ (which insinuates a ‘third’ gender), a teratological analysis maps non-linearity, moving outwards, establishing connections and locating in-between spaces. This for Deleuze and Guattari (1987) is the productive cartography of the rhizome, which enables vicissitudes and molecularities of sex/gender embodiment and expression to break free from dualistic binds and be made manifest for examination. For the rhizome not only positions the monstrous at every threshold of borderland existence but also reprises monstrosity as the futurity of desiring-production. Participants spoke of their lives in terms of events in which sexual desires and experiences were recounted as one part of complex and mobile assemblages of transformative connections. Such transformations betray elements of the


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

monstrous wherein the porosity of boundaries affords the ‘uncertainty of strange encounters’ (Shildrick 2002: 7). Morgan’s (fifties, genderqueer) narrative epitomizes such uncertainty having arrived at a crossroad that contests shifting social figurations of wife, mother and lesbian. Self-describing as genderqueer and feminist, Morgan explained: My transition would be from female to queer not female to male … I’m not comfortable as just a woman, I want to embrace the whole range of my personality, not just that part of it … I want to bring it with me on this journey into being something other than being just male or female.

Morgan exemplifies the monster’s complexion, ‘giving form to the impossible’ and being ‘uncontainable, it exceeds categories’ (Moraña 2018: xii). Aspiration for physical modifications included a double mastectomy and testosterone therapy to deepen vocalizations and redistribute fat and muscle mass. However, the psychological assessment process fails to adequately address the queer interstices of gender. Morgan lamented: ‘Still engaged in a war of attrition with the gender clinic, which is very much stuck in the gender binary, so no T [testosterone] yet.’ Divorced from a long-term marriage, with now adult children, Morgan’s journey traversed through and beyond the majoritarian strata of fundamentalist Christianity, where gender norms, value systems and agency were tightly policed by regimes of patriarchal power. Morgan’s entry into and exit out of such social conservatism revealed a Deleuzian pathway of lodging in the strata in order to understand its invidious stranglehold on the body before establishing a line of flight. To fully appreciate the ‘body of the girl’ that was ‘stolen’ from her (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 276) required Morgan to understand and repeal the corporeal binds of heterosexual, married, molar woman: When I was a kid, gender was completely irrelevant to me … I was very happy to get my period, grow breasts and become interested in boys … but I didn’t do femininity in a conventional way … But then I got involved in [fundamentalist] Christianity, and gender did make a difference … [it] which was very misogynistic.

Departing from the molar scripts of servile wife, mother and missionary ensued from an assemblage of life changes as Morgan discovered and revelled in feminist studies and queer-feminist activism and advocacy. The affects of this were considerable, leading to the simultaneous demise of her marriage, withdrawal from the church and exploration of sexual relations with women.

Trans* Teratologies


While adopting a ‘lesbian lifestyle’, Morgan has had occasional ‘friendshipsex’ with ‘male-bodied’ persons and does not rule out future recurrences of such intimacies. However, rejecting conventional categories in favour of an ‘emergent’ gender identity and redefining her prior ‘lesbian’ identity as ‘generally attracted to female-bodied persons’, Morgan explained, is complex because fluidity is largely not understood in the public domain or LGBTQI communities: It somewhat problematizes the concepts of ‘same-sex’, ‘opposite-sex’ and ‘bothsex’ attracted. It’s like speaking two languages – you have to translate across the two cultural worlds.

Further complicating the bounds of categorical excess, which escape dominant significations of relationships, is Morgan’s attraction to a person who defines herself as ‘trans-sensual’ (attracted to trans people). Such disruption and reorganization upholds the embodiment of ‘abnormality’ as a productive body of power through the articulation of intervention and transformation (Foucault 2003: 50). This is a recurring motif in narratives that traverse the border regions between male and female, man and woman. While some participants have undertaken physical modifications via surgery and/or hormone therapy, others have not. Variously encompassing a range of identifications – including transgender, genderqueer, bi-gendered or simply men and women – the lived realities betray the difficulty in drawing lines or correlations between gender labels and sexed bodies. Hence, stories like Morgan’s and Dana’s offer a teratological interdiction to conventional assumptions about sexuality. Though neither identify as bisexual, the fluid terrain of their sexual biographies exceeds the limits of monosexuality and the attendant signified subject. The monstrous habitus of the border region evokes a mixed category system, a non-binary polymorphism, which, as Cohen (1996: 7) argues, calls attention to that which must not be crossed – monstrous evocations of the forbidden, transgressive and perversely erotic.

Autopoiesis: Inventions of self Teratologies of sex, gender and sexual border regions continue more dramatically in the participant interviews of Jordan (forties, genderqueer) and Charlie (thirties, genderqueer) whose borderline figurations of masculine/feminine embodiment expose a creative queer underside that is not predicated by an


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

alteration from one gender to another but resides somewhere in-between. Their endeavours reveal an autopoietic project of self-invention that generates ethicoaesthetic becomings of body (Ng and Watson 2013). Here, the queer body is a desiring affect that innovates beyond any gesture towards unification of the self. Expressions of femininity and masculinity are not universal correlates of sexed corporealities but are connective thresholds – radical alterities that redraw the abnormal monstrous ‘other’ as a creativeness of self-production. Autopoiesis offers people diverse possibilities for recomposing their existential corporeality, to get out of their repetitive impasses, and in a certain way, resingularise themselves … a creation, which itself indicates an aesthetic paradigm. One creates new modalities of subjectivity in the same way that an artist creates new forms from a palette. (Guattari 1995: 7)

The idea of self-invention that autopoiesis evinces is integral to Deleuze and Guattari’s oeuvre, particularly their concept of becomings (Buchanan 1997). Jordan and Charlie’s genderqueer stories reveal autopoietic subjectivities rather than attempts to authentically replicate ‘being’ woman. Born ‘male’, both feel a strong internal sense of being female or feminine but have not transitioned to ‘female’. Their stories convey the difficulties in navigating how to express their respective feminine sensibilities and consider their genders to be somewhere between man and woman. Over time, they have cultivated multiple teratological border regions of living that accord with the aesthetic need for inventive embodiment and sexual experimentation. Although each has been or is currently married, their borderline narratives do not attach to dominant polarities of sex/gender and sexuality but nomadically weave in-between. Their stories underscore such interstitial movement; it is a richly layered rhizome that offshoots in numerous schizoid directions, disassembling unified subjectivities. Entangled flows of multi-gender attractions and ‘female/feminine’ feelings inhabit their ‘male’ bodies. Both of Anglo-European-South Asian heritage, their lives navigate within and between hybrid manifestations of culture, gender and sexuality. Jordan’s narrative conveyed a persistent swinging to and from majoritarian social forces that seek to contain him as a heteronormative ‘male’ – his inner female sensibility an ever-present struggle. He commented that: ‘Although I live as a guy and look like a guy, I’ve always felt female as long as I can remember. If I’m filling out a form, I go oh, shit, I’m not really on that form, but I end up ticking male.’ The constraints of a morally conservative English

Trans* Teratologies


county family life coupled with his Sri Lankan Christian upbringing juxtaposed Jordan’s entrée and escape into London’s 1980s music scene, wherein gender and sexual ambiguity was celebrated rather than impugned (Watson 2014). Oscillating between the two realms – the majoritarian (normative, domestic, repression of desire) and minoritarian (non-normative, exotic, liberation of desire) – was both problematic and enabling for Jordan’s nascent bisexuality and transgressive gender: My sexuality probably was confusing and problematic because of my upbringing and being a quite straight environment … A lot of that was to do with not understanding, and the feeling that I couldn’t express myself. So I came at it in a negative way and generally struggling with the whole idea that you had to be straight or gay … In my teens, playing around in the band scene in London, luckily, it was very trendy to be bisexual … It allowed me to express myself a bit more – like wearing make-up and going out in a frock; it was liberating.

Jordan is married with a child living in a conservative Australian regional township, which curtails the full range of his sexual/gendered expressions in public. Although one-night stands with men afford some sexual outlet, he ostensibly appears as a straight man in a heterosexual relationship, suggesting Jordan has capitulated to heteronormativity. But as full-time carer of his child, it allows border region possibilities to be entertained: ‘I love being a “MummyDaddy”, which is what I’m called by my son.’ Moreover, Jordan’s sense of being psychologically ‘female’ dismantles any molar sedimentation of ‘gayness’ in his permitted encounters with men or ‘straightness’ that may be imputed to his marital status. Rather than imitating a molar stereotype of feminine gender, Jordan’s reimagined corpora in the sexual act instantiates a monstrous-becoming of psychological castration – an autopoiesis of disassembling, remaking and resignifying ‘woman’ as Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) ‘becoming-woman’: I am essentially a female having a sexual interaction be it with male or female … I honestly find my male ‘bits’ somewhat annoying or disappointing … Ejaculation through genital stimulation is not important in terms of orgasm … it’s a ‘head thing’ … My relationship with my now long-term partner does certainly feel like a same-sex relationship, or a spiritual relationship free from the bonds of gender appropriation.

A father and twice-married, Charlie is similarly partnered in an apparent ‘heterosexual’ relationship that sits alongside his desiring-borderlines of both


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

sexuality and gender. He struggled to articulate any tangible sense of gender, seeing it as an ongoing process of queer aesthetic embodiment: I’m not completely presenting as a woman because I never shave myself, so my goatee is always there … Cross-dressing is not about that or being a drag queen – it’s feeling comfortable with whom Charlie is … which for me is the blurring of the lines.

Charlie’s gendered persona resonates with Cremin’s (2017: 8–10) criss-cross dressing of ‘man-made woman’. Here Cremin engages in ‘code scrambling’ to enact a fluid aesthetic that fluctuates between masculinity and femininity, disturbing gendered conventions and creating a haunting, uncanny affect. Bearing witness to Freud’s (1919) notion of the uncanny, in which the familiar betrays elements of the unfamiliar, invoking fear and discomfort, so too, Charlie’s relationships disturb the domestic context. Not all his relationships with women have been conventionally ‘straight’. Charlie’s second marriage to a lesbian-identifying woman invites a teratological reading through queering heteronormative gender assumptions that invest a male-female partnership: Even though she has strong physical attractions to women, ultimately she would like to have a child with a man … she knows it’s not going to be someone who’s a ‘straight’ heterosexual male; it’s going to have to be a man who’s a bit queer, which is why when we ended up together.

These stories deterritorialize any play to a coherent subjectivity of transgender, which is increasingly predicated by procedures that necessitate medical, subcultural and financial resource (Crawford 2008). Consonant with my argument that sex/gender-diverse realities are schizoanalytic practices, Crawford (2008: 132–3) contends that a Deleuzian account opens up trans* significations to a greater diversity of sex/gender embodiment or expression through ‘refiguring the relationship between affect and signification’. As evidenced, such openings expose alternative avenues of becoming-bodies, becoming-sexual that critically and schizoanalytically canvas and challenge the operation of ‘lack’ in sexual relationships. Several sex/gender-diverse participants or their partners are nonoperative; their genitalia does not ‘match’ the medically circumscribed body of male or female. Rather than positioning this within the Oedipal territory of castration, Charlie and others’ accounts in my study thus subvert and disturb the negative field within which the psychoanalytic concept of lack operates (female lacks phallus and is disempowered).

Trans* Teratologies


Conclusion As apprehended in this chapter, schizoanalysis focuses on the productive flows emanating from ruptures, division and disaggregation that spawn the BwO, thus shaking the sanctified bedrock of the ‘whole’ subject, its organism and organization. A schizoid method thus ‘undoes’ or disassembles the prevailing notion of a unified, structured and organized self and privileges a constructive cartography of rhizomatic connections that creates ‘monstrous cross-breeds’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 157, 159) – a body that decries conformity. The ‘deviant’ body is animated by mutant trajectories of desiring-production that escape and rail against the ‘great binary aggregates of two sexes – creating a multiplicity of molecular combinations’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 213). As witnessed in the autopoietic stories of Dana, Morgan, Charlie and Jordan, the sex/gender-diverse body materializes through an array of corporeal inventions of the BwO. These narratives underscore the epistemic potentialities posed by the metamorphosing affects of monstrous bi/trans/queer/intersex hybridbecomings – corporeal assemblages that disassemble and rearrange the building blocks of binary sex, gender and sexuality. If the monster is a queer category, as Halberstam (1995) intimates, it is an intensively Deleuzian body in its capacity to capture the imaginative possibilities that slide between dominant regimes of categorical thinking. Because Deleuze recomposes and shifts the ground of sexed and gendered subjectivities (Braidotti 2002), the teratological landscape is one that releases sexually desiring bodies from their ‘natural’ organization of the human species into discrete male/ female signifying regimes. The elusive corporeality that resides here accordingly underlines the thorny problem of how to conceptualize the ‘body’ and hence the value of employing a Deleuzian analysis. What becomes clear is the need to address a theoretical lacuna present in the ‘messiness of bodies’ and how ‘sexual desire and erotic charges change, wane, and are piqued by variation, newness in response to repetition or sameness’ (Hall 2003: 101–4). Conceptual inventiveness is the tool of trade for Deleuze and Guattari. Indeed, Deleuze colourfully describes his approach to Western canons of philosophy as ‘a sort of buggery’ in which he envisaged ‘taking an author from behind and giving him a child that would be his own offspring, yet monstrous’ (Deleuze 1995: 6). It is the grotesque progeny propagated from Deleuze’s philosophical perversion that paves the way for a teratological provocation to the grand dualisms of sexual difference – one that flows through figurations of ‘strange, fluid, unusual terms’ (Deleuze 1995: 11).


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

As demonstrated in this discussion, a Deleuzian body in its ‘microscopic transsexuality’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 295) anticipates its empirical becoming through unleashing the philosophical monster to disrupt dominant paradigms and assumed coherence of, and linearity between, the master categories of sex, gender and sexuality. While confronting and challenging, Deleuze and Guattari invite us to re-evaluate our assumptions of difference. My participants’ narratives of sex/gender diversity summon such a re-evaluation of difference in the ways in which coherent categories, subjects and identities are befuddled and recreated – as autopoietic inventions of self. Indeterminacy grapples with notions of monstrous deviance and otherness that social structures of difference and power construct, yet it synchronously refigures and portends productive spaces of not only corporeality but also sociality and epistemology. Through Deleuzian thinking, teratologies are not aberrations but affects that question, dismantle and rearrange the very terms that are encountered – male/female, man/woman, masculine/feminine, heterosexual/homosexual – and allow and legitimate the trans* and intersex ontologies to emerge from the interstices. In Braidotti’s (2000: 172) words: ‘We need to learn to think of the anomalous, the monstrously different not as a sign of pejoration but as the unfolding of virtual possibilities that point to positive alternatives for us all.’

Notes 1 Sex and gender are problematic terms, often used interchangeably both in academic and lay discussion. While I use sex to refer to male/female physicality and gender to denote the social categories and/or internal sense of being man/woman, masculine/ feminine, this distinction is not one of biological ‘natural’ fact versus social construct. Where appropriate, ‘sex/gender’ indicates the inability to disarticulate the two concepts as discrete ‘categories’. Further, ‘trans*’ denotes the multiple modalities in which sex/gender transitions, transformations and transgressions from that which were assigned at birth become manifest (be these physical, psychological, behavioural and/or aesthetic). I also accord importance to intersex, for the ambiguities and anomalies of biological sex characteristics inherent here deeply trouble the binary models that hold sway in both mainstream and scientific thinking. Intersex, often misconceived and overlooked, is subject to a plethora of definitions located across international, national, medical and advocacy guidelines (see Intersex Human Rights Australia (IRHA) 2019). It is an umbrella term that encapsulates all those who are physically diverse in terms of what we think of as biological sex characteristics – such as hormones, chromosomes, gonads and external anatomy.

Trans* Teratologies


Following the IRHA (2019), rather than considering intersex conditions as a deficit model, I adopt their simple working definition: ‘Intersex people are born with physical sex characteristics that don’t fit medical and social norms for female or male bodies.’ Importantly, intersex is neither synonymous with transgender nor does it indicate sexuality. Hence, I use ‘sex/gender-diverse’ to capture the array of trans* and intersex ontologies. 2 The sample, aged between ages nineteen and sixty-seven years, comprised fifteen cisgender men and fifteen cisgender women (who have never questioned their designated sex at birth and subsequent sense of gender) and seventeen sex/genderdiverse persons (for whom conventional notions of the sex/gender binary have in some respect been disrupted either through disavowal, transition, gender play or biological anomaly). The study adopted a qualitative methodology in order to reveal multidimensions of sexual and gendered lives, given these aspects are not easily measured or quantified (Dowsett 2007). Individual semi-structured, in-depth interviews (face to face or phone, typically one hour) provided the means for data collection. This method is well-suited to the aims of exploring minority populations – eliciting rich information, probing for a deeper understanding of participants’ lives and accessing subjugated voices (Liamputtong 2007). Full explication of the methodology is available online (see Chapter 4) at https://dro.dea​​435/wat​son-revi​sion​ing-2012A.pdf.

References Baumgartner, H. L., and R. Davis (eds) (2008), Hosting the Monster, New York: Rodopi. Braidotti, R. (1991), Patterns of Dissonance, New York: Routledge. Braidotti, R. (1994), Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory, New York: Columbia University Press. Braidotti, R. (1996), ‘Signs of Wonder and Traces of Doubt: On Teratology and Embodied Differences’, in N. Lykke and R. Braidotti (eds), Between Monsters, Goddesses and Cyborgs: Feminist Confrontations with Science, Medicine and Cyberspace, 135–52, London: Zed Books. Braidotti, R. (2000), ‘Teratologies’, in I. Buchanan and C. Colebrook (eds), Deleuze and Feminist Theory, 156–72, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Braidotti, R. (2002), Metamorphoses: Towards a Materialist Theory of Becoming, Cambridge: Polity Press. Buchanan, I. (1997), ‘The Problem of the Body in Deleuze and Guattari, or, What Can a Body Do?’, Body Society, 3 (3): 73–91. Buchanan, I. (2020), Assemblage Theory and Method, London: Bloomsbury. Canguilhelm, G. (1962), ‘Monstrosity and the Monstrous’, Diogenes, 10 (40): 27–42.


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Cohen, J. J. (1996), ‘Monster Culture (Seven Theses)’, in J. J. Cohen (ed.), Monster Theory: Reading Culture, 3–20, Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press. Coleman, E., W. Bockting and L. Gooren (1993), ‘Homosexual and Bisexual Identity in Sex-Reassigned Female-to-Male Transsexuals’, Archives of Sexual Behavior, 22 (1): 37–50. Connell, R. W. (2012), ‘Transsexual Women and Feminist Thought: Toward New Understanding and New Politics’, Signs, 37 (4): 857–81. Cornwall, S. (2009), ‘Theologies of Resistance: Intersex/DSD, Disability and Queering the “Real World” ’, in M. M. Holmes (ed.), Critical Intersex, 215–43, Farnham: Ashgate. Couch, M., M. Pitts, H. Mulcare, S. Croy, A. Mitchell and S. Patel (2007), TranZnation: A Report on the Health and Wellbeing of Transgender People in Australia and New Zealand, no. 65, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne. Crawford, L. C. (2008), ‘Transgender without Organs? Mobilizing a Geo-Affective Theory of Gender Modification’, Women’s Studies Quarterly, 36 (3–4): 127–43. Creed, B. (1993), The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis, London: Routledge. Cremin, C. (2017), Man-Made Woman: The Dialectics of Cross-Dressing, London: Pluto Press. Cromwell, J. (1999), Transmen and FTMs: Identities, Bodies, Genders, and Sexualities, Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Deleuze, G. (1994), Difference and Repetition, New York: Columbia University Press. Deleuze, G. (1995), Negotiations: 1972–1990, New York: Columbia University Press. Deleuze, G., and C. Parnet (1996), Gilles Deleuze ABC Primer with Claire Parnet, PierreAndre Boutang (dir.), Arte Channel, France. Deleuze, G., and C. Parnet (2006), Dialogues II, London: Continuum. Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (1983), Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (1987), A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (1994), What Is philosophy?, New York: Columbia University Press. Delimata, N. (2019), Articulating Intersex: A Crisis at the Intersection of Scientific Facts and Social Ideals, Basel: Springer Nature Switzerland AG. Denny, D., and J. Green (1996), ‘Gender Identity and Bisexuality’, in B. A. Firestein (ed.), Bisexuality: The Psychology and Politics of an Invisible Minority, 84–102, London: Sage. Devor, A. H. (2016), FTM: Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society, Bloomington: Indiana Press. Devor, H. (1993), ‘Sexual Orientation Identities, Attractions, and Practices of Femaleto-Male Transsexuals’, Journal of Sex Research, 30 (4): 303–15.

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Devor, H. (1997), ‘More Than Manly Woman: How Female-to-Male Transsexuals Reject Lesbian Identities’, in B. Bullough, V. Bullough and J. Elias (eds), Gender blending, 87–102, Amherst, MA: Prometheus. Doorduin, T., and W. van Berlo (2014), ‘Trans People’s Experience of Sexuality in the Netherlands: A Pilot Study’, Journal of Homosexuality, 61 (5): 654–72. Douglas, M. (2002), Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo, New York: Routledge. Dowsett, G. W. (2007), ‘Researching Gay Men’s Health: The Promise of Qualitative Methodology’, in I. H. Meyer and M. E. Northbridge (eds), The Health of Sexual Minorities: Public Health Perspectives on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Populations, 419–41, New York: Springer. Dreger, A. D. (1998), Hermaphrodites and the Medical Intervention of Sex, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Ekins, R., and D. King (2006), The Transgender Phenomenon, London: Sage. Fausto-Sterling, A. (2000), Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality, New York: Basic Books. Foucault, M. (2003), Abnormal: Lectures at the College de France 1974–1975, New York: Picador. Freud, S. (1919), ‘The Uncanny’, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XVII (1917–1919): An Infantile Neurosis and Other Works, 217–56, London: Hogarth Press. Galupo, M. P., S. B. Henise and N. L. Mercer (2016), ‘“The Labels Don’t Work Very Well”: Transgender Individuals’ Conceptualizations of Sexual Orientation and Sexual Identity’, International Journal of Transgenderism 17 (2): 93–104. Garber, M. (1993), Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing & Cultural Anxiety, London: Penguin. Gressgård, R. (2010), ‘When Trans Translates to Toleranc – or Was It Monstrous? Transsexual and Transgender Identity in Liberal Humanist Discourse’, Sexualities, 13 (5): 539–61. Guattari, F. (1995), Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm, Sydney: Power Publications. Guattari, F. (1996), The Guattari Reader, Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. Guattari, F. (2009), Chaosophy: Text and Interviews 1972–1977, Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e). Halberstam, J. (1995), Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Halberstam, J. (2018), Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability, Oakland: University of California Press. Hall, D. (2003), Queer Theories, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Haraway, D. J. (1991), Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, London: Free Association.


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Heyes, C. (2013), ‘Feminist Solidarity after Queer Theory’, in S. Stryker and A. Z. Aizura (eds), The Transgender Studies Reader 2, 201–12, New York: Routledge. Hines, S. (2007), TransForming Gender: Transgender Practices of Identity, Intimacy and Care, Bristol: Policy Press. Hines, S. (2010), ‘Sexing Gender; Gendering Sex: Towards an Intersectional Analysis of Transgender’, in Y. Taylor, S. Hines, and M. Casey (eds), Theorizing Intersextionality and Sexuality, 140–62, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Holmes, M. M. (2009), ‘Introduction: Straddling Past, Present and Future’, in M. M. Holmes (ed.), Critical intersex, 1–12, Farnham: Ashgate. IHRA (2019), What Is intersex?, Intersex Human Rights Australia, au/18106/what-is-inter​sex/ (retrieved 2 November 2019). Johnson, K. (2012), ‘Transgender, Transsexualism, and the Queering of Gender Identities: Debates for Feminist Research’, in S. N. Hesse-Biber (ed.), Handbook of Feminist Research Theory and Praxis, 606–26, Los Angeles, CA: Sage. Kessler, S. J. (1990), ‘The Medical Construction of Gender: Case Management of Intersexed Infants’, Signs, 16 (1): 3–26. Kristeva, J. (1982), Powers of Horror: An Essay in Abjection, New York: Columbia University Press. Latham, J. R. (2019), ‘Axiomatic: Constituting “Transexuality” and Trans Sexualities in Medicine’, Sexualities, 22 (1–2): 13–30. Lawrence, A. A. (2005), ‘Sexuality before and after Male-to-Female Sex Reassignment Surgery’, Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34 (2): 147–66. Lawrence, A. A. (2013), Men Trapped in Men’s Bodies: Narratives of Autogynephilic Transsexualism, New York: Springer. Liamputtong, P. (2007), Researching the Vulnerable: A Guide to Sensitive Research Methods, London: Sage. MacCormack, P. (2012), ‘The Queer Ethics of Monstrosity’, in C. J. S. Picart and J. E. Browning (eds), Speaking of monsters, 255–65, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Macgregor Wise, J. (2005), ‘Assemblage’, in C. Stivale (ed.), Gilles Deleuze: Key Concepts, 77–87, Chesham: Acumen. Moraña, M. (2018), The Monster as War Machine, Amherst: Cambria Press. Nagoshi, J. L., C. T. Nagoshi and S. Brzuzy (2014), Gender and Sexual Identity: Transcending Feminist and Queer Theory, New York: Springer. Namaste, V. K. (2000), Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Namaste, V. K. (2009), ‘Undoing Theory: The “Transgender Question” and the Epistemic Violence of Anglo-American Feminist Theory’, Hypatia, 24: 11–32. Ng, E., and J. Watson (2013), ‘A Foucauldian and Deleuzian Reading of Autopoietic Bisexual Lives’, Writing from Below, 1 (2): 73–89. Nordmarken, S. (2014), ‘Becoming Ever More Monstrous: Feeling Transgender In-Betweenness’, Qualitative Inquiry, 20 (1): 37–50.

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OED (2020), ‘Teratology’, Oxford English Dictionary, https://www-oed-com.ezpr​oxy-f. dea​​333?red​irec​tedF​rom=ter​atol​ogy& (retrieved 31 October 2020). O’Rourke, M., and N. Giffney (2009), ‘Preface’, in M. M. Holmes (ed.), Critical Intersex, ix–xii, Farnham: Ashgate. Pearce, R., K. Gupta and I. Moon (2020), ‘Introduction: The Many-Voiced Monster: Collective Determination and the Emergence of Trans’, in R. Pearce, I. Moon, K. Gupta and D. L. Steinberg (eds), The Emergence of Trans: Culture, Politics and Everyday Lives, 1–12, London: Routledge. Pfeffer, C. A. (2014), ‘Making Space for Trans Sexualities’, Journal of Homosexuality, 61 (5): 597–604. Picart, C. J. S., and J. E. Browning (eds) (2012), Speaking of Monsters, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Preves, S. E. (2011), ‘Intersex Variations of Sex Development’, in S. Seidman, N. Fischer and C. Meeks (eds), Introducing the New Sexuality Studies, 2nd edn, 127–33, Hoboken: Routledge. Roen, K. (2008), ‘“But We Have to Do Something”: Surgical “Correction” of Atypical Genitalia’, Body & Society, 14 (1): 47–66. Rosario, V. A. (1996), ‘Trans (Homo) Sexuality? Double Inversion, Psychiatric Confusion, and Hetero-Hegemony’, in B. Beemyn and M. Eliason (eds), Queer Studies: A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Anthology, 35–51, New York: New York University Press. Rubin, D. (2017), Intersex Matters: Biomedical Embodiment, Gender Regulation, and Transnational Activism, Albany: State University of New York Press. Schilt, K., and E. Windsor (2014), ‘The Sexual Habitus of Transgender Men: Negotiating Sexuality through Gender’, Journal of Homosexuality, 61 (5): 732–48. Schleifer, D. (2006), ‘Make Me Feel Mighty Real: Gay Female-to-Male Transgenderists Negotiating Sex, Gender, and Sexuality’, Sexualities, 9: 57–75. Shildrick, M. (2002), Embodying the Monster: Encounters with the Vulnerable Self, London: Sage. shuster, s. m., and E. Lamont (2020), ‘Sticks and Stones Break Our Bones, and Words Are Damaging: How Language Erases Non-binary People’, in R. Pearce, I. Moon, K. Gupta and D. L. Steinberg (eds), The Emergence of Trans: Culture, Politics and Everyday Lives, 103–15, London: Routledge. Stone, S. ([1991] 2006), ‘The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto’, in S. Stryker and S. Whittle (eds), The Transgender Studies Reader, 221–35, New York: Routledge. Stryker, S. ([1991] 2006), ‘My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage’, in S. Stryker and S. Whittle (eds), The Transgender Studies Reader, 244–56, New York: Routledge. Valerio, M. W. (1998), ‘The Joker Is Wild: Changing Sex + Other Crime of Passion’, Anything That Moves, no. 17, http://web.arch​​2060​


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5041​929/www.anythi​ngth​atmo​​ers-wild.html (retrieved 10 October 2008). Watson, J. B. (2012), ‘Re-Visioning Bisexuality: Rhizomatic Cartographies of Sex, Gender and Sexuality’, PhD thesis, Deakin University, Melbourne. Watson, J. B. (2014), ‘Bisexuality and Family: Narratives of Silence, Solace, and Strength’, Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 10 (1–2): 101–23. Weber, M. (1949), The Methodology of the Social Sciences, New York: Free Press. Weiss, A. S. (2004), ‘Ten Theses on Monsters and Monstrosity’, Drama Review, 48 (1): 124–5.


Dysphoric assemblage: How the gender binary was never supposed to work Mat Fournier

Upon discovering one of his neighbour’s homosexuality, the teenage narrator of Marcel Proust’s In Search for Lost Time exclaims: ‘I now understood … how … I had managed to arrive at the conclusion that M. de Charlus looked like a woman: he was one!’ (1927: 13) Thus begins Proust’s depiction of gay men as ‘men-women’, who reveal their feminine nature through their quest for male partners, but also, more importantly, because they ‘look like women’. Often read, wrongly, as the first discussion of male homosexuality in French literature, Proust’s work has been in turn praised for being ahead of its time or deprecated for its inner homophobia. Little has been said, however, about its description of gender. How can Charlus look like a woman, let alone be one, while he also looks like a man and is assumed to be one throughout most of the novel? What if In Search of Lost Time was indeed a defining moment in the description not of sexuality but of gender? The modernist era witnessed the emergence of gender, as we understand it now, as distinct from biological sex. In describing Charlus as a woman, even though he obviously wasn’t one, Proust’s narrator was asserting a new reality. If Charlus could be a woman, not hidden, but thriving, inside of a man’s body, then the very definitions of masculinity and femininity were at stake. What is made apparent through the body and the posture of Baron Charlus is no less than the modern gender binary and the reason why it doesn’t work. In taking a detour via French modernist fiction, this chapter aims to address a central question in current discussions of gender: is gender real, or is it a social construct? Though admittedly summed up here in oversimplifying terms, this question divides scholars in many disciplines, from sciences to the humanities; it also divides feminist, queer and trans activists; and it is also manifest in the


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public sphere, through discussions about gender equality and transgender rights, to name only a few. The question of the ‘realness’ of gender, paradoxically enough, also opposes transgender studies to queer theory scholars. While queer studies have developed a body of knowledge exposing the gender binary as a hierarchical structure embedded in power relationships, some scholars in the more recent field of trans studies have taken an opposite position. Claiming that queer studies, in their eagerness to advocate against heteronormativity, have overlooked the experience of transgender individuals, these scholars call for a ‘materialist’ approach of gender which would fully take into account transgender lives and bodies. In this chapter, I privilege a trans approach of queer research. While relying on the critical findings and methods of queer studies, I shift the focus of my analyses from sexuality to gender. In order to bridge the gap between queer and trans views on gender, I describe gender as an assemblage. Drawing from the common work of Deleuze and Guattari, the concept of assemblage describes the networks in which our lives are embedded. Stable, yet contingent, the assemblage encompasses the vastly heterogeneous elements which make possible the physical, material, social, intellectual, spiritual … existence of given group. An assemblage is what allows for consistency and permanence while being also able to evolve and to incorporate new elements. In the case of gender, the assemblage is made of elements as diverse as bodies, language, science, laws, sexuality, social infrastructures and so on. The concept of assemblage enables us to think about organic and inorganic elements without dissociating them; more importantly, it renders visible the articulations between these elements. To oversimplify again, the concept of assemblage reveals how ‘real’ and ‘constructed’ things are embedded. For this very reason, the gender assemblage is characterized by its dysphoria. Dysphoria, or gender dysphoria, a medical term, originally describes the feeling of deep incongruence attributed to transgender individuals. Reclaiming this term, I argue that dysphoria is not the fate of a few but is imposed on the many by the very definition of gender. The encounter between the organic and the inorganic is always messy, thick with complications and mishaps. Connecting bodies and desires to social enunciations, spoken and unspoken norms, isn’t a seamless process. The gender assemblage, as any other assemblage, simultaneously works and doesn’t work. Shaped by its rigid division between two genders, it bears the seeds of its own disruption. In order to uncover this process, this chapter follows the formation of the gender assemblage, looking into scientific and political discourses of the

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modernist era as well as their literary explorations. I particularly look into early models to describe male homosexuality, since they interpret, as Proust does, sexual deviance through gender disruption. Based on the science of their time, these models look for explanations into the gender binary as described by evolutionary theory. Literary creations in turn experiment with these theories, which they put into action in the politically tense context of their time. I examine specifically two moments in French modernist literature which have played a key role for queer theory: the aforementioned encounter of Proust narrator with manifestations of male homosexuality and the opening sequence of André Gide’s novella The Immoralist. This preface, written by a fictional friend of the immoralist character whose life the reader is about to discover, asks a question which became fundamental for queer theory decades later: ‘Can a homosexual be a good citizen?’ These two texts have often been described as key moments in queer history. Considered as starting points in the modern understanding of homosexuality, they have been widely discussed by contemporary queer theory. Gide’s question has been analysed and asked by Bersani in Homos; the discovery by Proust’s narrator of Charlus’s true nature forms the basis of Sedgwick’s reflections in the Epistemology of the Closet. In turn, Sedgwick and Bersani have generated discussions constitutive of the body of knowledge produced by queer theory. In giving a new reading of Proust’s and Gide’s seminal texts, I intend to pursue this discussion in shifting its emphasis from sexuality towards gender.

The matter of an assemblage In his 2018 article ‘Getting Disciplined’, transgender studies scholar Cael Keegan exposes the tensions between the academic fields of queer theory and trans studies. Keegan argues that ‘in response to queer studies investment in deconstructing the gender binary … trans* studies must turn inside out, articulating a constative but that asserts but gender is real like this’1 (2018: 4). According to him, queer theory’s involvement against heteronormativity prevents the field to give an account of gender embodiment. Considering gender as an ideological formation, Keegan argues, denies the ‘reality’ of trans bodies and feelings. Similarly, in her 2017 book The New Woman, Emma Heaney claims that queer theory, by privileging the analysis of sexuality over gender, has consistently erased trans, and particularly transfeminine, lives and experiences. Tracing back the origin of queer theory to French philosophy, and particularly


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the works of Foucault, Heaney unveils a consistent history of transmisogyny in which transwomen’s existence has been being used as an allegory to deconstruct the gender binary (2017: 203). While I find Heaney’s analysis of transmisogyny strikingly convincing, I do not believe that queer theory’s description of gender should be dismissed by trans scholars. In suggesting to use the Deleuzo-Guattarian notion of assemblage to describe it, my aim is to provide a conceptual tool to understand the gender binary in ways that include trans lives while taking into account gender’s social, historical and biopolitical dimension. In so doing, I intend to build on the queer heritage of trans studies and to assert the kinship between these two fields. Heaney advocates for a ‘materialist trans feminism’ able to ‘produce account of women’s embodiment that do not assume cis experience’ (2017: 255). The concept of assemblage is a materialist one, both in the philosophical and in the most common definition of the word: an assemblage is unthinkable in an idealist philosophical system, and it deals with matter.2 Accounts of embodiment are possible while taking into consideration the contextual forces in which they are materialized. Looking into the emergence of the gender binary in relationship to structures of power doesn’t involve that our experience of gender isn’t as ‘real’ as it gets, no more than the Buddhist belief in Maya denies the acuteness of physical and mental distress. There wouldn’t be any assemblages without bodies, and we wouldn’t be able to talk about ‘bodies’ if we weren’t operating inside of an assemblage. Outside of an assemblage, we wouldn’t be able to talk at all, for that matter. Based on Deleuze and Guattari’s common work, I use the term ‘assemblage’ to describe the stable yet contingent networks in which lives (human, but not only) are embedded. An assemblage, though made of heterogeneous elements, such as language, bodies, territories, laws or technologies, is what allows for consistency not only in our ideological but also material world.3 The concept of assemblage apprehends social groups as organisms, cohesive and stable, yet susceptible to change. In this framework, binary oppositions such as nature versus culture, or artificial versus real, have no validity: technologies and bodies come together in an organic way. In this regard, my use of the concept is similar to the one Jasbir Puar makes of it in Terrorist Assemblage. Describing how heterogeneous elements work together to ‘concatenate’ into stable formations, Puar gives the example of the turban worn by Sikh men and the racist, misogynist and homophobic reactions it triggers. And here we are pressed to rethink race, sexuality and gender as concatenations, unstable assemblages of revolving and devolving energies, rather than

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intersectional coordinates. The fusion of hair, oil, dirt, sweat, cloth, skin, the organic melting into the non organic, renders a turban … as an otherwise foreign object acculturated into a body’s intimacies between organic and inorganic matter, blurring the distinctions between them, blurring insides and outsides. (2007: 195)

The word ‘assemblage’ itself is the English translation of the French word agencement, which, as underscored by Ian Buchanan, refers to ‘a process of composition’ rather than ‘one of compilation’ (2017: 458). The organic aspect of the process is key, ‘blurring,’ as Puar writes, any boundaries other than those of the assemblage itself. The turban forms an assemblage of its own, which reveals the ‘concatenation’ of race, gender and sexuality. In describing gender as an assemblage, I do not mean to ignore its kinship with race and sexuality but to suggest a concept allowing us to describe both its organic and inorganic dimensions. In one of the first attempts to define the field of trans studies, Susan Stryker pointed out that the very idea of gender forms the core of any biopolitical analysis. The field of transgender studies is concerned with anything that disrupts, denaturalizes, rearticulates, and makes visible the normative linkages we generally assume to exist between the biological specificity of the sexually differentiated human body, the social roles and the statuses that a particular form of body is expected to occupy, the subjectively experienced relationship between a gendered sense of self and social expectation of gender-role performance, and the cultural mechanisms that work to sustain or thwart specific configurations of gendered personhood. (2006: 3)

Those ‘normative linkages we generally assume’ can be mapped as an assemblage in order to think together their consistency (necessary to preserve a norm) and their contingency. The gender assemblage has a hold on or is constituted of the followings: bodies, real and fictional; abstract notions such as nature and humanity; sciences, human and natural, applied and pure (from psychology and anthropology to anatomy, endocrinology, ethology, embryology, sociology …); medicine and technologies of bodily modifications, from pharmacology to surgery; languages, intensive and extensive systems of coding, including body language, clothing, fashion, accessories and their cohort of surplus values, symbolic and economic: cosmetics, purses, wristwatches, guns, cars, smartphones, cigarettes, alcohol; family, both as a way of life and an ideological token; religion and the law; schooling, education; buildings, public and private spaces and their division and accessibility (bathrooms, bedrooms, classrooms);


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and so on. To paraphrase Deleuze in Foucault: ‘Gender has no essence; it is simply operational.’4 It produces enunciations, flows of desires, sexual practices, laws, modes of kinship, intimacies, consumers goods, fantasies, narratives, systems of representations and pharmacological substances, all of which in turn sustain and maintain its consistency.

The duality machine of citizenship In their description of duality machines as a violent form of control imposed by the state, Deleuze and Guattari argue: ‘The question … is not whether the status of women, or those on the bottom, is better or worse, but the type of organization from which that status results’ (1987: 210). Being white heterosexual men living in the Western world, the question of better or worse is easier for Deleuze and Guattari to dismiss than for some of us. It is nonetheless crucial that we focus on analysing the ‘type of organization’ forcing the discriminative process of gender on us. The gender assemblage is a fairly recent formation. The word ‘gender’ itself, in its contemporary use to designate something akin to, but distinct from, the biological sex of human animals, appeared in the 1950s in the works of John Money (Stryker and Whittle 2006: 53). But what we think about as gender is actually the avatar of sexual difference, a concept it still overlaps with. As I will summarize in what follows, sexual difference can be traced back, politically, to the birth of modern citizenship and, scientifically, to evolutionary theory. Both of these tropes, citizenship and science, played a central part in the shaping of the modern gender assemblage we inherited. In Only Paradoxes to Offer: French Feminists and the Right of Men, Joan Scott exposes the political roots of sexual difference. During the French Revolution, the creation of a representative system necessitated the empowerment of individuals over hereditary casts. But these citizens couldn’t be just anyone. The change of system required ‘an ontological basis for social and political differentiation’ excluding women from the new democratic system and casting them in a distinct social and legal category. ‘In the age of democratic revolutions, Scott writes, “women” came into being as political outsiders through the discourse of sexual difference’ (1996: 3). By the end of the nineteenth century, a series of technological and cognitive mutations contributed to give sexual difference a scientific framework. The most decisive shifts, Kyla Schuller argues in The Biopolitics of Feelings, took place

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‘between the emergence of heredity as biological concept and the inauguration of genetic heredity in the early twentieth century’ (28). Biology and genetics were assimilated into the assemblage of sexual difference, contributing to its stability and its expansion. At the beginning of the twentieth century, biological sexes became more and more detached from the behavioural, psychological and moral traits supposed to be associated with them. Gender emerged as an injunction imposed on children as the requirement into adulthood; imposed on adults too – never fully achieved, never stable enough so that one couldn’t be asked to demonstrate it over and over again through proper behaviour. Femininity and masculinity became prescriptive as much as descriptive attributes, at the same time supposedly innate and needing to be acquired. ‘Sex difference stabilizes civilization’, Schuller writes (2018: 16), underscoring how sexual difference was framed in scientific discourses alongside racial difference. Masculinity and femininity were described as fundamental traits of the civilized. Sexual difference emerged as part of a discriminating process: between sexes, between races, between colonizer and colonized, between civilized and savage, between poor and rich, between worthy and unworthy. Gender is one of the ‘duality machines’ described in A Thousand Plateaus. As means of control – or apparati of control, in Foucauldian terminology – the duality machines guard the modern state’s stability through ‘binary oppositions’ characterized by their ‘rigid segmentarity’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 210). In other words, they mark the strict positioning required to access the status of subject, ensuring that these subjects cannot move outside of their existing structure. Understood in these terms, gender constitutes a rigid duality: the two genders do not just happen to be two by chance, nor could they be three, or five, or seventy. This is why the gender assemblage is intrinsically dysphoric.

Feeling dysphoric The term ‘gender dysphoria’ was first coined, and is still used, as a diagnosis. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the current standard classification of mental disorders used in the United States,5 defines gender dysphoria as ‘a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify’. This definition raises many problematic points, such as what a ‘physical gender’ can be or what it does mean to ‘identify with’ a gender. Also noteworthy is the change between DSM-4 and DSM-5. In the latter, the diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’ has replaced the


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previous ‘gender identity disorder’ (GED) in order to underscore the ‘distress’ associated with it. In using the term ‘dysphoria’, my intent is to reclaim it. Practices of linguistic reclamation in queer communities have been aptly and widely discussed.6 Used by their former victims, stigmatizing terms gain a new meaning. But this meaning is composite, iterative and only operational in certain contexts. Precisely, they mean vastly different things whether they are used to describe oneself or to describe someone else. An empowering tool in the former case, they might remain an insult in the latter. Far from constituting a clean slate, reclaimed words serve as reminders of the tensions that made the reclaiming process necessary. The word ‘dysphoria’ is used in the transgender community to describe a feeling or a state of mind, ranging in intensity from mild to overwhelming. ‘Feeling dysphoric’, like feeling depressed, can be temporary and manageable, or it can be the source of acute pain. ‘This situation makes me feel dysphoric’ can bear a different intensity than in ‘I’ve been dysphoric again’. But in no cases do these statements refer to, or endorse, the gender dysphoria diagnosis. Dysphoria is certainly a lonely feeling, barely distinguishable from a certain type of solitude, but it isn’t independent from social interactions. Feeling dysphoric is at the same time social and personal. It describes an affect related to bodily incongruence, such that, for instance, the fact of choosing one’s clothing for the day becomes an impossible task; or that looking at oneself in the mirror triggers an acute self-hatred. Feeling dysphoric, such as feeling nostalgic, can ultimately happen to anyone. Its relationship to gender is as wide as the notion of gender itself – would anyone be able to assess one’s appearance, clothing, figure, face, body, hygiene, outside of the gender assemblage? If dysphoria describes a sense of a deep inadequacy within the gender assemblage, ‘gender dysphoria’ is a pleonastic expression: the gender assemblage generates dysphoria. Like any other assemblage, it works by channelling enunciations and desires, in this case into heteronormative gender norms. But the process inevitably fails over and over, either because of individuals who don’t align or because of given moments in anyone’s life when the injunction fails to produce its awaited result. Dysphoria, as a concept, allows us to think both the consistency and the limit of the gender assemblage: the binary is how it works, and it is also what prevents it to work. In this regard, dysphoria bears a kinship to Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of body with organs. Not because medical gender transition, with its apparatus of reassignment surgery and hormones, could be equated with ‘making oneself a body without organs’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 149) – quite the opposite. But dysphoria operates in a field of intensity divorced from the stable function

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of organs. Dysphoria’s relationship with the body is made of ever-changing thresholds, where potentials and intensities are taking over: now male, now female; or male and female at the same time; or neither male nor female; or all of it, all the time7. My last argument in favour of a conceptual use of the word dysphoria is based on its etymology. A medical term, dysphoria has been created after its opposite, ‘euphoria’, meaning ‘bearing well’. Interestingly, the prefix ‘dys’ is often understood as indicating division or duality, when in fact it refers to lack or abnormality. Dysphoria suggests both lack and excess: too much ill being or not enough well-being. As I will discuss in the following section, the idea of lack and excess is a central point in the first descriptions of sexual and gender incongruence at the turn of the nineteenth century. Both lack and excess point toward the same interpretation: a misdistribution in the balance of sexual difference in an individual, which is readjusted by the choice of a mating partner – that is, a man suffering of an excess of femininity finds himself attracted to another man. The trope of lack and excess significantly ties gender identity to sexual orientation, both being read as flaws in the gender assemblage.

The embryology of sexual difference At the end of the nineteenth century, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, a Prussian jurist, became famous for advocating for those individuals practicing what he first called ‘manly love’, then ‘Uranism’ and ‘third sex’. Ulrichs’s depiction of male homosexuality is based on gender, that is, on a series of (masculine or feminine) traits and behaviours deemed as natural and stable even though they aren’t necessarily attached to bodily functions or organs. As Heaney states, Ulrichs’s description of the Urning ‘initiates the project of carving out a defining set of desires and characteristics that are “of woman” but present in “male bodies” ’ (2017: 4). Ulrichs’s defence of ‘man-manly’ love relies on the fact that the individual prone to it is in fact partially female. The Urning is not a man, but rather a kind of feminine being when it concerns not only his entire organism, but also his sexual feelings of love, his entire natural temperament, and his talents. (Ulrichs 1994: 36)

This last point forms the root of Ulrichs’s third sex theory. Far from contesting the gender binary, he uses it to naturalize male-to-male attraction: a man who desires another man is actually not male, but female.8 Ulrichs relies on the science of his


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time to assert that ‘a dual sexual germ is latent in each embryo approximately until the twelfth week of its existence, a male one and simultaneously a female one’ (1994: 55). At the end of the nineteenth century, the new science of embryology offers a glimpse into the tropes at the core of the gender assemblage. As Deleuze argues in Difference and Repetition, evolutionary embryology explained the production of sexual difference, making possible to give an account of differentiation in itself. Ulrichs’s contemporary, the biologist August Weissmann, Deleuze notes, was able to ‘show how individual difference finds a natural cause in sexed reproduction’ (1994: 249). In Deleuze’s terms, Weissmann showed that the ‘egg’ precedes differentiation. As such, it will ‘undertake movements which are not viable for the species’ (1994: 249), and its existence obeys different rules. The egg, as opposed to the individual, is not divided, organized and hierarchized: it doesn’t have any organs. ‘In order to plumb the intensive depths or the spatium of an egg, the directions and distances, the dynamisms and dramas, the potentials and potentialities must be multiplied’ (1994: 251). In Ulrichs’s description, the Urning’s ‘egg’ is traversed by intensities that don’t lead to the development of congruent individuals.9 The adult Urning is the product of the abnormal growth of the ‘germ’ which contains the potential for both male and female individuation (Ulrichs uses the German word Keim, ‘nucleus’). Urnings owe their unnatural inclinations for other males to the fact that their ‘seed of latent sexual desire develop into the female, not corresponding to the development of the sexual organs’ (ibid: 56). Differentiation, assimilated here to sexual differentiation, is the required stage between the indeterminacy of the egg and the human individuation. Even if, as Ulrichs argues, the process can fail for natural causes, the lack of proper sexual differentiation is a failure akin to the failure of growing into a fully developed human individual.

Male bonding and sexual selection During the first decades of the twentieth century, while Ulrichs’s theory was popularized by Magnus Hirschfeld, among others, a concurrent model describing male homosexuality was taking shape. In the preface to his essay Corydon, published in 1920 but written before the First World War, French writer André Gide states his disapproval of the third sex theory and its proponents. The theory of woman-man … advanced by Dr. Hirschfeld … which Marcel Proust appears to accept – may well be true enough; but that theory explains

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and concerns only certain cases of homosexuality … – cases of inversion, of effeminacy, of sodomy. … Even granting that Hirschfeld’s theory accounts for these cases, his ‘third sex’ argument certainly cannot explain what we habitually call ‘Greek love’: pederasty – in which effeminacy is neither here nor there. (1983: xx)

‘Inversion’, ‘sodomy’ and ‘effeminacy’: the first term refers to a medical category, the second one to a sexual practice and the third one to gender appearance. Substituting one for the others reveals that, even when Gide argues for a different perspective on homosexuality, his interpretation shares the same root as Ulrichs’s theory. Both of them rely on the evolutionary perception of sexual difference. Gide refers explicitly to Darwin’s description of sexual selection. Since, Gide argues, evolution gave male birds brighter feathers10 and more sophisticated singing abilities, it is only natural that the male individuals of a species favour aesthetic perfection in their quest for mating partners. How, while they are so brightly attired, could they satisfy themselves with their duller nesting counterparts? Imposing a paradoxical twist on sexual difference, Gide’s central argument is that shared attractions between men aren’t the result of an excess of femininity but of masculinity. Yes, the sexual instinct exists … but it is compelling only at certain times, when the two elements come into play. In order to respond infallibly to the female’s momentary proposition, the sexual instinct confronts her with the permanent desire of the male. … The only heterosexual relations (of animals) are for the purpose of fertilization.

And the male is not always satisfied with these. (2015: 69)Whereas in Difference and Repetition Deleuze concludes from his examination of the Darwinian model that sexual reproduction is the condition to individuation, Gide sees in it a provocative side effect: male-to-male attraction.11 Like Ulrichs, Gide doesn’t question sexual difference. The only point on which their arguments diverge is the question of femininity. The latter incorporates it in his definition of male homosexuality, while the former bases his on utter rejection. Gide’s misogynistic description of male homosexuality can also be traced back to Germany, where one of his most infamous proponents was the Austrian philosopher Otto Weininger. In his 1903 essay Geschlecht und Charakter, Weininger argues like Ulrichs that each human individual initially possesses


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male and female characters. But the male type, he claims, is undoubtedly superior. Women, according to Weininger, are ‘completely occupied and content with sexual matters, whilst the male is interested in much else, in war and sport, in social affairs and feasting, in philosophy and science, in business and politics, in religion and science’ (ibid: 89). Weininger’s reasoning, though relying on an opposite argument, reaches the same conclusion as Gide’s: male superiority. Weininger carries the point even further. Since women are ‘possessed’ by their sexual organs (ibid: 92), they are incapable of intellectual thinking, artistic creation, independent action, courage and so on. Weininger’s theory also involves race. According to him, Jewish people are characterized by a ‘servility’ that makes them feel ‘less desire for freedom’ than Aryan males (ibid: 338). The relationship between virile homoeroticism and fascism has been widely explored, and I won’t elaborate on this aspect.12 Weininger’s views were adopted by Nazi thinkers such as Hans Blüher, the founder of the youth movement Wandervogel, who popularized the expression of ‘male bonding’ (Männerbund). But the connection between Nazism and male bonding does not imply that the latter belongs to fascist ideologies – Gide, for one, can hardly be suspected of Nazi sympathies. What I want to acknowledge here is the common origin of the competing models of male bonding and third sex theory: the theory of sexual difference. The first one explains and legitimizes male homosexuality by an excess of masculinity while the other argues for an excess of femininity. Operating in a common framework, both models are, as Heaney states, highly misogynist and trans misogynist (2017: 24–9), which is precisely why they offer a valuable glimpse into the gender assemblage.

The biopolitics of masculinity The Interwar Years, particularly in Europe, are sometimes retroactively perceived as a progressive era announcing the enlightened civilization in which we are now supposed to be living: women’s and gay rights were advocated for, and various sexual and gender identities were visible. But this idea of ‘progress’ is only based, tautologically, on the priorities of our own time. In other words, the European Interwar Years have been the object of pink washing. In order to complicate this narrative, I suggest we use a different type of periodization and refer to the first part of the twentieth century as the European civil war. Extending from the beginning of the First World War to the end of the Second World War, the European civil war is defined as the moment when

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European countries gained their shapes and identities through a renegotiating of their territories. These territories begun to be perceived, fantasmatically and geographically, as the soul and body of the nation. The Great War inaugurated this new era. As historian Enzo Traverso points out, it was a ‘total war’ involving the nation as a whole, which altered the relationship between the citizen and the state (2017: 28). For the first time, war was fought by the masses, not by professional armies. The citizens’ bodies became, metaphorically but also literally, the nation’s body: citizens had to be ready to sacrifice their lives to the motherland. At the end of the First World War, the citizen was defined by his ability and willingness to fight for the nation. As Scott pointed out regarding the French Revolution, this notion of citizenship is heavily gendered. The citizen fighter, as the citizen voter from the first Republic, is understood as a man. The greatest sacrifice a woman can make for the nation is not her life but her sons (Roberts 1994: 31). The new citizen is a soldier, who is not only a man but a man whose masculinity resides in his physical, moral and psychological abilities as a fighter, no matter his socioeconomic background. ‘The First World War took nationalism’s aggressiveness into sharp focus, and made man as warrior the center of its search for a national character’ (Mosse 1996: 110). This search didn’t only happen in fascist states. According to the context and the cause the new man could be a militiaman, a partisan, a patriot … The European civil war needed every citizen, or future citizen of the nation to come, to have the ability and the will to change himself into a hero fighting for his cause. The structure of the sovereign nation-state, with its ideally defined borders, its identity, its ‘soul’, required a redefinition of masculinity, not as an attribute but as a binding ideal. Masculinity became synonymous with strength, courage, virility, energy, will to action and solid nerves, but also with moral uprightness, generosity, beauty, nobility of spirit and idealism. Summarized in the way, the masculine ideal was inevitably opposed … to all symptoms of ‘decadence’: weakness, cowardice, immorality, ugliness, monstrosity. The evil and despicable markers were then focused … on Jewish and homosexual ‘outsiders’. (Traverso 2017: 210)

If the martial ideals of the European civil war brought forward the representation of masculinity shaping the gender assemblage, the proponents of male homosexuality carried to its point of rupture. Gide’s novella The Immoralist opens with a question that has fuelled discussions at the heart of queer theory and LGBTQ studies. ‘How can a man like Michel serve the state?’ (Gide, 1970: 3). Can Michel, the novel’s narrator, be a good citizen? Michel’s confession, which


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forms the bulk of the novel, describes his inability to fulfil his role as a husband, father, landowner, teacher and scholar. In our contemporaries’ perspective, the problem would be easily solved. Michel’s sexual attraction towards boys and men would explain his failure to perform as a husband, but Michel could serve the state well enough, if only the state would recognize same-sex marriage. In Michel’s time, however, his faults couldn’t be that easily distinguished from one another. In Sexing the Citizen, Judith Surkis unfolds the intricate relationships between citizenship, sexual difference and conjugality as they were institutionalized in France at the turn of the century. The Third Republic … bound together gender ideals – proper masculinity and femininity – with a specifically social and moral account of sexuality. … Conjugality, according to this model, was based ideally on neither financial nor social advancement, but on sexual desire. As an expression and extension of this heterosexual desire, marriage consolidated the citizen’s masculinity. (2006: 3)

In a reversing of the manly traits characterizing the citizen-fighter, the incompetent husband loses not only his morality and his virility but also his citizen status. Male homosexuality, as a practice, prevents Michel to be a good citizen, because it prevents him to be a man – even though, according to the thesis exposed in Corydon, it makes him more of a man. Rephrased by Leo Bersani in his 1995 essay Homos, The Immoralist’s question has become an anchor point in discussions of queerness. ‘Should a homosexual be a good citizen?’ Bersani asks referring to Gide (Bersani 1996: 113). Homos answers by the negative. Thanks to his sexual, but most of all sensual, encounters in Northern Africa, Michel ‘has simultaneously become nothing but a bodily ego and has broken down the boundaries of that ego’ (ibid.: 120). Michel’s sexual practice has led him towards the borders of the gender assemblage. In Gide’s Bent (1995), Michael Lucey comments: ‘For Gide and Bersani are … interested in trying to answer the question: “Which comes first, sex or politics?” ’ (1995: 22). Considering the gender assemblage, one can push the argument further: sex and politics are in fact indistinguishable. Masculinity exists as a ‘line of subjectification’: ‘a process, a production of subjectivity in a social apparatus’ (Deleuze 1992: 160–1). Masculinity triggers the production of subjectivity as both sex and politics. Whether or not having sex with other men prevents a male-assigned individual to be a good citizen and to serve his country is related to the definition of masculinity and does not put into question the original binary

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assemblage. The tautological injunction to be a (worthy) man in order to be a (good) citizen traps male and female assigned individuals in a double bind: the ‘women’ and ‘men’ they are supposed to be are too narrowly defined. As every proponent of same-sex love, Weininger included, argues, every given individual possesses traits of both genders (1906). But venturing outside of the binary, by lack or by excess, exposes one to be shunned from the operating structures of the nation.

Disrupting taxonomies Of all the early advocates of queerness in all its forms, Magnus Hirschfeld is probably the most famous today, as he was the most visible in his time. During the first decades of the twentieth century, Hirschfeld was at the centre of a network of scientists, scholars, artists and activists. His works on gender and sexuality were widely diffused throughout Europe. He made Ulrich’s theory of the third sex popular, to the extent that the theory is often attributed to him. But Hirschfeld actually modified Ulrich’s theory to produce his own, more complex, ‘theory of sexual intermediaries’. Hirschfeld elaborated on Ulrich’s notion of a third sex and introduced in its place a … theory of sexual intermediaries … Expanding upon the notion that the human embryo was sexually undifferentiated … he identified six types of human sexual inclinations: the total man, the total woman, the male psychological hermaphrodite, the female psychological hermaphrodite, the total uranian man, and the total uranian woman. (Mancini 2010: 51)

Where Ulrichs was adjusting to a binary assemblage by trying to add a third body between the two, Hirschfeld created a continuum. His intermediaries are different degrees on the same scale, the scale itself being described as an ‘in-between space’. In Ulrichs’s model, gender binarism is the very thing allowing for a third sex. For Hirschfeld, the total man and the total woman have become only dots on a scale, and the space between them gets wider and wider – that is, more and more populated – until one loses tracks of the solid ground surrounding this opening gap. This raises questions of borders and of discrimination: how does one distinguish one ‘intermediary’ from the next? The category of the total Uranian allows for the possibility of a partial Uranian. Consequentially, the total man himself is threatened by the possibility of being a partial man, with no set boundaries preventing him to lean towards the next


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intermediary. By multiplying the thresholds, Hirschfeld blurs the difference between quantity and quality, between variable and identity. Hirschfeld’s model is based on the idea of an undetermined essence present in any embryo, a representation, much like Weininger’s, based on Plato’s Androgyne (Mancini 2010: 52). But this essence, instead of being forced into sexual difference, can maintain its almost infinite combinations and transmit them to the adult individual. Hirschfeld’s extensive taxonomy allows for continuity between undifferentiated ‘egg’ and sexually active adult. His interpretation of the third sex theory disrupts the gender assemblage by, again, pushing it towards its limits. The expanding in-between space he opens up forecloses any sustainable hierarchy between normative and nonnormative gendering.

‘New breaks and new connections’ Hirschfeld’s taxonomic enterprise is taken over in Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (1932). One section of the novel, the widely discussed ‘Cities of the Plains’, is dedicated to the ‘men-women’, Proust’s version of Ulrichs’s and Hirschfeld’s ‘third sex’. Avowedly influenced by their theories, Proust transposes them in a literary frame allowing him to ‘introduce new breaks’ and ‘new connections’, as Deleuze and Guattari write. Proust in not wrong in saying that, far from being the author of an ‘intimate’ work, he goes further than the proponents of a populist or proletarian art who are content to describe the social and the political in ‘wilfully’ expressive works. … he is interested in the manner in which the Dreyfus affair and World War I cut across families, introducing into them new breaks and new connections resulting in a modification of the heterosexual and homosexual libido. (1983: 88)

In the overture of ‘Cities of the Plains’, Proust gives an account of homosexual attraction in terms of sexual inversion. Witnessing the encounter, quickly followed by sexual intercourse, between the aging Baron Charlus and the tailor Jupien, the young narrator declares: ‘I now understood … how … I had managed to arrive at the conclusion that M. de Charlus looked like a woman: he was one!’ (1927: 13). This affirmation comes as a paradox to the novel’s readers, already familiar with Charlus as a conservative aristocrat, elitist and self-assured to the point of rudeness. In contemporary words, Charlus would be a perfect example of toxic masculinity. But the paradox, the

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narrator continues, is only superficial. Charlus belongs to ‘that race of beings, less paradoxical than they appear, whose ideal is manly simply because their temperament is feminine’ (ibid: 13). In his reading of Proust, French author Didier Eribon claims that the ‘gender inversion’ he refers to, as did Hirsfechld and Ulrichs, only reveals how deeply they have internalized heterosexual norms. Since they cannot even imagine same-sex love, they have to resort to artificial means of differentiation between lovers (2004: 86). But investigating Proust’s homophobia is, I believe, a dead end which can teach us only about our own understanding of gender and sexuality. On the other hand, Proust has a lot to teach us about the gender assemblage, on the condition that we play along and look at his representation of same-sex attraction as a comment on gender and not only on sexuality. In her Epistemology of the Closet, Eve Kososky Sedgwick refers to the abovementioned encounter between Charlus and Jupien, arguing that its account of femininity and masculinity is more complicated than it first appears. ‘In terms of gender’, Sedgwick writes, ‘this locus classicus of the Urdoctrine of sexual inversion, anima virilibus in corpore virili inclusa, actually presents a far more complex and conflicted cluster of metaphorical models’ (1990: 219). Even though the narrator claims that Charlus is a woman and therefore desires men, this explanation is undermined by his own account of the encounter. First of all, the seduction scene he witnesses is simultaneously described as ‘a mirrordance’ of identical counterparts and as ‘a courtship by a male-figured Charlus and a female-figured Jupien’13 (Sedgwick 1990: 219). This thwarted binarism is complicated by the botanic metaphor underlying the entire chapter: the (almost) impossible match between a rare orchid and the only bumblebee able to fertilize it, which the young narrator was looking for when he espied the two human lovers. The analogy, Sedgwick continues, ‘opens gaping conceptual abysses when one tries – as the chapter repeatedly does – to compare any model of same-sex encounter desire with plight of the virginal orchid’ (ibid: 220). In spite of its botanical reference, the metaphor defies sexual difference. It defies, in fact, any type of binary. The elaborate description of the orchid and the bumblebee deployed in the chapter reveals Proust’s fascination for evolutionary biology. But, like Hirschfeld, he distorts the model of sexual difference in order to describe a libidinal flow which exceeds it. In a reversal of the Darwinian model where desire is channelled for reproduction, Proust’s writing tricks sexual difference for libidinal purposes. The sexed signs disseminated in the text can’t be translated into any functional code, and, as Sedgwick underscores, this failure is as much the reader’s than the


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narrator’s. But the latter does not seem to be discouraged by the abundance of contradictory meaning. On the opposite, he keeps reinterpreting the scene over and over again. In Proust and Signs, Deleuze argues that the narrator’s vocation is to interpret the many and contradictory signs sent by Charlus. The least we can say is that Charlus is complicated. But the word must be taken in its full etymological sense. Charlus’ genius is to retain all the souls that compose him in the ‘complicated’ state: this is how it happens that Charlus always has the freshness of a world just created and unceasingly emits primordial signs that the interpreter must decipher, that is, explicate. (Deleuze, 2000: 45)

The signs emitted by Charlus stem from every aspects of the gender assemblage, and they combine many of its heterogeneous elements: science and nature (the bumblebee metaphor); social skills and language; bodies (shapes, matter, organs, postures). Deleuze reads Remembrance of Things Past as ‘a search for truth’ (ibid: 15). In this quest, Charlus functions as an enigma, providing the narrator with endless contradictory signs. Starting with his voice, which unites ‘virile content’ and ‘effeminate manner of expression’, and his gaze, ‘Charlus presents as an enormous flashing indicator … a mystery to be penetrated, to be interpreted’ (ibid: 172). Charlus, who is described by Deleuze as the ‘Spider’, or the ‘master of the Logos’, is saturated by signs. But, as with Hirschfeld’s taxonomy, how many signs are too many signs? Ultimately, dysphoria is not a mental state. Neither is it a problem to be solved. Charlus’s dysphoria is neither the result of his love for men nor of his psychological traits but of the impossibility to coordinate every element, to choose once and for all between ‘all the souls that compose him’. Dysphoria is a game of social metamorphosis, but most of all it is a game of desire. The signs, here, are not about signification but about signalling – to others, to self. They are a foreplay, or an invitation to play. In the encounter between Charlus and Jupien, the two men are signalling to one another, but the narrator is also reading, or receiving, the signs, as are the readers. Charlus, Master of the Logos, is able to navigate the assemblage to his own profit. Hanging his threads, he weaves a web where the signification of gender is undone and creates what Deleuze calls a ‘transsexual universe’ (2000: 177). But this universe is more of a borderland, a modus operandi than a locus, and isn’t so much ‘transsexual’ than it is preor post-gender. Gendered signals become the elements of a more powerful, idiosyncratic code, where they lose their meanings to work only as beacons, attracting and tricking desires, flows and connections.

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I am not the subject of my dysphoria While looking at early discussions of gender exposes how the gender binary is fraught by its own discriminatory function, it also shows that this function is not incidental, nor can it be fixed by adjustments or redefinitions of the discriminating terms. In spite of our rhetoric of progress, the misogyny, homophobia and transphobia manifest in the texts examined in this chapter are far from absent from today’s discussions. Furthermore, the recent accommodations making room for diverse gender identities and sexual orientations are only benefiting a small part of the population (Spade 2015: 6). On the whole, gender is still imposed in terms allowing for its rigid dual structure to assign individuals into well-delineated and hierarchized categories. While transgender individuals such as myself are discriminated for choosing to live in another gender than the one they were assigned at birth, the rest of the population is as trapped as we are, except for what little mobility we have inside of the binary. Ultimately, my dysphoria, though as real and as personal as it gets, doesn’t belong to me. Rather, it is a collective statement, constituted of and traversed by collective discourses shaping, and repeatedly failing to shape, how I relate to my body and others. My dysphoria is not my personality, nor my identity, nor my possession. It is traversing me – or I am traversed by it – but it doesn’t make me an exception. To go back to the medical origin of the term, if dysphoria is a symptom, then the symptom isn’t mine. Gender is a dysphoric assemblage, and we are all looking for lines of flight.

Notes 1 Author’s emphasis. 2 I certainly do not mean to imply that Foucault’s work isn’t materialist. The current use of the word ‘materialism’ in either transfeminist or trans exclusionary feminist discussions of gender seems to deprive the term of most of its philosophical history. 3 The concept of assemblage bears a strong kinship with Foucault’s apparatus of capture. But I believe that the notion of assemblage can achieve a better description of the gender binary by shifting the emphasis from social infrastructures towards bodies and desires. 4 ‘Power has no essence, it is simply operational’ (Deleuze 1988: 27). 5 https://www.psy​chia​​nts-famil​ies/gen​der-dyspho​ria/what-is-gen​derdyspho​ria.


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6 See for instance Eribon (2004) and Brontsema (2004). Both authors underscore the complexity of the linguistics reclamation process: reclaimed words keep their complex networks of connotations, even when they aren’t found to be offensive anymore. 7 On the relevance of the Deleuzo-Guattarian concept of body without organs regarding trans experiences, see Fournier (2019). 8 As Emma Heaney states, Ulrichs initiated a long tradition of understanding transfeminity as ‘a woman’s soul enclosed in a man’s body’ (Heaney 2017: 3). 9 Deleuze’s description of the egg reminds of the Deleuzo-Guattarian description of the body without organ: ‘The body without organs [is] in fact an egg, crisscrossed with axes, banded with zones … traversed by potentials, marked by thresholds’ (1983: 84). 10 This well-known argument in favour of sexual selection has been contradicted by contemporary biology. In bird species such as peacocks, it is actually the female, not the male, which evolved to lose its bright colours. See Roughgarden (2009: 18–21). 11 Almost sixty years later, Guy Hocquenghem makes a similar argument in The Homosexual Desire, first published in 1972, even though his case rests on social, not biological, considerations (2000). 12 See, for instance, Hewitt (1996). 13 Author’s emphasis.

References Bersani, Leo (1996), Homos, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Brontsema, Robin (2004), ‘A Queer Revolution: Reconceptualizing the Debate over Linguistic Reclamation’, Colorado Research in Linguistics, 17 (1): 1–17. Buchanan, Ian (2017), ‘Assemblage Theory, or, the Future of an Illusion’, Deleuze Studies, 11 (3): 457–74. Deleuze, Gilles (1988), Foucault (trans. Sean Hand), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, Gilles (1992), ‘What Is a Dispositive?’, in Michel Foucault Philosopher (trans. J. Timothy), Armstrong: Harvester Wheatsheaf. Deleuze, Gilles (1994), Difference and Repetition (trans. Paul Patton), London: Continuum. Deleuze, Gilles (2000), Proust and Signs (trans. Richard Howard), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari (1983), Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari (1987), A Thousand Plateaus (trans. Brian Massumi), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

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Eribon, Didier (2004), Insult and the Making of the Gay Self (trans. Michael Lucey), Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Fournier, Mat (2019), ‘Just Tell Them I’m a Chipmunk: Transgender Children and the Breach in the Oedipal Gender Assemblage’, in Markus Bohlmann and Anna HickeyMoody (eds), Deleuze and Children, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Gide, André (1983–2015), Corydon (trans. Richard Howard), New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Gide, André (1970), The Immoralist (trans. Richard Howard), New York: Random House. Heaney, Emma (2017), The New Woman: Literary Modernism, Queer Theory and the Trans Feminine Allegory, Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. Hewitt, Andrew (1996), Political Inversions: Homosexuality, Fascism, and the Modernist Imaginary, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Hocquenghem, Guy (2000), Le Désir Homosexuel, Paris: Fayard. Keegan, Cael (2018), ‘Getting Disciplined: What’s Trans* about Queer Studies Now?’, Journal of Homosexuality, 67 (3): 384–97. Lucey, Michael (1995), Gide’s Bent: Sexuality, Politics, Writings (Ideologies of Desire), Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mancini, Elena (2010), Magnus Hirschfeld and the Quest for Sexual Freedom, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Mosse, George L. (1996), The Image of Man: The Creation of Modern Masculinity, New York: Oxford University Press. Proust, Marcel (1927–32), Remembrance of Things Past (trans. Frederick A. Blossom), New York: Random House. Puar, Jasbir (2007), Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Roberts, Mary Louise (1994), Civilization without Sexes: Reconstructing Gender in Postwar France, 1917–1927, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Roughgarden, Joan (2009), The Genial Gene: Deconstructing Darwinian Selfishness, Berkeley: University of California Press. Schuller, Kyla (2018), The Biopolitics of Feeling: Race, Sex, and Science in the Nineteenth Century, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Scott, Joan Wallach (1996), Only Paradoxes to Offer: French Feminists and the Rights of Man, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky (1990), Epistemology of the Closet, Berkeley: University of California Press. Spade, Dean (2015), Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Stryker, Susan (2006), ‘(De)Subjugated Knowledges: An Introduction to Transgender Studies’, in Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle (eds), The Transgender Studies Reader, New York: Routledge. Stryker, Susan, and Stephen Whittle (2006), The Transgender Studies Reader, New York: Routledge.


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Surkis, Judith (2006), Sexing the Citizen: Morality and Masculinity in France, 1870–1920, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Traverso, Enzo (2017), Fire and Blood: The European Civil War 1914–1945 (trans. David Fernbach), London: Verso. Ulrichs, Karl Heinrich (1994), The Riddle of ‘Man-Manly’ Love: The Pioneering Work on Male Homosexuality (trans. Michael A. Lombardi-Nash), Amherst: Prometheus Books. Weininger, Otto (1906), Sex & Character, Authorised Translation from the Sixth German Edition, London: William Heineman; New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.


Transmolecular revolution Abraham B. Weil

The events known collectively as ‘May ’68’ were precipitated by militant students and striking workers joining forces to bring about an eruptive challenge to France’s state power, resulting in urban occupations and encampments, blockaded streets, visceral confrontations with the police and an outpouring of political philosophy, all of which contributed to the most radical upheaval since the Paris Commune and inspired new styles of activism and social analysis around the world. As barricades were erected in the heart of Paris, insurrections protesting American imperialism beginning in early May gained momentum in subsequent outbreaks as activist protests grew in numbers and intensity. The events took a sensational turn on the tenth of May, with uprisings raging in the streets until dawn. May ’68 is characterized as a political and social revolution, one that brought together workers and students in the name of overthrowing the sociopolitical order of France. What began as student occupation and protest led to the largest worker strike in France’s history. The events were met with harsh actions by police and university administrators, causing the president to flee amidst fear of widespread civil revolt that ultimately severely impacted the French economy. Gilles Deleuze was an outspoken advocate of the May ’68 actions, then teaching at Vincennes University in Paris. And, Félix Guattari, then the director at the La Borde clinic, advocated all patients participate in the action. May ’68 spawned their thought partnership and led to the writing of Anti-Oedipus (1972), described as a ‘May ’68 book’. In their essay ‘May ’68 Did Not Take Place’, Deleuze and Guattari offer their most grounded descriptions of May ’68, its shortcomings and the work to be done in its wake. For what would become the Deleuzoguattarian writing machine, the events were a rupture – a demand for the possible – and one that has yet to be brought to a close. It marked the dawn


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of a hopeful generation yet to be fully integrated into the folds of capitalism and colonialism. Of the events, they reflect: May ’68 is more of the order of a pure event, free of all normal, or normative causality. Its history is a ‘series of amplified instabilities and fluctuations’. There were a lot of agitations, gesticulations, slogans, idiocies, illusions in ’68, but this is not what counts. What counts is what amounted to a visionary phenomenon, as if a society suddenly saw what was intolerable in it and also saw the possibility for something else. It is a collective phenomenon in the form of: ‘Give me the possible, or else I’ll suffocate …’. The possible does not pre-exist, it is created by the event. It is a question of life. The event creates a new existence, it produces a new subjectivity (new relations with the body, with time, sexuality, the immediate surroundings, with culture, [and] work …). (Deleuze and Guattari 1975)

And yet, as the protests fizzled out, they also describe its faults to bring longterm substantial change to French political life. The return to order was forced through police action and the economic realities faced by workers in need of their jobs. Conservative backlash was evident in the 1969 presidential election as the Gaullist Party took control of French politics. Yet, alongside this fall out, Deleuze and Guattari mark May ’68 as a moment of political potential in its capacity to break up life as usual. More than fifty years later, ’68 has come to mark a great shift in the global political landscape as ongoing seesaws between fascism and the liberation of desire have come to discursively shape political life. I return to this moment for several reasons. As the epigraph notes, it began an epoch of theorizing new forms of revolutionary thought. The events of 1968 alone have profoundly shaped our contemporary moment in ways that are meaningful and longlasting. The social movements of 1968, from the protests and strikes in France to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, have informed our political actions today. And, lastly, the political philosophy after the close of May ’68 offers new modes of analysis, ones that scaffold both the social landscape and modes of power that require innovation if revolution is to take hold. My stake is twofold. First, I examine the events of ’68 that mark a wave of trans liberation and legal rights for black people in the United States; I return to this moment to bring together these lines of philosophical inquiry and shifting life chances. Second, I examine Deleuze and Guattari’s conceptual crafting of schizoanalysis, transversality and molecular revolution to investigate what these concepts offer for the revolutionary thresholds of transgender and black life in the United States.

Transmolecular Revolution


The year 1968 marked an apogee in the waves of events that characterizes the 1960s; protests against racism, Jim Crow and segregation set off from the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, to the Mexico City Olympics. Anti-Vietnam protests emerged with increasing intensity all around the world making explicit the connections between colonial violence in Vietnam, famine in Africa and the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. Molecular eruptions were everywhere, and interconnected modes of power were being confronted across the social sphere. And, much like May ’68 and the related new social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, contemporary political struggles engage with the biopolitics of identity in ways that both enact and inspire new potentials for revolutionary transformation. In remembering May ’68, and often nostalgically speaking of the possibilities of anti-capitalism and the seemingly ‘natural’ connection between labour, philosophers and students, the realities and historical bonds of France differ in important ways from the reckoning of contemporary US political struggle. The connection of France to its own colonial power is often mystified and displaced, while in the United States, our racial history is deeply connected to the land and to communities. This more intimate spatial connection, wherein our racial and colonial violence is steeped in the soil, the constitution and the rights of citizens, seems to have led to an absolute crisis wherein all levels of social organization are in disarray. These spatial dynamics – urban, suburban and rural – should call for revolutionary solutions – a renewed sense of political life that concerns itself not with profit but with intensities. Guattari argues that there are two common refusals of revolution. The first is to refuse revolutions where they are taking place (reformist) and the second is to refuse to imagine where they could take place (dogmatic). Borrowed from Gramsci, molecular revolution is the term Guattari offers to the insurgent resistance always already available to be activated within a given assemblage (Guattari 2009: 276). Do revolutions matter? How might they come to matter? We see emergent struggles across the planet. We see the crises on and across borders. We see workers dying. But alongside this devastation, we also see resistance to inherited political beliefs. Ways of life are shifting alongside political imaginaries, a molecular field primed for resistance. For Guattari, molecular analysis gives way to molecular power. In looking to the molecular strata, he offers a theoretical praxis that refuses to do the work of detaching the population from their desire. He also argues that earlier forms of revolution were reliant on particular ideological programs and easily captured forms of protest but are disrupted by the spasmodic mutation of molecular revolution. Ultimately, these transversal mutations will not be about purity but instead work


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against the co-optation of marginalized experiences. By engaging these longterm molecular revolutions, attempts to violate begin to slide past one another without the ability to bind to social reality. It is in the residue of May ’68 that Guattari considered the possibilities for intervention through the functioning of transversality in new ways, towards the proposition of molecular revolution in order to make political life matter at the everyday level. However, if mattering functions – as submersion and as emergence – through a multiplicity of violations, then individuation, the subject, even the human exist in what Saidiya Hartman (1997) calls the scenes of subjection. As the politically sympathetic heterosexual becomes ‘queer’, as whiteness makes claims to ‘transracial’, and as the queer ideologically becomes ‘trans’, we must wonder how these slippery identities matter or what they can offer through an assembled molecular approach. Just as philosophy has not resolved the dualisms of mind and body, the impulses of identity have not allowed us to move beyond our own experiences. Violence (affective, structural, physical) maintains particular biopolitical inactions of these identities, ensuring that we always attempt to resolve our own identity crises through language, community, compromise and notions of temporal progress. Particularly within liberal feminist political debate, the extension of community and of freedom has historically allowed the state apparatus to inclusively shift, relying on our own sentiments drawn from the horrific experiences of the other, as the other’s death weighs heavily on our mind. In response to this problematic, in what follows, I offer an analysis of the molar and molecular, schizoanalysis and transversality, in order to map potential political and revolutionary possibilities already afoot in the social body. At the forefront of the conceptual work is black and trans life as it already contains the potentialities of molecular revolutions through orientations towards becoming otherwise and agitating the social order.

Molar and molecular borderlines In their collective work, Deleuze and Guattari elaborate a molecular revolution in the milieu of Parisian urban anxiety during May ’68. Their sense of transformative social and political potential was sharpened by the events, compelling them to think of radical change at different scales and intensities which they indexed in the molar and the molecular. Like many of their terms, they derive the philosophical functions of molar and molecular from scientific literature. While the metaphor might hold in some places, the particles of molar and molecular

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scales are not meant to signal the quantitative macro/micro distinction as they might at first suggest; the purpose is not to set up a dualism between molar and molecular as one would set up the poles between the Deleuzoguattarian use of One and the multiple. Rather, these are different kinds of compositions. Molar strata attend to homogenous referentials of the whole – referentials which can be identified through patterns or behaviours demonstrable elsewhere in the milieu. This can be seen in state systems, normative identity, habits, institutions of power and so on that require a certain kind of quantitative ordering. Novel connections are formed within assemblages that can make their way to the molar strata. For Deleuze and Guattari the assemblage provides a broader notion than structure, system, form, process or montage. It is comprised of heterogeneous parts, from the organism, to the social, to the imaginary, and is first proposed as a refusal of Freud’s use of repression and complex (Guattari and Rolnik 2008). Assemblages work as a team of components and are best understood by what they do, rather than what they are. We can briefly consider what a ‘transgender assemblage’ might offer as an example. An assemblage is distinguished not by any tipping point of number but rather by its potentials. So, while a group of bodies together can be understood as an assemblage, so too can an individual body with its own enmeshment of organs and stirrings. So, a transgender assemblage must not be thought of as a group of transgender people but rather the enmeshment of phenomena that disrupt the equilibrium of the molar gender system. Transgender assemblages are the creation of new, self-ordered, potentialities capable of entertaining transversal connections to form new territories, new systems of habit and new lines of flight. This resistance raises an important theoretical question having to do with the body. Guattari refers to the process of semiotization as that which takes place with movement, affect, contact, sensations and all matters having to do with the body. He argues that all of these modes of semiotization are being reterritorialized as to fit the dominant language: ‘the language of power which coordinates its syntactic regulation with speech production in its totality. What one learns at school or in the university; is not essentially a content or data, but a behavioral model adapted to certain social castes’ (Guattari 2009: 279). The flexibility of the neoliberal paradigm can be traced as a language which outlives any one crisis or set of data points. The larger logic of personal responsibility, increased criminalization and growing wealth gaps swallows any one political trend. The reterritorializing force of neoliberalism becomes evident as social movements must be attentive to a number of trends at the same time, developing their own language of resistance, which must necessarily reject the recruitment of some


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(re: responsible, self-reliant and wealthy) black and trans lives in the name of the disposal of many. Within this assemblage, molar and molecular strata summon each other. We can take a number of examples within the codes of institutions. For instance, identity documentation for transgender people might offer another brief example here of molar and molecular aggregates. Health records such as medical or birth certificates, or documents of permission such as a driver’s license or a passport, when aligned with assumed or perceived gender expressions do not tend to cause problems within systems outright (though this is certainly not always true). It is when these documents are mismatched, liminal, offering a chronology of different names and genders, or if the care needed is misaligned with the documentation, that the transgender body deviates from a normative molar threshold and thus becomes a point of crisis for the swift management of population and bodies; outcomes range from offensive interactions to denial of treatment. Being aware of these standards and being coerced by them, it becomes more likely under these molar disciplinary regimes that we adhere to the conditions of management in order to manage our life; necessity takes many forms under these regimes, spanning from corporeal to psychic needs. The molar need to know, categorize and study life drives its molecular living. It follows that at the corporeal level, the molar can be further understood alongside Foucault’s disciplined or docile body – a result of disciplinary practices that aim to disassociate power from the body while increasing its economic utility for state-like ends (Foucault 1977: 138). The practices, techniques and technologies leveraged by the state manage and manipulate flows of power allowing for the state to shift and account for human discipline and state sovereignty simultaneously (Foucault 2007). While Foucault’s docile body is a useful interlocutor here, it is important that the molar does not assume an organic wholeness, rather its parts, with relations of exteriority, operate as particular assemblage that can be modified by other parts. Their sense of revolutionary potential is not limited to novel alliances and associations of molar entities – for instance, students aligning with workers – rather each of these molar aggregates has the potential to affect and be affected by things transpiring on another scale, the molecular, which is not materialized but materializable and can be transformative in turn of molar politics. Deleuze and Guattari’s molar and molecular do not adopt the meanings and effects of their scientific counterparts wholesale. But one can also present these concepts in the way that they are formed, borrowing from the scientific sense of the mole (molar) and molecule (molecular). It might be said that these

Transmolecular Revolution


are two gravitational pulls: a molar direction that takes its force towards largescale phenomena and a molecular direction which takes aim with microscopic singularities, forces which exist within and among the phenomena. At the risk of oversimplification, we can think of the respective move between organization (the economic, the political, etc.) and multiplicities of desire. Not large and small in the physical sense, rather, what distinguishes the molar from the molecular is modality. The concept of molarity helps to distinguish the mundane or average behaviours in a social field, whereas molecularity helps to distinguish the kinds of local experimentations in a field that do not adhere to a central focal point or homogenous norm. Understanding the distinction between molar and molecular strata necessitates an understanding that different spaces are subject to different kinds of smoothing and striating operations at any given time. All together this makes a rather simple point: molecular processes often become amplified into the molar scale and are subsequently reterritorialized into manageable and categorized systems. The enmeshment of trans hormonal assemblages, for instance, offers possibilities to molecularly shift and change the body and these bodily shifts become codified at the molar scale of language through name changes and pronoun usage. While this molar scale never fully encapsulates the field of desire, it marks a change in legibility. Always tethered to the molar, the molecular space is freeform creativity. Deleuze and Guattari differentiate between different kinds of molecularity, from spasmodic to mutational, absolute and harnessed, in working towards revolution. They say that we should always look for the molecular, or the submolecular, as the place of political alliance. It is assumed that molar life possesses the potentiality of ‘becoming-molecular’ precisely because state operations that take aim at the body (Foucault’s docile body) with attempts to moralize it can be abandoned. For example, the gender apparatus marks a molarity where specific behaviours are repeated overtime as to congeal in a natural inevitability (Butler 2002), but gender scripts are often abandoned – this is not novel to trans people – and while molarity assure much of the population will ‘behave normally’, or more likely nominally, the experimentation of quotidian life ensures that people deterritorialize all the time. Gender play is not only a trans phenomenon; rather, it reverberates throughout the social body. Desiringmachines punctuate the molar, bringing the molecular that is invested in very different work: desire and the social. These ‘desiring-machines’ function within social machines, opening the break, crack or rupture that occurs in the rigidity of the molar, broken up by the molecular; the molecular is the line of flight that ruptures the corporeal, the abstract, the dead and alive matter (Deleuze and


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

Guattari 1980: 200, 221). Deleuze and Guattari hold that binaries also interface molecular assemblages but of an alternate order wherein binaries always contain multiplicity that not only appear simple and discreet but also possess the capacity for mutations, modifications and lines of flight. The molar and molecular join through the evaluation of flows and strata, shifting but situated along what they call the borderline. Deleuze and Guattari distinguish the anomalous borderline from the ridge or hard border that constitutes the boundary between classes, binarized interests, beings and matter. They argue that the ‘phenomenon of bordering’ binds molar aggregates – something that is of great importance since globally, societies are preoccupied with borders and boundaries. Unlike the ridge or boundary, the borderline represents the ambiguous edges wherein ‘a multiplicity is defined not by the elements that compose it in extension, not by the characteristics that compose it in comprehension, but by the lines and dimensions it encompasses in “intension” ’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1980: 245). Consider their treatment of the machine as assemblage: in general terms the machine is an assemblage, but in more precise terms it is the edges of the assemblage that mutate its capacities. Similar to their rearranging of the body or machine, the borderline functions in opposition to the boundary – they take up crescendos to illustrate the blurriness of the borderline (flocks and packs, swarms and revolt, villages and networks, secret societies and sorcerers). The boundary is what marks the hard exterior and the interior allowing the state apparatus to leverage control through (re)territorializations and the capturing of synthetic desire, whereas the borderline provides a zone of play for the outsider – a space where multiplicities border other multiplicities creating the dwellings of those banished from normative political mattering. I am interested in if the borderline capacitates trans becoming or becomingtrans. When Deleuze and Guattari say, ‘We are statistically or molarly heterosexual, but personally homosexual, without knowing it or being fully aware of it, and finally we are transsexual in an elemental, molecular sense’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1972: 70), they gesture towards not only the instantiation of signification but also the feverish intensity that has difficulty comprehending the indeterminacy of the environment’s borderline. For instance, what they term ‘microscopic transsexuality’ signals ‘the woman containing as many men as the man, and the man as many women, all capable of entering – men with women, women with men – into relations of production of desire that overturn the statistical order of the sexes’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1972: 295–6). Indeed, beyond a strict sense of the body as matter, Deleuze and Guattari consider the body as a system, or machine, in relation to other systems (this is why

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the individual does not exist de facto). At one strata, the body operates as an assemblage, but at another, the body is the organ(ism) in the terrain of the social body. The body can be plugged into flows or territories, at times speeding up the effects of the assemblage and at other times slowing it down. Deleuze and Guattari further move through the body as organism with respect to the mind, offering schizoanalysis as a way of orienting otherwise.

Coding and decoding the mindful body Foucault’s preface to Anti-Oedipus is equal parts serious and adoring. He begins with a sketch of proper thinking in European political discourse in the, roughly, twenty years that proceeded May ’68 wherein Marx and Freud provided the dominate basis for a lived philosophy. He suggests that Anti-Oedipus should not be heralded as ‘flashy Hegel’ but ‘erotic art’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1972: xli). Ultimately, the nuances one can draw from Deleuze and Guattari do not matter if we do not take seriously that their central concern was to ask how we might – ought to – live our lives in ways not yet discovered. Foucault goes on to describe the ways that Anti-Oedipus might be instead penned as Introduction to the NonFascist Life and that that the fascism the philosophy seeks to combat is not just the state apparatus and the institution but also ‘the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1972: xiil). And, he offers a series of index points that might help us live the everyday: divorce political action from paranoia; avoid hierarchy through experimental action; withdraw from projects of negation, run toward the multiple, the flow, the intermezzo; militancy does not mean misery; Truth; de-individualize; and, never be seduced by power (xiii). My interest in revolution starts here. In keeping with this politics of de-individualization it is important for my argument for application that we understand black and trans to be in transversal relation to one another – generative of multiplicity, combination, flows, anterior and interior points of contact. In linking blackness and transness transversally, we see them as potent to the possibilities of molecular connections and multiplicity. But these are only potentials. Attempts to reinscribe fascism in the body range from one’s internalized hatred to the tapestry of violence that always already threatens the trans and/or black body; in this reterritorialized (striated) space, constituted by state regimes, deployed through varied biopolitical arrangements, power will ask for our allegiances. Foucault provokes: ‘How does one keep from


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

being fascist, even (especially) when one believes oneself to be a revolutionary militant?’ (xv). His answer will begin the task of introducing schizoanalysis, suggesting that the revolutionary must embrace the plane of schizophrenia – by which Deleuze and Guattari mean a plane free of libidinal investment – in order to unlink from the Oedipal yoke and its attendant power structures so that one can initiate the radical possibilities found in desire (not a wanting as Lacan’s phallus might instruct but desire as producer or chaos or cosmos). Once these mystifications are dissolved, the task is to ignite flows at every scale. This means one must engage in flows that disrupt and escape processes of coding in order to take off from the middle in all directions (Deleuze and Guattari 1972: xi). If content is the first articulation of stratification (reterritorialization), then bodies are most frequently, if not always, recruited to move from the molecular to the molar through processes of coding and overcoding. For instance, gender normativity constrains desire, making double that which should be multiple. It sets a narrow social code to the whims of its tyrannical limits and enforces with affective, structural and physical violence. ‘Cisnormativity’ as a discourse shows us that these flows are simply repetitions and thus slight modifications on a theme. Transphobia is an attempt to linearize behaviour – to ensure the reproduction of well-behaved families of workers – and is written into the social code. But the schizoanalytic argument tells us that desire is a cacophony of machines that lead towards production – something new. This newness is not of history but of meaning. Thus, transgender assemblages predate our more recent shifts towards gender neutrality in language, political inclusivity or the institutionalization of trans studies. Desire, experimentation and the production of gender which exceeds and remakes the binary exists alongside the binary itself; the recognition, inclusion and tolerance of trans comes long after what Susan Stryker (2014) calls trans phenomena. The next section observes this assemblage through the application of transversality. As a tool, transversality, in its most basic sense, is an attempt to explode communication across and at every level and, importantly, is a modification to psychoanalytic and capitalist frameworks that produce conditions of repression. Think experimentation. Think interruption. Think revolution. Deleuze and Guattari chart the pragmatics of schizoanalysis by intervening in the inevitable ways that fascism is coded at the level of the body (through money, war, the police, etc.). Fascism, here, is not just the political leaders and parties (i.e. the Third Reich) we may call ‘fascist’ but also behaviours that tend towards the consolidation of power without oversight. It would be a mistake to read

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Anti-Oedipus as a direct attack on the broad field of psychoanalysis. While key disagreements can and should be taken up, it is not without acknowledgements of the important interventions made by psychoanalysis; what they take, and break (schiz), from psychoanalysis is often lost. They say, ‘Psychoanalysis is like the Russian Revolution; we don’t know when it started going bad. We have to keep going back further. To the Americans? To the First International? To the secret Committee?’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1972: 55). While their tone mocks, it gets to the core of the disagreement. It is not simply that psychoanalysis has no merit for Deleuze and Guattari, it is that in the multiplicity of forms that it has taken there has become a less central way to conceptualize psychoanalysis as a project that has not been overcoded. As is the case with transversality, there is an essential distinction to understand between the molecular and molar as they relate to the psychoanalytic unconscious. The unconscious belongs to the micropsychic realm of physics and the micrological body (Deleuze and Guattari 1972: 283). In most cases, they use the molecular strata of desiring-production to explain this distinction. That is to say that molecular desiring-production has the capacity to overtake molar forms of sovereign power that subsume desire in Freudian psychoanalysis’s unconscious; in other words, the pull towards revolution remains unconscious (Deleuze and Guattari 1972: 367). They argue that desire is intentionally repressed precisely because it has the capacity to overtake any established order. Desire is an accelerant, an explosion and an opportunity to abolish a given social terrain. This is not simply to say that desire functions a priori to revolutionary strategy. To the contrary, desire is revolutionary and can only be tolerated should the state apparatus be shattered (Deleuze and Guattari 1972: 120).1 Their alternative to the extensive project of psychoanalysis is schizoanalysis, which employs the unconscious as a centred system (rhizome). A full examination of these two propositions side by side would be too extensive here. However, briefly, they are both interpretations of the unconscious – which Deleuze and Guattari say Freud was brilliant to propose – that are contrasted through the process of personalization and differentiated through molar and molecular strata. Perhaps Deleuze and Guattari’s most salient argument against psychoanalysis’s treatment of the unconscious is that it is primarily Oedipal, rendering it structural and ideological (coded).2 Beyond Freud and Jacques Lacan, Deleuze and Guattari place ideology in the molar realm. Psychoanalysis is the statistical counter to schizoanalysis. They say: ‘Unlike psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic competence … schizoanalysis rejects any idea of pre-traced destiny, whatever name is given to it – divine, anagogic, historical, economic,


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

structural, hereditary, or syntagmatic’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1980: 13). It is indexed by schizophrenia, which they repeatedly return to in their critique of psychoanalysis and all of the social codes that are bound to the personalization of the unconscious. It is, for them, the abstract but still material, productive and concrete interpretation – the nonfigurative machine that allows for engagement with flows, intensities and desiring-machines (Deleuze and Guattari 1972: 381). They distinguish between these two interpretations as two poles of delirium: the molecular schizoanalysis and the molar psychoanalytic investment which is the primary difference between what turns revolutionary and what turns fascist, respectively. The actualization of revolution, or the potentiality of revolution, is not marked a prefigured set of causes; revolutions can spark off at any moment and be set off by anything. First, the schiz marks that desire. It is a decoded flow, or a band of militants on the horizon, that comes into existence when revolutionary desire has bubbled to the surface in ways that overtake the axiomatic of capitalism. I find such capacities at home in blackness and in transness in ways that might be difficult to illustrate for some, but that I find are articulated through the affective tunnels of living a black trans life. Where else will the revolution come from? Second, at first more problem than promise, Deleuze and Guattari turn to the transsexual to illustrate the porosity of schizophrenic desire – not confined by contradiction, rather an opening outward that extends some signs of ‘reality’ and leaves others behind: [The schizophrenic] does not substitute syntheses of contradictory elements for disjunctive syntheses; … he substitutes an affirmative use… He is not simply bisexual, or between the two, or intersexual. He is transsexual. He is transalivedead, trans-parentchild. He does not reduce two contraries to an identity of the same; he affirms their distance as that which relates the two as different. He does not confine himself inside contradictions; on the contrary, he opens out and, like a spore case inflated with spores, releases them as so many singularities that he had improperly shut off … (Deleuze and Guattari 1972: 77)

Spores, like molecules or fog, follow the patterns of haecceity familiar to other corners of their philosophy. Trans, as schiz, enters into composition with familiar molar realms in newly configured ways. There is a sense in which trans has already become something new, always in pursuit of new forms, new others, new properties. A body is not solely defined by its form, nor its substance, and so, for Deleuze and Guattari, psychoanalysis alone cannot bring about the schiz. As trans stretches the capacity of the body, differences in kind or regime

Transmolecular Revolution


are no longer satisfied by dualisms of one or the other. Rather, this extends to differences between the molar and the molecular – formations that offer nothing if set up in a binary fashion. Desiring-machines, social-machines, axiomatic coding and decoding are all, in short, partial objects that function molecularly within the unconscious (Deleuze and Guattari 1972: 324). Thus, the distinction they draw does not foreclose itself but is placed wherever a singularity exists, at the same time. As bodies are recruited and integrated through these codes, somatic practices can have the unfortunate effect of re-interiorizing the body. This is evident in contemporary modes of talk therapy or mindfulness practice – usually only residually from psychoanalysis – that implore us to look ‘inward’ so as to capture the true essence of the self, promoting the ideology that becoming the master of one’s mind-body alignment offers the most peaceful and processual route for meeting the world. Deleuze and Guattari depart from the body as a contained entity that at some point comes into contact with the outside world at some arbitrary point. Instead, the schiz, or break, is always already pushing towards ecological regeneration; as we move through the world, so too does the world move through us.3 At stake is the relation between body and world(s). Under the rubric of schizoanalysis, mindfulness orients repair towards the interior, a meaningless snapshot of consciousness rather than a sustained attention to the lack of boundedness necessitated by power. The turn to the self emerges out of oppositional relationships to capitalism and modes of production and the scaffoldings of race, gender and sexuality which attend to and make possible those relations of capital. Minoritized life is structured by and through a sustained and prolonged intimacy to risk, through labour, environmental destruction, food, air and debt. These ongoing and generational interactions force a meaningful relationship to the self and community for oppositional and sustaining practices of spirituality, meditation and self-care. These practices are borne out of community struggle and necessitated by the disregard of hegemonic society. In contrast, similar practices, albeit with different price tags, emerge out of discourses of self-optimization. Attention to the self, and the shapes this takes based on class, race, gender and sexuality, follows the frameworks of schizo- and psychoanalysis. Schizoanalysis names the ways in which the self is fractured by the outside environment. It demands attention to structures of power and identity, requiring an investigation of the outside world and the entire milieu through which the subject takes meaning and experiences consciousness. Psychoanalysis, on the other hand,


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

develops with an attention to the various neurosis produced through internal mechanisms of psychosexual development. Taking cues from the world, the self and the psyche remain whole and coherent and the site of healing. Schiz, from the Greek meaning ‘split’ or ‘cut, charts how quotidian life often takes shape habitually (movement from place to place) pulling with us various patterns of congealed thoughts, behaviours and pressures from the unconscious that progress mechanically into molar relations. Thinking against mindfulness as a pejorative for habit, schizoanalysis attends to the ways that these mechanics also carry untapped potentials for relationality with the outside environment that far exceed habitual patterning. The gap, or cut, between potential relations and patterned relations is put into relief in schizoanalysis through the invitation that we reorient towards the relations that are edited out of what Guattari calls the ‘coefficient of transversality’, discussed in the next section.

Transversality: Working for the unpredictable During his time at Château de la Borde, Guattari began using the concept of transversality (transversalitié) to address relations between patients and the world. Elaborated most centrally in Guattari’s pen, transversality is a political and philosophical tool capable of creating linkages between previously untapped singularities in a field and for creating points of contact in the assemblage at different levels of discursivity; it bursts singularities from the molecular outward. As a tool, it lends itself easily to understanding how movement occurs in both molecular revolutions and schizoanalysis, because it bends the components that emerge from rhizomes (decentred multiplicity or networks). Later, in his work with Deleuze, the concept began to question the relations between molar and molecular politics to offer philosophical insight to majoritarian and minoritarian political flows. Deleuze’s influence on transversality is evident and offers an invitation to revisit the pillars of Freudianism and Marxism that discursively saturate much analysis of the human psyche and politics of labour, respectively. Transversality is transformed through Deleuze and Guattari’s use of deterritorialization. The very use of minority, then, is also transmuted by this convergence, offering new configurations for political possibility to the realm of molar and molecular becomings. I take transversality as it emerges through Guattari’s experimental psychiatric clinic practice into the philosophical handlings of Deleuze to draw attention to the complex terrains of trans and black thinking and linking in the wake of arguments to return to or

Transmolecular Revolution


abandon materiality. It is impossible, they say, to predict the future of upcoming revolutionary strategy, though it is clear that these will neither be quantified nor positioned around the present archetype of the human. Instead, Deleuze and Guattari characterize these revolutions as taking place at the ‘molecular’ level of embodied subjectivity’s constituent parts, rather than at the level of social structure and ‘whole’ or ‘molar’ bodies imagined by humanistic thought as being properly endowed to the Human. Trans and black people both not only precede and exceed the possibilities afforded to the Human but also catalogue the trouble with dispensing materiality altogether. Deleuze and Guattari suggest, ‘What holds all the components together are transversals, and the transversal itself is only a component that has taken upon itself the specialized vector of deterritorialization’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1980: 336). Thus, transversals are links within assemblages, exciting deterritorializations. I propose that when approaching the interwoven relations between a molecular politics of black-trans-assemblages, we must look transversally in order to shift the analytical focus away from binary logics, rhetorical justifications of violence or premature death and toward alternate angles of inquiry. In searching for this inquiry, I argue that the ontological ordering of blackness and transness works outside of syncopated time, simultaneously disorganized as the non-thing (doing time) and the thingness of time-accumulated (time’s up). When Eva S. Hayward speaks of the imperative ‘don’t exist’, she draws attention to the different operative function of ‘nothingness’, or the restriction of political mattering, and ‘don’t exist’ as the function that produces an antisocial contract wherein subjects are made available for death. She says: ‘ “Don’t exist” articulates an attack on ontology, on beingness, because beingness cannot be secured’ (Hayward 2017: 191). Hayward calls for a turn towards trans negativity as a project that would necessarily shift the focus away from the fungibility of black trans women as the crisis point from which to acclaim a ‘tipping point’, the limit of physics, where time stops. The interpolative function of ‘don’t exist’ can be aligned with the negation of political mattering. This calls into question the ontological limits of multiplicity and molar/ molecular scales when confronting the anti-black tapestry of Eurocentric modernity. Calvin Warren proposes that ‘Black trans, as a discursive formation, is charged with an exceptionally difficult task: creating the intellectual occasion for recognizing, interpreting, and introducing black trans experience into a larger field of inquiry’ (Warren 2017: 267). This is especially true given the convergence of tremendous violence and subjugation that black trans people


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

face. If, as C. Riley Snorton has argued, the connections between black and trans are transversal, one would be inclined to unearth the kinds of temporalities that exist in the curves between black and trans and between black-trans and other. Both black and trans, while often politically held to an empty standard of temporal impossibility in the authorized social landscape, exist in the curves of transversality. By this I mean two things. The first is something that Snorton picks up when he argues the very connections between blackness and transness follow the parameters of transversality. The aesthetic, ethical and political operations of black and trans exist ‘prior to their articulation, which is to say that the connections within these concepts occur in the formal anterior to their various calcifications of meaning or territorializations or nominalizations’ (Snorton 2017: 9). The second, extending Snorton’s argument is that the transversality of black and trans exists in the explicitly ungovernable excess between the spillage of identity and radical possibility. As transgender studies emerges as an institutional field of inquiry and as an analytical vantage point to understand the possibilities located within the corporeal body, in the nonhuman, the animal and in the collective, we can say with relative certainty that the capaciousness of transness has not been adequately theorized to its fullest potential, primarily when put through an analytic of blackness, which offers possibly the greatest vantage point from which to imagine an anterior futurism that might guide us simultaneously back to our past, situate us in our present and then create a possibility for a future to come. If we – and we must – continue to organize through large-scale collectives that retain their specificity in the law, the university or the authorized political system, it is equally important to turn towards the molecular scale, to think about possibilities for creatively furnishing cracks in the structures that keep us submerged. If black and trans studies, and black-trans studies, have begun their incorporation and pacification in the academic mainstream, and at the macro scale, might transversality aid in thinking through the molecular so that we can retain the thrust of political life? When revolution is understood as molecular and processual, it lends itself quite well to the operative functions of black trans worlding. What does revolutionary mean? Through Deleuze and Guattari, might we view it as a mutation that exists at various scales, strata and substratum, from the molecular to the molar, opening up ways of conceptualizing, through transversality, a molecular revolutionary politics that cuts through, across and around boundaries of embodiment, politics and desire? This is a difficult question that necessitates another series of difficult questions. I argue that within the multiplicity of black and trans many untapped folds become

Transmolecular Revolution


available. What remains unclear, and in need of further exploration, is if these same multiplicities exist across minoritarian experience. Remembering the events of May ’68 in Paris, many of the ideas Guattari and Deleuze formulate in its wake have much to do with molecular revolution, and that molecular revolution has much to do with black trans materiality and the affects that move us. For the sober reality of May ’68, in spite of the things it set off, it was also consumed in ways that make clear that it was neither independent nor excused from the mechanisms of production that govern molar insurrection. Deleuze and Guattari have argued that everything is production, since all that is broadcasted is quickly consumed and reproduced. Within the assemblage, events are connected to other events, machines to other machines, and it is the desiring of production (desiring-production) that yields production itself (Deleuze and Guattari 1972: 6).4 Thus, desiring-machines are what produce the body. They also produce the social constructions (gender, race, sexuality) and the semiotics of the (human) organism. These organizations shrink the coefficients of transversality, cut off access to parts of the assemblage and eventually we see that the body suffers from the very organization that it has produced. This body, now available to produce and reproduce capitalist mandates, will find a certain comfort with the world it has created at the molar level. But we should look towards making a body that remains unproductive, inconsumable and ungovernable. This body is intensity, harnessing the molecular, transversally attaching to singularities in the field; it is antiproduction opting instead to engage collective liberation (Deleuze and Guattari 1980: 84). This is not a promise that transmolecular revolution is without the possibility of capture. Black and trans bodies are already well under control, becoming visible or remaining invisible but subject to the same biopolitical management strategies that surveil and target all of the population through management, surveillances, appropriation and commodification. The benefits that exist even amidst increased surveillance of black and trans people are important, and we will continue to organize at this level. Molar power relations serve the important function of gearing politics towards potential emancipation vis-à-vis decoding and recoding, even while they continue to hierarchize the social body. The ‘what’ and ‘why’ of my argument for transmolecular revolution is in many ways banal. This is, again, because it is already here. It is the twist and the swell that contours the molar expressions of sociology, economics, even social movements and provides a vantage point from which to imagine an increased distance from traditional structures of the family, the school, the city and the self (Guattari 2011: 52).


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

The seduction of these individualist imaginaries is organized at the molar level; sometimes around crisis (crisis of capitalism, crisis of conscious, crisis of faith) or sometimes around war (war on poverty, war on drugs, war on terror). Rather than fixing it on collective equipment, power wages wars on ideology – it creates fear, disrupts lines of flight, blocks the assemblage and prevents the mutations of space or time or body. Instead of fleeing these molar wars, a transmolecular revolution would continue to call them into question, challenging their need to dissolve desire, disorienting logics of cause and effect or structures of interior and exterior. Transmolecular revolutions create the anti-territory at the borderline of striated space. The collective equipment of transmolecular pulsations cannot have a single access point that serves as a temporary goal (for instance, to end sexism or homophobia but still uphold the family or government). The prefixal trans reminds us that there is always movement taking place, but it should also insist that the multiplicities of crossings are already contaminating one another. These crossings will operate at intersections, at times, but more often they cross chaotically and unpredictably, disrupting the part of the assemblage that they previously belonged to. I don’t argue that trans prefixes molecular revolutions in order to make them more radical, per se. There is no anteriority provided to the transmolecular revolution aside from its transversality. I argue that blackness and transness open up more connective points through nomadic drifts so much so that the possibility for transversality and transmolecular revolution becomes materializable. In Guattari’s words: ‘The molecular revolution is not hostile to political movements, whether classically contestatory or protest. It simply makes them take flight from inside, and opens them up onto other outsides’ (Guattari 2011: 55). He continues that they are not hostile to any localized institutional critiques of sites such as the school, prison, military and so on, since these all contain objects within them that do not in any way correspond to the institutions where they are set and captured. But these institutions, which include the family, school, prison or factory, should be extended to the processes of self-management (Foucault) and containment (Heidegger) and even further to the topographies of sociality, desire and the virtual. Guattari uses the function of collective equipment to question what the effects of modes of power (hierarchies, bureaucracies, phallocracies) would be if they were required to ‘let go of the control levers’ (Guattari 2011: 59). For the purpose of considering the transmolecular revolution, it is important to remember the relationship between collective equipment and the collective assemblage. The collective assemblage (the mechanic assemblage and the

Transmolecular Revolution


enunciation of the assemblage) resists any totalizing logics of capitalist enterprise, law or institution primarily through the political and the social, though this is most certainly a reduction. In the collective assemblage, politics exists through molar power and molecular desire. It is then crossed by the microsocial and the macrosocial. At the molar level of power, a micro-equipment of power and macroequipment of power are produced. The micro-equipment of power refers to a molar politics that takes aim at the body or psyche (the parent who teaches the child), while the macro-equipment of power directs a molar politics towards the group (army, police). If we take trans corporeality as an example of this, we can say that molar politics exists in the realm of quantification where one must count to matter. We see this shuttled through claims to legal documents or healthcare but also in the development of prisons for trans people or the emergence of the trans panic defence. If the former example (legal documentation or healthcare) could be considered ‘good’ it is also imbued with the latter macro-equipment wherein the state seeks to shuttle power through the group deploying microequipment at the molar level through various narratives of psychiatric conditions or brokenness.5 In these two cases, though there are many more, it is certainly not to say that healthcare is bad or violence against trans people in cis prisons is good. It is to say that arguing for trans inclusion in healthcare within certain paradigms reinscribes the systems that barriers to healthcare hold tightly to. Advocating for a trans prison cedes that prisons are an inevitable structure, and rather than questioning the legitimacy of them in the first place, the trans prison rearticulates law and order as the site of justice. In short, at the molar level of politics we concede infinitely, in more and more diffuse configurations, and in ways that simultaneously achieve and spoil. At the molecular level, the collective assemblage produces both a microassemblage of enunciation and a macro-assemblage of enunciation. The microassemblage of enunciation operates as a molecular politics of desire that aims to ‘change-life’ while the macro-assemblage of enunciation takes the same molecular politics of desire and aims it at the group. Here, the compositions work in two ways. In one direction, the micro-assemblage of desire sparks sociopolitical upheaval. In the other, macro-assemblages of enunciation ignite molecular revolutions. Taking trans corporeality again, we can think of the former process as the site of riot (Compton Cafeteria Riots or Stonewall, for example) which produces a number of trans phenomena in the vibrations that follow. Or taken another way, the micro-enunciation of the molecular might look closer to a politics of abolition, a call to fundamentally change life. In


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

the latter case we can consider something like the alteration of queer kinship networks, trans aesthetics and the changing of relationships to the body, sex, work or perception. This is the rhizomatic cartography of the collective assemblage where any number of molecular rhizomatics can, and will, burst like light (Guattari 2011: 77).

Transmolecular revolution I have mapped some of the cursory relationships between Deluezoguatarrian concepts, machines, bodies and organs in ways that further articulate the possibilities for black and trans life amidst political crisis and violence. Despite the way that I have lined this up, it remains much more complicated as these strata not only cross between one another but in every direction: the molecular with the macro, the micro with the molar and so on. What makes passage between these levels possible is collective equipment. This could also be called social transversality and does not depend on a program or plan, does not abide by any ideology or category and has to be remade every time. This social transversality can emerge within concreate machines but ultimately possess what they term an ‘abstract deterritorialization machine’ in order to guarantee transversality. Moving through the interstices of assemblages and equipment means to engage these abstract machines, passing from one to another, to be transmolecular. And yet, none of this guarantees the conditions or the emergence of a revolution. The pacification of the masses, the privatization of radicalism or the usurpation of bodies (human or otherwise) over centuries might indicate that the most petrifying state of things is yet to come. The space and time in which an assemblage emerges drastically effects its outcomes, whether it is policed or met with adoration, or both simultaneously. The shifting of trans and black life in the United States makes this point clear: what is sometimes mundane other times sparks outrage, what once is fringe can otherwise be mainstream. The context of an assemblage can inhibit or explode its potential. Deleuze argues that we do not repeat because we repress, rather that we repress because we repeat. The amnesia that results from this cycle is in part because some things are more bearable than others, allowing us to mediate our embodied experiences within material worlds that are otherwise intolerable. In other words, we may deceive ourselves to make embodied experiences more liveable, but these repetitions are doomed for capture:

Transmolecular Revolution


It is only on a much bigger scale that this heap of empty consciousnesses might succeed in launching super-deterritorialized modes of semiotisation, such as speech, writing, religious or scientific symbolism, that can create the conditions for a reversal of the situation. But in the last resort it is only on the scale of revolutionary – or perhaps one ought instead to say ‘transrevolutionary’ – collective assemblages that this excess of consciential deterritorialization, this detachment of everything, this de-short-circuiting of the real and of desire, can produce a new reality and a new desire. (Guattari 2011, 200, emphasis added)

Many of the concepts that Deleuze and Guattari put at the centre of their philosophy are often prefixed by ‘trans’. In this case, the trans-revolutionary collective assemblage provides the reality of a new desire, not of repression (psychoanalysis) or economics (Marxism). History does not repeat itself; rather, it is remade through difference and repetition. As transmolecular revolutions unfold, seeking transversal enunciations within collective political life, we will come to know the ways that trans* works to cut together and apart. Transmolecular revolution, here and now, means to chart these new arrangements that make politics – and life –matter.

Notes 1 Desire here differs from Foucault’s treatment. In The History of Sexuality Foucault examines the ways that sex and law work together to make sexuality a hysterical matter. Importantly for Deleuze and Guattari, desire is that which bubbles beneath the surface (Proust). 2 Ideology is a main target of Deleuze and Guattari. It is also a prominent disagreement that they leverage against Marx, though contributions regarding ideology might be best attributed to Engles, rather than Marx; they take particular issue with false consciousness; things are true but only through false consciousness. If ideology functions at the superstructure of a given civilization, Deleuze and Guattari assert that this primarily fails to account for fascism and thus the problem of desire. 3 Brian Massumi has brilliantly used the somatic to mark that body which cannot be separated from or sorted out from other bodies, environments and affects. 4 This is where the body without organs (BwO) emerges. 5 Similar to what Deleuze and Guattari term ‘double articulation’, Jacques Derrida (2012) reminds us that time is out of joint. This disjunction works as a recoil or double gesture that looks for the singularity of the radical other always to come.


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

References Butler, J. (2002), Gender Trouble, New York: Routledge. Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (1972), Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (1980), A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ([1975] 2006), ‘May ’68 Did Not Take Place’, in D. Lapoujade (ed.), Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 1975–1995, 233–6, Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e). Foucault, M. (2007), Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France 1977—1978 (ed. Michel Senellart, trans. Graham Burchell), New York: Macmillan Press. Foucault, M. (1977), Discipline and Punish (trans. Alan Sheridan), New York: Vintage Books. Guattari, F., and S. Ronlik (2008), Molecular Revolution in Brazil (trans. Karel Clapshow and Brian Holmes), Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). Guattari, F. (2009), Chaosophy: Texts and Interviews 1972–1977 (trans. David L. Sweer, Jarred Becker and Taylor Adkins), Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). Guattari, F. (2011, 2016), Lines of Flight: For Another World of Possibilities (trans. Andrew Goffey), London: Bloomsbury Press. Hartman, S. V. (1997), Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America, New York: Oxford University Press. Hayward, E. (2017), ‘Don’t Exist’, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 4 (2): 191–4. Snorton, C. R. (2017), Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Stryker, Susan (2014), ‘Biopolitics’, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1 (1–2): 38–42. Warren, Calvin (2017), ‘Calling into Being: Tranifestation, Black Trans, and Problem of Ontology’, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 4 (2): 266–74.


Materializing transgender becoming: Norms, failures and ethics of ‘The Traveler’s Book of Gender Wandering’ Kaochen Liao

Transgender is an umbrella term that mostly refers to people whose gender identities or practices are different from their sex assigned at birth. Other than trans men and women whose gender identity is opposite to their assigned sex, transgender includes people whose gender is non-binary, such as the bi-gender, gender-fluid, agender or even cross-dressers. Oftentimes, the transgender person’s manners, dresses, behaviours or bodies reshaped by operation destabilize imaginations of fixed identity based upon naturalized embodiments, inviting scholars to highlight how the traditional boundaries of sex and gender are crossable and a rigid identity could no longer be required. As Hannah Stark and Timothy Laurie point out, scholars may claim such gender/sex transition as ‘non-teleological’, stressing its departure rather than arrival. As transition, with the same prefix of transgender, acquires valences such as ‘transgression, transmutation, transmogrification, … gender norms are themselves transitioning from one worldview to another – from binary to multiplicity, identity to fluidity, conformity to self-expression’ (Stark and Laurie 2019: 127). A trans man or woman seems to depart from the original static, fixed and boundary-delimited state of being and enter into a dynamic, fluid and boundary-removing process of becoming. At the same time, gender transgression as such can easily be regarded as a process in which the immaterial mind, based upon the free will, tries to reverse the fate imprinted on its materialized body.1 However, the real-life trans male and female have frequently shown a desire to reach a definite destination, manifested in their gendered appearances, costumes, manners or post-operative bodies. These teleological activities also reaffirm the gender binary and stereotypes amidst the celebratory vocabulary from cultural


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

studies. The bleak binary reality of society, along with the transgender/sexual desires for passing, intensifies the imagination in which the polar sex is the journey’s end for the transgender. Wenyu’s ‘The Traveler’s Book of Gender Wandering’, a theoretical and autobiographical book chapter from a Taiwanese pre-operative trans man, records this border-crossing voyage. Wenyu works in every way except a sex reassignment surgery on his female body, such as a careful choice of costumes, hairstyles and glasses, to ‘normalize’ his masculine appearance. Strangely, his desire for a stable gender identity, physical or not, contrasts his appropriation of theories in which gender is fluid and borderless. Even the imaginations of his own body are contradictory. The fissure between the material and immaterial, the yetto-become and the de facto being remains as deep as that between his agonies about a female anatomy and his efforts to accept the body as it is. This chapter appropriates Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s conception of becoming to explore gender norms, the failure that occurs when trans people cannot live up to normative expectations and the resultant ethical issues relating to ‘The Traveler’s Book of Gender Wandering’. For Deleuze, being/materiality and becoming/immateriality are not dualistic. Being and materiality are in the process of constant becoming; they are relative, diverse, open, accidental, complicated and unstable. On the other hand, the desired outcomes of becoming (not in the Deleuzian sense) for the transgender subjects may be fixed identities, restricting the development of being and materiality. This helps explain the complexity and contradiction in transgender theory and realities explored in Wenyu’s work. Transgender people, as Wenyu shows, may not necessarily enjoy the process of gender/sex becoming in the face of binary gender norms, which linger in their behavioural and corporeal selfpresentation and result in their constant failure and anxiety in identification. A Deleuzian reading of transgender shows that gender and sex are in the process of continuous becoming and differentiation, thus breaking away from the fixed imagination of a desired body and allowing more ethical possibilities for transgender people. This chapter is divided into two main parts. First, I illustrate Deleuze’s ideas of being and becoming, the material and immaterial, to clarify the actual condition of the (trans)gendered person usually described and categorized by these seemingly dichotomic conceptions. Deleuze’s radical ontology of becoming and materiality helps set the basis of further discussion of related ideas such as gender, identity, desire and the body, which I examine by drawing on Deleuzian scholarship. Wenyu’s work would be explored in terms of gender norms, the idea of failure and the possible ethics in the second part. Based on Deleuze’s radical

Materializing Transgender Becoming


ontology, as described in the first part of the chapter, the transgender person takes flight from the failure defined by rigid gender norms.

(Transgender) being, becoming and (im)materiality The transgressive and dichotomized dimensions of imagining the transgender phenomenon reflect two ways of understanding the very idea of becoming. Becoming is usually understood as change and coming into being, implying that there is a change from one state to another, a movement between two distinct states of being. A simplified understanding of a trans man or woman is of the same vein in this kind of mundane usage of becoming, when one rejected his or her assigned sex to identify with another one. The new identity endows the trans person a new state of being, realizing his/her real self and enabling a way of life consistent to it. On the other hand, conceptions of transgender as nonteleological departure describe a multiplicity and fluidity close to Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of becoming. In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari explain a ‘line of becoming’ in terms of its in-betweenness: A line of becoming is not defined by points that it connects, or by points that compose it; on the contrary, it passes between points, it comes up through the middle, it runs perpendicular to the points first perceived, transversally to the localizable relation to distant or contiguous points. A point is always a point of origin. But a line of becoming has neither beginning nor end, departure nor arrival, origin nor destination; to speak of the absence of an origin, to make the absence of an origin the origin, is a bad play on words. A line of becoming has only a middle [emphasis in original]. (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 293)

Thus said, becoming is the ‘continual production (or “return”) of difference immanent within the constitution of events, whether physical or otherwise’ (Stagoll 2010: 26). It is not a phase between two points, states or conditions; rather, it goes through different states and is cut across by them, coming from no singular point and going towards no final end or special goal. Moreover, becoming annihilates seemingly fixed states related to it, as Deleuze shows in the case of the wasp and orchid. Certain orchids display characteristics similar to female wasps such as pheromones to attract male wasps into courtship dances. As the male wasps try to copulate with the orchids, the pollens are transferred, making the wasp part of the orchid’s reproductive organs, namely ‘a veritable


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

becoming, a becoming-wasp of the orchid and a becoming-orchid of the wasp’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 10). The idea of becoming is one of Deleuze and Guattari’s means to reinterpret the concepts of being, identity and difference. As becoming refers to constant change rather than a one-way movement between two fixed states, the very idea of being is reformulated. Being is no more an identifiable state with a definite identity from which difference is derived. What we consider as being as relatively stable in the flow of time is actually repetition with difference, an unfolding of becoming. In repetition, no two things will be exactly the same, and any copies from the original are actually new things. The real world hence can only be a process of becoming. Based upon this ontology, Deleuze reverses the relationship between identity and difference. Traditionally, difference is conceived by contrasting and comparing identities. To say something is different from something else implies that these two things have relatively stable identities or true natures. Identity hence becomes an unquestioned prerequisite for Western metaphysics. According to Plato’s philosophy, for example, we cannot understand a courageous behaviour without the idea of courage. Yet the problem lies in the fact that whether a behaviour is courageous depends on the sociohistorical context and subjective perspectives in which such judgements are made. To address such complexity, Deleuze urges to grasp beings as they really are, while concepts that define identity, such as resemblances, categories, forms and predicates, only hinder us to see difference within being: ‘If philosophy has a positive and direct relation to things, it is only insofar as philosophy claims to grasp the thing itself, according to what it is, in its difference from everything it is not, in other words, in its internal difference [emphasis in original]’ (Deleuze 2004: 32). As a result, Deleuze claims that beings and identities are not ontologically prior to difference, ‘given that there exist differences of nature between things of the same genus [emphasis in original]’ (Deleuze 2004: 33). In the case of gender, every subject labelled as a man is different from each other and still differs from his previous self. Without these different gendered beings, any category of gender is impossible. As Gavin Rae points out, ‘being finds expression in and through multiple, different beings. While being is numerically multiple, each manifestation of being shares the same sense of being, which, for Deleuze, is difference’ (2014: 118). Just as we keep citing gendered practices to become gendered intentionally or otherwise, being always cites the other being(s), and in its constant citation being becomes different. In this way being repeats itself with citation in which it becomes difference itself. Being’s differentiation

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and becoming are immanent and ‘comes first and foremost from the explosive internal force which life carries within itself ’ (Deleuze 2004: 40). Identity, once seen as the presentation of being, the universal grouping of same things, is difference in itself when disrupted and carried away by the force of becoming. Deleuze concerns ‘how thinking emerges from life, and how life is not a being that is given but a power to give various senses of itself ’ (Colebrook 2010: 3). Such power appears in ‘multiple effects of force’ recombined ‘into discrete ideas, images and identities’ and the ‘world of substantial being’. Therefore, there is ‘no essential “truth” of being; nor is there an independent “reality” before and beyond the flux of appearances; every aspect of the real is already constituted by quantities and combinations of force’ (Spinks 2010: 7). Deleuze’s foreground of the dynamism of being and becoming contrasts greatly to the body-mind dualism both in the ways of perception in our daily lives and the history of philosophy. Conception of being as a relatively stable state compared to becoming parallels that of the material and immaterial. For the sexed subject, trans or not, the body is more likely to be deemed as matter that cannot easily be changed as one wishes, and once one is willing to do this, the immaterial mind is deemed the initiator of the change rather than the seemingly stubborn and inert body. The separation of mind and body seems reasonable, for as soon as we are dealing with matter, we soon distance ourselves as subjects from the material objects. Were it not so, depiction and judgements of the biological and physical objects would be impossible. The salience of mind that comes from its position as the evaluator of the material justifies dualism associated with the thought of René Descartes, who believes the human subjectivity is found in the mind, leaving the body an empty vessel. Deleuze’s contribution lies in his understanding of the matter and the interconnection between the material and immaterial. For him, the material is equivalent with the plane of immanence. Together with Félix Guattari, Deleuze requires us to ‘conceive of this world in which a single fixed plane … is traversed by nonformal elements of relative speed that enter this or that individuated assemblage depending on their degrees of speed and slowness. A plane of consistency peopled by anonymous matter, by infinite bits of impalpable matter entering into varying connections’ (1987: 255). Deleuze claims that matter populates, moves and varies continuously on the plane of immanence, which exists or remains within, without transcendent elements to decide or disturb its consistency. That is why the plane of immanence is often named a plane of consistency. Self-organizing, univocal and formless, it is not subject to a mental design. As Deleuze and Guattari maintain, ‘here,


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

there are no longer any forms or developments of forms; nor are there subjects or the formation of subjects. There is no structure, any more than there is genesis’ (1987: 266). The plane of immanence is hence a pure plane, a smooth space or field without essential or artificial division. It is also inhuman and dynamic, ‘consisting of speeds and intensities that open up the composition of any individual being, putting it into different connections with other particles, thereby leading to its recomposition’ (Cheah 2010: 87). Matter as particles of this plane are also defined as ‘the unformed, unorganized, nonstratified, or destratified body and all its flows: subatomic and submolecular particles, pure intensities, prevital and prephysical free singularities’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 43), which make the material body ‘an aggregate whose elements vary according to its connections, its relations of movement and rest, the different individuated assemblages it enters’ (1987: 256). The immaterial also operates on the plane of immanence. Body and mind are no longer mutually exclusory properties that separate the inert from the active or the material from the spiritual. While the matter is part of the flow of becoming the subject, the mind could not be the primary condition, as idealism suggests, for the subject to know the body and ‘external’ world as objects. The plane of immanence, or immanence itself, collapses the distinctions between the material and immaterial, body and mind, the exterior and the interior, showing that subjectivity ‘is determined as an effect’ ungoverned by personal intentions (Deleuze 1991: 26). One has to admit that there are ‘no fewer things in the mind that exceed our consciousness than there are things in the body that exceed our knowledge’ (Deleuze 1988: 18). If being is nothing other than becoming, and if the material and immaterial are in a constant flux, what would a Deleuzian gender identity be like? As the movement and difference of being and becoming, materiality and immateriality, are driven by force on the plane of immanence, desire, ‘the “motor” for social action’, shall be explored if the problematic of (gender) identity is to be illustrated (Linstead and Pullen 2006: 1289). As human beings are incomplete and in need of help or possession of others, desire is often premised upon lack, such as in the case of Freudian/Lacanian psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud’s famous notion of the Oedipus complex explores how libido – an instinctive sexual impulse – is suppressed in the nuclear family paradigm, in which a child desires the parent of the opposite sex and feels angry or jealous towards the other one with the same sex. If the boy wants to eliminate the anxiety of being castrated by his father, he must suppress his desire for his mother and transfer it to other women. In this way, the boy can develop an

Materializing Transgender Becoming


identity with his father and be recognized as a normalized subject by society. In this way psychoanalysis encircles the Oedipus stage play in the family triangle: everything is and will always be Daddy-Mommy-Me. Succeeding and developing key ideas from Freud, Jacques Lacan claims that desire is the desire of the Other, by which he means language or the Symbolic order. Castration in Lacan’s version occurs when one enters the world of language as the Father’s/ Symbolic Law, where the subject forever loses complete jouissance in the Real. To compensate for the irretrievable lack, the subject ceaselessly seeks the lost and unattainable object (objet petit a) in vain. Subjectivity emerges in the process of desiring objects, while the way one lacks and desires articulate his or her sexual orientation and gender identity. Formations of desire as ‘lack, wish or collection’, as Stephen Linstead and Alison Pullen point out, have ‘dominated both social and academic formulations of gender, and of organization, which has led to a privileging of conceptualizations of identity as unity, individuality, molarity (aggregation) and cohesion’ (2006: 1292). In contrast to theorization of desire as lack, Deleuze understands desire as a social force that is ‘a process of production without reference to any exterior agency, whether it be a lack that hollows it out or a pleasure that fills it’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 154). Desire is productive in itself and has nothing to do with lack, either as the cause of desire or its object. Dissociative from any agency, desire ‘does not lack anything; it does not lack its object. It is, rather, the subject that is missing in desire, or desire that lacks a fixed subject; there is no fixed subject unless there is repression [emphasis in original]’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 26). The desiring subject and desired object trap the subject forever in a sense of loss, which is either represented in the subject’s futile chase of the lost object or in self-repression of desire. Deleuzian desire proliferates, makes connection with other things and forges life as material flows on the plane of immanence. The ever-flowing desire is materialized in the desiring-machine, a paradoxical phrase that coins the mechanical, technical, non-biological machine with the seemingly organic, animalistic, biological desire. With this idea, Deleuze and Guattari claim that ‘desire and its object are one and the same thing: the machine, as a machine of a machine. Desire is a machine, and the object of desire is another machine connected to it’ (1983: 26). The subject and object of desire are lost in the equation between machine and desire, as desire is itself a machine connected with other machines, hence a machine of machine. Desire is no longer attributed to specific will, self and unconsciousness of a subject or person but as a kind of machine energy.


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

This process is rendered as flow and break, as Deleuze and Guattari point out, ‘A machine may be defined as a system of interruptions or breaks (coupures). These breaks should in no way be considered as a separation from reality. … Every machine, in the first place, is related to a continual material flow (hyle) that it cuts into. It functions like a ham-slicing machine, removing portions from the associative flow [emphasis in original]’ (1983: 36). Cutting ham into pieces, the slicing machine works in its flow to transfer energy and create new realities. ‘Far from being the opposite of continuity, the break or interruption conditions this continuity: it presupposes or defines what it cuts into as an ideal continuity. … The machine produces an interruption of the flow only insofar as it is connected to another machine that supposedly produces this flow’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 36). The sliced ham at the same time is interrupted by the machine and enters a new flow of being consumed, while the ham is itself a machine whose material wholeness is just an illusion. ‘That is why … the partial object and the continuous flux, the interruption and the connection, fuse into one: everywhere there are breaks-flows out of which desire wells up’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 36–7). Desire desires and interrupts desire. When a machine is connected to another machine, the operation of the former is inevitably interrupted, while the very act of break/ linkage joins the original machine in the flow of a series of machines. Whereas desire could be ontologically understood as a productive, positive, proliferate and dispersive force without the participation of a certain subject or object, people oftentimes feel a sense of lack of their desired object in their daily realities. As Linstead and Pullen explain, ‘desire as lack, wish, fulfilment or even discourse display the features of collection, seeking specificity, locatability, meaning and significance’ that characterize life experiences (2006: 1293). Just like the flow of the desiring-machine being inseparable from its break, desire as collection (of subjects/objects) and lack ‘circulates in mutuality in the diffuse space of dispersion/proliferation, bricolating the assemblages of identity within the meshworks of the rhizome’, the very idea Deleuze uses to depict multiplicity in contrast to the arborescent (hierarchic, tree-like) conception of knowledge (Linstead and Pullen 2006: 1294). If there is nothing prohibited from desire as a positive force, lack and object could be produced in desire though frequently explained as its causes. Moreover, it should be noticed that the flow of desire in Deleuze’s philosophy does not bestow perfection on human beings. One’s self-image or identity takes shape and persists when desiring-machines connect each other, represented as motions of collecting human bodies or non-human objects to fill the lack of the subject. Desire ‘is an energy which depends on

Materializing Transgender Becoming


dispersion and loss in order to be renewed – it reassembles identity by collection or recollection and simultaneously disperses self-identity’ (Linstead and Pullen 2006: 1293). When desire disperses to another desiring-machine, the original one is renewed in the loss of its ‘originality’, just like what the self/identity undergoes when it collects elements and connect energies from the other. Since ‘there is no moment of self-identification that is not also self-multiplication or dispersal’, desire creates identity in its multiplicity with the repetitive motion of flow and break (Bersani and Dutoit 1993: 75–6). Here I appropriate Linstead and Pullen’s division of sex/gender identity into three types of multiplicity so as to illuminate how desire participates in the identity construction as lack or force. ‘Multiplicities of the same: Feminism and desire’ foregrounds the biologically determined femaleness as many feminists adopt a binary view of gender to criticize the subordination of women in the patriarchal society (Linstead and Pullen 2006: 1294). In this way those feminists, attempting to restore the multiplicities of femininity from men’s fantasies, actually reinforce the gender divide represented by the female victims and patriarchal male oppressors. The identity formation of the two sexes, according to such dichotomy, is deeply enmeshed in the condition of lack. Men’s fetishization, discrimination and oppression of women stem from their insatiable lack, which subsequently results in the lack of equality for female subjects. As the second gender category of multiplicity, ‘Multiplicities of the Third: Queering the pitch of desire’ emphasizes possibilities outside of the binary sex, namely the gender queer that is not heterosexual or cisgender. The capability to cross the normalized border of gender identity, such as the transgender, and that of sexual orientation, such as the homosexual and bisexual, nevertheless ‘preserves the binary structure’, for without the affirmation of the naturalized binary sex and heterosexuality there will be no ‘third’ position (Linstead and Pullen 2006: 1299). ‘Movement between the poles of a binary, settling, however temporarily, on one then the other, reinforces the existence of the dualism whilst rendering it permeable’ (Linstead and Pullen 2006: 1298). That is why the binary sex remains when bisexuality is usually defined as romantic sexual feelings towards the two sexes, and when many trans people are labelled or understand themselves as trans- men or women. The multiplicity of the third gender relies in its lack of conformity to the straight gender identity or heterosexuality. Linstead and Pullen’s third category of gender multiplicity, ‘Multiplicities of difference and dispersion: Rhizomes and fluidity’, is from Deleuze’s thinking of gender as rhizome and dispersion, also ‘the fluidity of multiplicity which is based on proliferation’ (Linstead and Pullen


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

2006: 1302). Gender is not positioned in terms of a gender or sex binary but ‘a decentred set of linkages between things, relations, processes, intensities, speed or slowness and flows’ created by desire as a force that makes gender multiply in a constant motion of connection, change and transformation (Linstead and Pullen 2006: 1302–3). Gender identities as multiplicities of difference and dispersion hence differ from the multiplicities endowed by feminists for women, which reinforces the gender divide through the dichotomized gender/ sex and the transgender/non-heterosexual multiplicities that oftentimes desire or identify with binarized objects. Deleuze’s conception of ‘body without organs’ and ‘becoming-woman’ well illustrates the dispersive multiplicity of gender that is simultaneous being and becoming, material and immaterial. Body without organs (BwO), a phrase borrowed from playwright Antonin Artaud, refers to ‘the deterritorialized socius, the wilderness where the decoded flows run free, the end of the world, the apocalypse’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 176). The BwO does not refer to an organless body; rather, it refuses the organizing principles that define, structure and assemble the organs into a collective, totalized and organic whole. BwO works quite like the desiring-machine, through which the boundary of identities is deterritorialized in a never-completed flow. As Deleuze and Guattari point out, ‘The BwO is the field of immanence of desire, the plane of consistency specific to desire [emphasis in original]’ (1987: 154). This conception of the body is to free it from limited sets of movements, traits and habits to its potentiality characterized by new connections with other bodies (without organs) called becomings. It should be noted that, despite driven by desire in its continual becoming, BwO ‘cannot break away entirely from the system that it desires escape from’ (Message 2010: 38). To seek a line of flight from a given system, ‘it must play a delicate game of maintaining some reference to these systems of stratification, or else risk obliteration or reterritorialisation back into these systems’ (Message 2010: 38). This makes the BwOs remain in an incomplete process of becoming without a teleological completion. As a result, BwO shatters the equation between sex and the body when the latter is emancipated from organizing principles that differentiate man from woman. Sex and gender, rather than a state of being, are becoming BwO and desiring-machines as the collection of potentials. Deleuze and Guattari’s phrase ‘becoming-woman’ criticizes a pervasive and long-standing androcentrism in which man is unthinkingly deemed the representative of all human beings and woman is the exception and other for man. In contrast to the phallogocentric logic of the self against the other, represented by the centrality of the phallus

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in the symbolic world, becoming-woman refers to discourses and practices labelled as minority. Rather than representative of lack or the second sex, ‘woman’ becomes a positive term here to denote internal multiplicity and difference that joins the interaction not only between masculinities and femininities but also with human and non-human becomings. As Deleuze and Guattari say, ‘These indissociable aspects of becoming-woman must first be understood as a function of something else: not imitating or assuming the female form, but emitting particles that enter the relation of movement and rest, or the zone of proximity, of a microfemininity, in other words, that produce in us a molecular woman, create the molecular woman’ (1987: 275). The molecular is set against the molar in Deleuze’s philosophy. Molar masses or bodies are highly organized, thus easily represented and expressed, and are perceived as clearly demarcated and bounded, while the molecular is characterized by vitality, unruliness, incessancy, movement, imperceptibility and becoming. As ‘pure ceaseless becoming which passes through these states’ (Deleuze 1986: 10), women ‘cross over into molecular assemblages of a different nature’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 213), in which the external and internal, material and immaterial, being and becoming are reciprocally mixed, contaminated and co-dependent. Thereafter, ‘the two sexes imply a multiplicity of molecular combinations bringing into play not only the man in the woman and the woman in the man, but the relation of each to the animal, the plant, etc.: a thousand tiny sexes [emphasis added]’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 213). While wasp and orchid are becoming each other in their being, man and woman are becoming each other and more, when the subject is depersonalized in the endless flow of (im)material forces and when gender becomes genderful, gendering, even agendered. As Stark and Laurie points out, ‘Becoming-woman is not a becoming that begins with woman but rather begins with everything that the concept of woman excludes’ (2019: 131). Becoming-woman ‘is a moment, a passage, a line of flight which bypasses empirical women’ bound with the concept of woman predicated upon a stable self of subjectivity monitoring the possibilities of gender (Braidotti 2010: 307). In becoming, one stops being a certain sex or gender, while the immaterial (mind) materializes and the material (body) immaterializes to the extent that what we perceive as a molar sexual/gendered being is incessantly becoming others. In the following section, I will explore how Wenyu’s text, though rampant with his transgendering desire based upon lack, is interwoven with gender as becoming that frequently appears in his reflexive theorizations and acts as ethics to counter the ‘failures’ in his self-imagined being.


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

Norms, failures and ethics in ‘The Traveler’s Book of Gender Wandering’ Just as our daily lives are infiltrated with social norms, our sex and gender are unimaginable without the norms that construct them. Our BwOs is normalized through the sex/gender binaries, traits, behaviours and mindsets deemed the `natural’ expression of the sexed body. This reality, as Freud and Lacan have explored, stems from the Oedipal law, in which children are characterized by their lack and desire of the parent of their opposite sex. For Lacan, the subject gains its subjectivity from entering the world of the Symbolic (law), for without the naming function of the language and its law, there is no subject position. For Deleuze and Guattari, ‘social machines or the network of law and relations are not primary, for social machines and law work upon and require flows of desire’ that is ‘real and revolutionary’, an intensive desire before ‘recognition or social production’ (Colebrook 2009: 16). On the contrary, the Oedipal/Lacanian desire is imaginarily created by the prohibition of the law. It is because of the prohibition of a certain deed, such as incest, that we assume our lost object of desire. In a similar vein, a subject emerges when it is prevented from being others, be they subjects or objects, which leave it in a state of constant lack. The multiplicity of the desiring-machine, becoming, the material and gender, as explored above, is reduced to discernible identities as fixed beings through normalization of bodies and social relations. While Wenyu claims that, other than the sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), transsexuality should include ‘the social/ interpersonal, body/mind and contemporary law’, he also shows the agencies creating cisgender identities based upon a binary divide, in which the trans and cisgender are beings that represent the real and essential identity of the subject (2009: 85). Wenyu’s definition of the transsexual as one trying to ‘transition from one side to the other in terms of gender and physiological structure’ shows that as one of the ‘multiplicities of the third’ gender, the transsexual is still trapped in the being by refusing/departing from the assigned one to be(come) an imaginary other (2009: 85). To mention the symbolic violence that inflicts on the particularities and singularities of the concrete bodies, the legal and the social are usually held most responsible, especially when the gender binary and heterosexuality are taken for granted in all Westernized societies. For Deleuze, the naturalization of binary beings appears when the flow of BwO are stabilized as ‘discernible human forms’ or ‘organised bodies’ such as male and female (Colebrook 2009: 18–19). In this

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way, desiring-machines are repressed by social machines (or the productive relations among bodies). Wenyu begins his book chapter with episodes of himself being blocked several times at the entrance of the National Central Library. He was suspected of using someone’s library card with a woman’s name on previous occasions; while in the latest case, having had a gender-neutral name and a recent photo on the card, he was told that his sex might be wrongly marked. This is because the card number follows his Taiwan ID card, on which the first number shows one’s binary sex. Without a transsexual operation, Wenyu is unable to alter the gender markers on various certificates based upon his ID card. The Household Registration Act in Taiwan regulates the National ID Card, requiring registrations of the personal status to follow birth registration that only allows binary sex assigned at birth. In that way a nameless body, with all the material potentialities, is organized in a reductive being under the immaterial work of the mind. The binary sex hence becomes the sublime object as Žižek names it, with money as his primary example. Žižek explores the inerasable value of money as ‘the sublime material, of that other “indestructible and immutable” body which persists beyond the corruption of the body physical [emphasis in original]’, the material stuff that money is composed of (2008: 12). ‘This immaterial corporality of the “body within the body” [emphasis added]’ is the sublime object both represented by the value of money and a sexed body (Žižek 2008: 12). That said, the binary sex, just like the value deemed as the essence of money, is guaranteed by the stubborn immaterial mentality rather than the biological, natural and seemingly immutable materiality. Despite the molecular differences in bodies, the medical, social and legal institution keep choosing certain corporeality, such as chromosome or ‘sexual organs’ to assign one’s sex. To attribute one’s name/ ID number to an essential being/body of sex, for Deleuze, this is what logos or the law anticipates. Referring to reason or word, logos in the name of law and other social norms territorializes the once nomadic body in the system of signification, where everything is placed in the right place based upon a wellorganized structure. Wenyu’s personal experiences further show that oppressions upon the transgender do not just come from the cisgender. As ‘Multiplicity of the Third’ brought up by Linstead and Pullen, logos based upon the dichotomized body remains ingrained for many within the transgender community. The distinction between the post-operative transsexual and pre-operative transgender fortifies the borders of identity related to perceived bodies and could disturb the transgender becoming. Wenyu once encountered an elder female to male (FtM)


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

who believes that ‘only people having completed all the procedures for sex change can be called a transsexual’ (2009: 84). In that way, a pre-operative FtM like Wenyu is denied the title of his desired sex, for if this is so, the real image of man for a FtM will be disturbed by those who are neither man nor woman, a derogatory description for gender ambiguity in Taiwan’s social context. Wenyu hence found himself subjected to another gender-binary violence in a (transgender) group thought to be safe for a gender minority. On the other hand, Wenyu’s anger for being disqualified as a man, which should be free from the bondage of a sexed body, shows a similar need of a male identity despite its disputable characteristics. For many transgender people whose interior gender is not recognized, there is no enjoyment of becoming as a process with or without a starting point and destination. As Wenyu discovers, many people with gender dysphoria (whom he calls GDs) are different from the image of mobility created by the prefix of transgender. ‘Most GDs do not want to seek a “cross” between two genders (or more), but leave their original gender in a leap-over posture and enter the other gender completely. Compared with many people, GDs emphasize more on gender binary, so their gender is a fairly clear thing’ (2009: 101). They have to pay more attention to their bodies than the cisgenders so as to move away from their bodies imprinted by sexualized traits. Shaping themselves according to the given gender codes in society, many trans are fortifying rather than challenging the binary norms in their attempts to reverse the imaginations on their sexed bodies. Wenyu’s struggle with his own female body reveals the tension between ‘abnormal’ desires and hegemonic gender norms. On the one hand, he recognizes that a body is gender neutral and that it is the dichotomous definition of sex/gender that is to blame for his agonies, while on the other his belief in gender mostly endorsed by one’s embodiment, as shown in his feelings towards his body, fully supports the rationale of sex/gender binary in our daily reality. The way Wenyu conceives his body reveals much about how the body is organized as material entity infused with gendered ideologies that are normative, dichotomous and hierarchical. As a transgender researcher, he knows clearly that the ‘most comfortable state for me is not to treat me as a boy or a girl, but to know my biological sex and transgender status’ by the others (2009: 107–8). However, he still has to cover his annoying breasts, arguing that it ‘is more like a rejection of “female” sexual characteristics, rather than a positive denial of “my own body” ’ (2009: 103). It seems that his separation of the body from gender norms (from which ‘female’ sexual characteristics emerge) is unsuccessful, for in his recurring nightmares ‘people waiting to see me pee to prove that I was a

Materializing Transgender Becoming


girl without a dick’, and he ‘never want[s]‌to use a woman to represent any stage in my life. Because I don’t think I am a complete person when I am a woman. It is disgusting to ask me to use a woman to proclaim myself [emphasis added]’ (2009: 107). Surely anyone can hate one’s own gendered body and identify with other genders, but using words like ‘disgusting’ to describe an assigned gender in general without any rationale weakens Wenyu’s self-claimed opposition against binarism, making him hardly distinguished from an essentialist sexist. His revulsions reflect his desire and identity based upon lack. His desire to undergo surgery and frustration against the sex mark on his ID card show that a male being, rather than Deleuzian becoming, is his prime target. He refuses to be classified as a woman ‘on the pink side’, ignoring the social realities around most parts of the world, in which his female body allows the greatest freedom of choosing colours and costumes of both genders, as one can discern on Taiwan’s streets in the early 2000s (2009: 108). For Wenyu to ‘ “admit” that he is a girl is tantamount to agreeing with the social division of “male” and “female” ’ (2009: 108). In this way the multiplicities of a cisgender or single-sex person (like many of my cisgender friends) are flattened. Upholding the male identity as a lackless state fortifies the degradation of women as lack, an ideology not only fiercely criticized by feminist as phallogocentric but also in violation with many men’s self-understanding. Interesting enough, the male part in Lacan’s formulae of sexuation is characterized by man’s constant pursuit of the lost object to compensate for his lack. Misogynist or not, Wenyu’s instinctual aversions against the female being show how the potentiality of (trans)gender becoming is lost in the imaginary fantasy of desire based upon lack. As the lack exists in the Real forever castrated by the Symbolic, one is not able to redeem the unfallen state through any imaginary practices, irrespective of whether one is cis or trans. The unrealizable perfect sex/gender/body turns out to be the greatest failure that concerns many transgender people like Wenyu, as the ostentatious sex characteristics, such as the skeleton, penis, breast, cunt and voice, are normalized again and again through the visual and auditory sense for the transgender self and the others. The negative failures Wenyu experiences stem from his obedience to binary gender norms. The opposition between logos and nomos, or norm and nomad, is how Deleuze defines nomadic distribution in Difference and Repetition. Each being, as Deleuze argues, is constituted by differences that differ from each other as different beings. That said, there is no primary, essential or normal being, like an ideal man, standing out from other beings with different degrees and intensities from that ideal as core criteria. Logos affirms that ‘some beings are truly real (the actual, what is present, what remains the


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

same), while others are only real in relation, or by analogy’ (Colebrook 2010: 186). The subordination of some differences to others as norms creates a striated space in which borders are drawn within and against external beings. Failure occurs not only when a sexual or gendered subject is unable to meet the ideal but when the ideal is itself ambiguous, slippery and not cohesive in itself. Wenyu never clearly defines his ideal male image or the man he tries to be. We are not sure whether the male model that creates his dysphoria is a certain person or an image specified through media. If it is the former, would that man Wenyu identifies with encounter a sense of lack in respect to the ideals, whether masculine or feminine, they are unable to achieve, thus placing them in a relation of pure difference when no being can achieve this. Will Wenyu desire to be an aging man with ill health, repelling appearance, disabled body and low income, who is normalized a man by his assigned sex? Adopting the male being normalized by the law and society, Wenyu risks placing himself in a vicious circle between desire and an impossible to overcome lack, with an unreachable destination, which aggravates the sense of failure and limits the possibilities of his becomings. Transgender failures to meet the requirement of the normalized image of the binary sex are not negative, for they are the becoming of the nomad in the smooth space before being reterritorialized by the law. In Wenyu’s dress up and body care, such a positive failure of becoming replaces the negative failure based on lack. Like many transgender people, Wenyu begins his journey with a definite idea of gender norms. He tries to ‘enter’ a gender of man, with ‘a predetermined sphere, a fixed number of members, and many pass codes’ just like the striated space (2009: 100). To look like a ‘ “normal” boy rather than a bookish “sissy” ’, he restyles his fringe, wears rectangular glasses and clothes with collars and stimulates hair follicles on his chin with the razor and hair-growth lotion (2009: 100). In these deliberate efforts, Wenyu fails more to be an empirical man who is assigned male at birth, for many cis-men in Taiwan (and probably in many parts of the world) do not relate their gender or sex identity to Wenyu’s gendered practices. Some cis-men even seek laser hair removal to avoid the daily bothering of shaving. Wenyu also feels exposed in his femininity by a men’s shirt with classic colours that for him denotes masculinity, hence for him ‘the safest colors are pink, green and yellow’ (2009: 100). In these efforts, Wenyu fails to be a man with a certain body shape he desires yet articulates himself with other materials and machines to create a new manhood that is recognized by others. In becoming a non-normalized man, he is no longer obsessed with having the phallus as other cis-men are, be it represented by money, power or women, Wenyu encounters failures indispensable for his self-recreation outside of the

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norm. In The Queer Art of Failure, Halberstam dismantles ‘the logics of success and failure with which we currently live’ and offers the rewards brought by the failure, which ‘allows us to escape the punishing norms that discipline behavior and manage human development with the goal of delivering us from unruly childhoods to orderly and predictable adulthoods’ (2011: 2–3). The positive failure of transgender enables one to distribute the material or immaterial differences within oneself, according to a nomadic law or nomos in contrast to the transcendental and external logos that distributes subjects into hierarchical groups and demarcated identities. Showing that beings constantly become, and that material fixity is created and operated thorough immaterial mental works and the logos of norm, Deleuze’s radical ontology illustrates why ethics is different from morality. Morality, as transcendental evaluations of good and evil, is based upon logos that first defines the nature of subjects and objects and then regulates their interactions and possible becoming in reality. Contrarily, ethics recognizes life as incessant becoming, so the goal of life is to maximize its connections with other lives, to empower its creative possibility in its own distinctive criteria, rather than to confine it within the framework of transcendental values. In the case of the morality of sex and gender, what we are and what we should be matter. A cis, accepting his or her assigned sex, should act in accordance to the gender traits associated with the sex, while a transman or transwoman, dissatisfied with the sex they are designated, should adopt the costumes, practices, temperaments and even a modified body to meet the ‘real’ gender s/he identifies with. These (trans)gender morals, based upon rigid connections between pregiven beings and correspondent norms, result in the failures as discussed above. Morality also works through the body-mind dualism, as the active, conscious and immaterial mind is endowed with superior morality to dominate the material, passive and animalistic body. In this way morality not only impoverishes the knowledge and possibility of the body but it also restricts the perceptive and imaginative power of the mind. The body-mind dualism, eechoing the sex/gender binary, violates an ethics of becoming that is supposed to encourage the freedom of self-expression. A binary gender as our fancied destination of becoming is constantly disturbed by a material body that is sexed hence fixed; namely, our imagination of being restricts the possibilities of our becoming, which also leads some trans people to alter their materiality to meet an unrealizable ideal. Wenyu’s contribution lies in his recognition of the binary norms internalized in the cis and transgender groups, as shown in his identification


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with the male in aversions against women, while trying to find an ethics as his line of flight from the oppressive gender binary. Deleuzian ethics shows that insistence of a certain gender ideal from a trans person creates a morality no less oppressive than that from the cisgender one. To solve the dilemma between the knowledge of gender as fluid and a deep wish to identify with a binarized gender, an ethics that allows us to explore the corporeal and mental capacities beyond the given framework of consciousness is indispensable. Wenyu clearly sees the restricted self-knowledge of certain transsexual people: ‘Many TS regard the time before the sex change as a necessary transition period, which is just a tragic mistake’, and therefore ‘the uniqueness of life is compressed, passed over, and fast-forwarded to the day after the sex reassignment surgery’ (2009: 86). This homologizing fantasy of a sexual embodiment ignores the power of failure that enables one to break away from and make connections with different social or desiring-machines, creating an already multiplied gender in a pre-transsexual body. Wenyu finds that the trans-man who denies his own manhood ‘because of [his] pre-SRS state’ not only ignores how he gets along with his own gender and his hard work but also denies the critic’s own pre-surgical body and the whole process of gender transformation (2009: 115). Since ‘the human body changes its appearance throughout its entire life, continuous changes are also an important dynamic history in the body of a GD [a transgender person with gender dysphoria]’ (2009: 116). Ignorant of the imperceptibility of becoming of bodies on a daily basis, some trans people seek a ‘quick answer’ in the face of gendered norms: to ‘negate one’s own body’ and ‘quickly rebuild another new body’ (2009: 98). While no one, trans or cis, is able to realize a perfect body through medical operations, to anticipate the surgery to be a once and for all solution for the gender dysphoria is to trap oneself in an imaginary fantasy that never covers one’s lack produced by the norm. Wenyu’s solution for this is to ‘deal with the life course of each transgender subject in more detail’ so as to ‘uncover a personal and self-practical path of gender integration, between the painful and discordant thorns [emphasis added]’ (2009: 99). While the omnipresent gender binary infiltrates the worldview both for the cis and trans, propelling them to produce official and unofficial gender norms, Wenyu knows well that classifications simplify the intricate personal journeys of the trans. For him the solution to tackle the harsh realities is to ‘accept more possibilities’ rather than a binary imagination of the corporeality (2009: 112). In view of the multiplicity within a gendered person, Wenyu finds he has no need to choose a complete male or female body so as to meet the social standard of gender.

Materializing Transgender Becoming


Wenyu’s emphasis on the immanent value of a distinct, complicated and changing body resonates with Deleuze’s ethics of becoming made possible by the desiring-machine and the BwO, only that Deleuze goes further in becoming-(trans)gender. Wenyu’s recognition of his gendered being in the beginning is restrained by normalized images of gender that propel him to gain an ‘unproblematic’ body through surgery (2009: 89). Actually, he ‘maintains an intimate relationship with my body and my gender identity respectively’, which shows it is the violent attribution of his body to the female identity that makes him suffers. Gender identity, rhizomatic as Deleuze understands, ‘does not originate in multiplicity or acquire multiplicity – it is multiplicity, although the sense of being implied by the word “is” should not be understood as stability, but the constant change of becoming’ (Linstead and Pullen 2006: 1291; emphases in original). As the body and mind both possess non-personal and even nonorganic power beyond the ‘owner’s’ control from the beginning of life, it is impossible and improper to fix parts of the body and thought to a structured gender order. The ethics of Deleuze inspires the (trans)gender subject to step away from a single or plural beings of gender, to become a desiring-machine or a BwO. Expressing ourselves as a BwO, we no longer yield to a rigid system of signification, to the terror of gendered signifiers to be a modern gendered subject. Compared with those attached to a certain gender identity, BwOs are freer to articulate themselves and with others, to desire and become others (humans, non-humans and even concepts) as desiring-machines. For Deleuze, the gendered and gendering body has the potentiality of an artwork that has its own immanent criteria. The law and social machines, based upon the ontological state of life, shall promote rather than delimit the possibilities of the body as a desiring-machine. With its immanent values the BwO is just like the artwork: ‘An artwork would be great not if it fulfilled already existing criteria for what counts as beautiful, but if it took the power for creating beauty – the power to prompt us to bathe in the sensible – and produced new and different ways of confronting sensibility’ (Colebrook 2010: 186). In a similar vein, a BwO or a transgender body need not be evaluated by an external standard to become a woman, a man or some other. Appropriating Sally Gadow’s idea of aesthetic immediacy, Wenyu also supports the idea of an aesthetic body outside the gender normalizations: Gadow believes that we can experience the existence of the body in the aesthetic model – this aesthetic model can transcend social vision and the judgment of the gendered body, and directly enter the body and life itself. We can experience


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that we are the body, pay attention to the feelings and limitations for the body itself, and experience them as completeness, not as lack. (2009: 105).

The BwO does not belong to a subjective mind. It is life itself and has its immanent value and beauty, its desire for creating connections, making itself a montage and joyful becoming. As art creates movements rather than a representation of an external object, BwO filled with force or desire has its own way of organization, representing no pregiven gender or sex. The subjectless desiring-machine or BwO frees one from gender identities based upon lack, for without the dichotomy between the subject and object there is no lack to be overcome. Gender as multiplicity does not refer to woman as a multiple being against male dominance, nor does it concern transgressing a sexed body by becoming trans. Rather, it becomes a thousand sexes/beings even when one is labelled in a singular gender identity. This provides lines of flight from the pre-existing legal structure and social machines. Since the law is based upon desire that seeks to create relation, rather than vice versa, the law and social machines should allow more space for the BwO and desiring-machines to reach their full potentials. Wenyu’s story in the library ends beyond his expectation. Failing to change his sex on the computer system, the librarians never question his transgender identity or show any discriminative attitudes. They cancel the mark of his sex and say goodbye to him enthusiastically. Wenyu’s encounter with the librarians is a case of how desiring-machines connect with each other and reorient the flow of the social machine. The job of the librarians is to service the visitors to the library irrespective of how sex/gender is marked and so for them this is neither an interest nor a concern. This case shows that legal practices that empower ethics as gender is undone, allowing one to become a man or woman or others.

Conclusion Our current understanding of (trans)gender works through the dualism and interrelation between the material and immaterial as well as being and becoming. The material body, usually regarded as pregiven and relatively fixed in terms of sex binary, is often used to endorse certain behaviours, emotions and thoughts as the outcome of a gendered mind. Gender dysphoria is the outcome of believing the normalized body-mind cohesion that victimizes trans people and propels some of them to seek surgical means to be the sex one desires. Even a transgender researcher like Wenyu cannot rid himself of the anxieties about

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conflicts between his pre-operative body and a masculine mind, for gender identity, no matter how multiply is defined by different categories, is usually imagined on the basis of dualistic intertwinement between self and other, identity and difference and thus desire and lack. However, if the enclosed subject with a self-defining gender is replaced by a BwOs that continuously becomes, it is free from the rigid, demarcated and well-defined gendered ideal that tortures the subject with its unblemished completeness. Regarding the body as a BwO and desiring-machine also shifts the traditional understanding of the sexual reassignment surgery as a movement from one sexed body to another, to a process of gender becoming in which the post-operative body is a new machine for the BwO to organize and desire for itself. Thus said, sexual reassignment surgery is not to affirm the real gender or sex of a subject. As the body always exceeds the control of the mind, the BwO desires other BwOs and connects with other desiring-machines, forsaking in the process their old sex organs. What really causes gender oppression is turning the dynamic becoming of the transsexuality into a static, teleological and idealized being. BwO establishes a dynamic and variable connection with the world in which the cis and transgender are desiring-machines. As the body is itself difference and multiplicity, a preoperative trans body keeps becoming, in ways such as adding/desiring varied clothing, accessories and hormones. Cis or trans bodies are both assembled objects of desire and desiring-machines. Deleuze’s becoming, as far as the transgender is concerned, does not refer to transgression of the assigned sex and identification with another one. As the gender ideal cannot be realized nor any secure point be found, there is an endless production of difference. The ethics of transgender stresses the potentiality of becoming and the positivity of desire, not of fixed identities and destinations. Wenyu’s case shows that if he insists on becoming the man he wants to be, he forever traps himself in the lack and never becomes a complete human as he imagined. Once he realizes that he is in the process of becoming without a normalized destination, just as how he dresses up and cares about his body, he is becoming woman in the Deleuzian sense through becoming man or vice versa – namely. In becoming he is what man and woman is not. He becomes a man without normalized organization, which is also the case when one becomes a cisman. On the other hand, the BwO does not enable one to become anything one desires, as the desiring subject and desired object are identities based upon lack and reduce becoming to a hopeless quest to recover the lost object. To realize the full potentiality of the desiring-machine, attachment to a certain material being hinders one’s possibilities of becoming. Only when gender becomes difference,


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multiplicity, genderful, agendered and even undone, and when becoming matters for the material body, does a gender wanderer find lines of flight from the constant failure of lack.

Note 1 This research is subsidized by Ministry of Science and Technology in Taiwan (project number: 109WFD3010058).

References Bersani, L., and U. Dutoit (1993), Arts of Impoverishment: Beckett, Rothko, Resnais, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Braidotti, R. (2010), ‘Woman’, in Adrian Parr (ed.), The Deleuze Dictionary, rev. edn, 306–7, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Cheah, P. (2010), ‘Non-Dialectical Materialism’, in D. Coole and S. Frost (eds), New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics, 70–91, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Colebrook, C. (2009), ‘Legal Theory after Deleuze’, in R. Braidotti, C. Colebrook and P. Hanafin (eds), Deleuze and Law: Forensic Futures, 6–23, London: Palgrave Macmillan. Colebrook, C. (2010), ‘Nomadicism’, in A. Parr (ed.), The Deleuze Dictionary, rev. edn, 185–8, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Deleuze, G. (1986), Cinema 1: The Movement-Image (trans. H. Tomlinson and B. Habberjam), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, G. (1988), Spinoza: Practical Philosophy (trans. R. Hurley), San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books. Deleuze, G. (1991), Empiricism and Subjectivity: An Essay on Hume’s Theory of Human Nature (trans. C. V. Boundas), New York: Columbia University Press. Deleuze, G. (1994), Difference and Repetition (trans. P. Patton), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Deleuze, G. (2004), ‘Bergson’s Conception of Difference’, in D. Lapoujade (ed.) and M. Taormina (trans.), Desert Islands and Other Texts 1953–1974, 32–51, Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e). Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (1983), Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (trans. R. Hurley, M. Seem and H. R. Lane), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (1987), A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (trans. B. Massumi), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Halberstam, J. (2011), The Queer Art of Failure, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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Linstead, S., and A. Pullen (2006), ‘Gender as Multiplicity: Desire, Displacement, Difference and Dispersion’, Human Relations, 59 (9): 1287–1310. Message, K. (2010), ‘Body without Organs’, in A. Parr (ed.), The Deleuze Dictionary, rev. edn, 37–9, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Rae, G. (2014), Ontology in Heidegger and Deleuze: A Comparative Analysis, London: Palgrave Macmillan. Spinks, L. (2010), ‘Active/Reactive’, in A. Parr (ed.), The Deleuze Dictionary, rev. edn, 7–9, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Stagoll, C. (2010), ‘Becoming’, in A. Parr (ed.), The Deleuze Dictionary, rev. edn, 25–7, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Stark, H., and T. Laurie (2019), ‘Deleuze and Transfeminism’, in C. Carr and J. Sholtz (eds), Deleuze and the Schizoanalysis of Feminism: Alliances and Allies, 127–40, London: Bloomsbury Academic. Wenyu (2009), ‘The Traveler’s Book of Gender Wandering’, in J. Ho (ed.), Queer Soundings, 79–121, Taoyuan: Center for the Study of Sexualities. Žižek, S. (2008), The Sublime Object of Ideology, London: Verso.



The death and rebirth of transvestism Torkild Thanem

Transvestism is dead. You shouldn’t call someone a transvestite. You shouldn’t be one. Even transvestites have stopped calling themselves transvestites. I should know. For a number of years after I had come out of the cis male closet, I referred to myself as transgendered, transgender, a trans person or queer. I was anything but a transvestite. Somehow, I had learned to understand that most people viewed transvestites as little but sexually perverted men who simply gained erotic pleasure from wearing women’s clothes and undergarments. At the same time, I was a committed Deleuzian, fascinated by Deleuze’s differential ontology and by Deleuze and Guattari’s molecular if sporadic and malestream interventions into gender, sexuality and corporeality. I was joyfully affected by their speak of desiring-machines, bodies without organs and lines of flight. By becoming-woman. But I seemed to have forgotten that it was the libidinal release expressed through these concept-tools that had made me so captivated by their work. I must also have forgotten that their Anti-Oedipus had conceived transvestism as part of an indeterminate yet potentially creative desiring-machine, and that they had remembered transvestism as a molecular becoming among a thousand sexes teeming with life on A Thousand Plateaus. Or maybe I just pretended to have forgotten, too spineless to admit that reading about the schizophrenic Judge Schreber dressed in ribbons and necklaces had not only made me cringe but tremble, physically excited that transgressive dressing was explored in a project of transgressive thinking. Even if the pathological history of transvestism may have something to do with all this, I am not convinced that it can fully explain the discursive death of transvestism. Neither Deleuze and Guattari’s molecular transvestism nor my own corporeal experiences of it sit too well with the prevailing doings and discourse of the contemporary trans movement. From the edge of this community, I have


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been noting how many of its leaders and participants engage in an internal policing of trans in pursuit of societal and political legitimacy, desexualizing trans as a matter of personal freedom and gender diversity, medicalizing it as a question of well-being and an object of therapeutic intervention. Notwithstanding the human rights and healthcare services that this molar strategy has secured for trans people in some countries, one might wonder how much difference trans makes when our differences and desires are being covered up by a normalized and respectable surface. Indeed, what is a trans life drained of fetishes, enjoyment and pleasures? While there is much that I cannot know about such a trans life, it does not simply sadden me. Rather, it intensifies my desire to explore what a transvestite life can be and what a transvestite body can do above and beyond the current striations of trans normativity and outside of the closeted wardrobes and dressing rooms that transvestism has come to be associated with. Speaking of the death of transvestism in this way is not an attempt to trivialize the many real deaths that are caused by hate crimes against trans people. Words make a difference. And even though Deleuze and Guattari, like Foucault, encourage me to pursue a transvestite way of life regardless of discourse, I cannot stand back like a passive bystander and just watch how the transvestite subject is being ‘erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea’ (Foucault, 1970: 387). As long as the transvestite subject is simply displaced by another subject no less constrained by discursive normativity, the words and sayings that are inscribed onto our lives matter. Maybe, just maybe, reopening the discourse on transvestism might make more trans lives liveable?

The birth of transvestism If transvestism has been dying on us, it may be because it had a complicated birth. When the German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld coined the term Transvestitismus in 1910, he did so in a book titled Die Transvestiten: Eine Untersuchung über den Erotische Verkleidungstrieb (The Transvestites: An Investigation into the Erotic Drive to Dress Up). Yet half way into the book, he makes an explicit effort to distinguish transvestism from fetishism. Agreeing with the psychiatrist and dermatologist Iwan Bloch (1906) that fetishism and transvestism are both ‘mirror[s]‌of the spiritual essence’ (in Hirschfeld 1991: 164) and accepting the view put forward by the founder of modern sexology Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1894) that fetishism is a matter of ‘part-covering’ and partial attraction to an

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object which covers part of another person, Hirschfeld insisted that transvestites are not fetishists because they are attracted to what may be called the full cover. In his own words, fetishists concentrate their ‘sexual interest … without exception on a specific part of the body of the woman or also on specific pieces of women’s clothing’. Thus, they ‘lack the expressed urge to put on the form of the beloved object, to identify with it, … to change themselves into it’ (1991: 158–9). In contrast, the sexual interest of transvestites, Hirschfeld argued, is directed at covering their full body with garments associated with the opposite sex.1 But at the same time, Hirschfeld (1991) implied that transvestites might dress in the clothing of the opposite sex for a variety of different reasons, not necessarily because we are driven by an erotic or sexual drive to do so or because we gain erotic pleasure or sexual gratification from doing so. For Hirschfeld, transvestites were all people who, regardless of reason, voluntarily wear clothing that is usually not worn by members of the sex their bodies belong to; indeed, both men and women. … In all cases we are clearly faced with the strong drive to live in the clothing of that sex that does not belong to the relative build of the body. For the sake of brevity we will label this drive as transvestism (from ‘trans’ = over or opposite, and ‘vestis’ = clothing). (124)

By today’s prevailing discourse, the diversity implied by this would include people who tend to identify as transsexual, transgender or trans, and Hirschfeld begins the book by introducing seventeen cases based on correspondence and encounters with trans people. Rather than naming his cases, Hirschfeld numbered them: As Case 12 testifies, ‘Even as a child I felt a strong urge in myself to put on women’s clothing. One time a babysitter cross-dressed me for fun and I became terribly excited.’ (74–5) In contrast, Case 3 states that ‘I feel as if I have been violated and subjugated and as if I were taking flight on all sides in some measure into my own ego, to escape the circumstances. … However, when I see myself in a woman’s costume I become completely peaceful; I can clearly feel the peacefulness. My entire organism functions with more balance; it is like resting after being very tired, like coming home to the entire individuality in the role of the woman.’ (29) Case 15 was a ‘female transvestite’, who ‘feels light, well and able to work’ when she is in men’s clothing or, at least, when she wears ‘a man’s cap, tie, underwear, and boots’; on the other hand, in women’s clothing she feels ‘cramped and unfree’. (101, 125)


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Nine years after the first edition of his book was published Hirschfeld set up Das Institut für Sexualwissenschaft in Berlin. Through the Institute, Hirschfeld provided therapy, surgery, shelter and work for a number of trans people (Bauer, 2017). Famous residents included Lili Elbe, brought back to mainstream fame through the film The Danish Girl, and Dora ‘Dörchen’ Richter, who was the first person to undergo transitional surgery. Famous visitors included Walter Benjamin, Christopher Isherwood and possibly Ernst Bloch (Dose, 2014). Though the Institute typically provided menial work for its residents, often as maids, many of the transvestites and transsexuals reported on by Hirschfeld had had interesting careers prior to joining: Case 8 ‘who was actually supposed to become a priest, spends a large part of his life in women’s clothing as an embroiderer, babysitter, cook, innkeeper, and maid on a farm’. (125) Case 15, the female-to-male transvestite, had been ‘a miner, locksmith, butler, barber, whaler, steward, house painter, and factory worker, and, at times in the clothing of her true sex, worked in a laundry, as a stewardess on ocean steamers’. (126)

In a number of cases, Hirschfeld’s transvestites ‘played the role of the woman … for longer or shorter times and certainly often under the most difficult circumstances and dangers’. ‘The majority lead a peculiar double life’, he comments (126). They preferred what was widely deemed ‘women’s occupations’ such as that of the chambermaid, babysitter, milliner, women’s hairdresser and wet nurse, and they cultivated a keen interest in women’s handicrafts and housework. The rest is tragedy. In 1933, the Institute was burned down by a Nazi mob. Hirschfeld had left for an international book tour in 1932, he never returned to Berlin and he spent his last years in France, where he died of a heart attack in 1935. There are no historical records to suggest that any of the Institute’s residents survived the Second World War. Hirschfeld, who was gay, has been regarded a humanitarian champion of LGBT rights (Bauer 2017; Purdy 2004). As historian Daniel Purdy notes, Hirschfeld did not judge the people in his study, and he did not attempt to offer an overarching explanation or a cure to their behaviour. He accepted their stories at face value, and he did not regard transvestism as a mental illness: rather, Hirschfeld noted that ‘the transvestites we have come to know here are intelligent, conscientious people who have diverse interests and a broad education’ (1991: 141). He also remained a prominent name in the history of sexology. However, his diverse concept of transvestism was as short-lived as his astute if counter-intuitive

Death and Rebirth of Transvestism


differentiation between fetishism and transvestism. Like Hirschfeld, subsequent generations of sexologists have generally not regarded unusual sexualities and gender expressions as a matter of mental illness. Nonetheless, fetishism was deemed a key aspect of transvestism in the numerous diagnostic definitions for transvestism that have been launched after the Second World War. In the first edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (1952), to current readers known as DSM-1, ‘Transvestic Festishism’ is ‘defined as [a]‌“deviant sexuality which is not symptomatic of more extensive syndromes, such as schizophrenic and obsessional reactions” ’, yet it is classified as a personality disorder with ‘a lifelong dysfunctional personality structure’ (in Gijs and Carroll 2010: 190). In the third edition DSM-3 (1980), transvestism is reclassified as a paraphilic psychosexual disorder, that is, as a psychologically rooted condition where intense sexual arousal is derived from atypical objects, situations, fantasies, behaviours or individuals. And in DSM-4 (1994) transvestic fetishism is again reclassified, now as a sexual and gender identity disorder. However, over the past couple of decades the medical field seems to have been less keen to pathologize transvestism. Since DSM-5 (2000), transvestism has been classified as a sexual disorder with fetishism but without gender dysphoria, and the current version of DSM-5 (2009) retains a less categorical diagnosis for transvestic fetishism. Including heterosexual males, women and gay men, it defines transvestic fetishism as a mental disorder ‘when cross-dressing occurs for erotic purposes over a period of at least six months … [but only when it] causes significant distress or impairment’, that is, only when this behaviour causes ‘significant distress or impairment in their [social and occupational] lives’. The World Health Organization has gone further, removing ‘fetishistic transvestism’ as a paraphilic disorder and dropping ‘dual-role transvestism’ as a gender identity disorder from the most recent version of their International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11, 2020). As their international working group argued prior to the formal decision, there is little point diagnosing behaviours that lack ‘public health or clinical relevance’ (Reed et al. 2016: 212). So, if transvestism is not the problem it used to be, why has it been dying on us?

The discursive death of transvestism When in 2009 I joined a local branch of a support and interest group for trans people with the homosocial aim of finding a community for people


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

like me, I expected to find a group consisting primarily of male-to-female transvestites. Though many of the other members identified as transvestites at least upon joining the group, the term was not in frequent use. In some sense, this was wonderful, because the group was an increasingly diverse meeting place for transsexuals and other trans people. Thus, the group offered opportunities for a much broader and much more open community than it had been back when it explicitly sought to be a secret haven for straight maleto-female transvestites. This strategic shift has proven successful. Over the past few years, the group, which now calls itself a national association for transgender persons, has sharpened its public image and strengthened its political impact. Much thanks to the association’s efforts to lobby national-level politicians and policymakers and its collaboration with the national federation for LGBTQ rights, in the Western country where they operate state-funded sex affirmation therapy is no longer conditional on completed sterilization or on divorcing one’s partner, and people undergoing transitional therapy no longer need to adopt their own children or be adopted by their own parents to retain legal kinship status. In May 2018, parliament voted to include trans people within the legal protection offered through national legislation on hate crimes, harassment and unlawful discrimination. The association has established itself as a significant operator in national gender politics. Critics might say that these are self-interested acts of identity politics. I would say that they are part of a larger struggle for equal human rights. Indeed, the association has a given presence at the annual human rights week, and it was instrumental in initiating and contributing to the national government’s report on trans people’s living conditions published in 2017. A more trivial indication of this is the fact that when the association recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, guests included the minister of culture and a number of parliamentarians across the political spectrum. All this is in stark contrast to how the association operated during its first couple of decades. According to written accounts aimed to document its history and according to long-time members I have spoken with over the years, the early leadership vigilantly instructed members to do their utmost to keep their transvestism and their membership in the association a secret: Be very careful who you talk to about transvestism, do not mention to any outsider that you are a transvestite, and do not talk about the association to anyone.

Death and Rebirth of Transvestism


When members met up for meetings, they were instructed to arrive in their usual male clothing and to put on their make-up and women’s clothes only after they found themselves behind closed doors and drawn curtains, safe and secure from the possible gaze of outsiders. Should they risk being spotted wearing women’s clothes and make-up, they were told to abide by a strict dress code: to dress like elegant ladies and to avoid wearing anything frilly or sexually provocative. In other words, to do their utmost to pass as members of the opposite sex without being found out. Members who broke the rules could face expulsion. There is more to this. Although the national association that I have come to know is very different from the secret society for closeted transvestites that it used to be, its transformation is not quite a clean break with all things past. When talking to several fellow members, many of them seemed to share many of my own experiences. They didn’t dress up to pass as women, most of them arguing that they wouldn’t be able to pass anyway, ‘not with my deep voice and tall figure’. Most of them did not crossdress at work, even if they, like me, would have wanted to. They crossdressed because they enjoyed it, because it made them feel more balanced and more at ease with themselves, and because it allowed them to express their full selves (see also Thanem and Wallenberg 2016). Like me, I also sensed that they took pleasure in crossdressing. Yet, they had grown uncomfortable with the term transvestite. Since many of the members were new to the group, the main organizer did much of the talking. No doubt with good intentions, she took it upon herself to define what it means to be transsexual as opposed to being a transvestite but without endorsing either term – the preferred terms were transgender and trans. Passing was another recurring topic. In the early days of the group, back in the 1960s and 1970s, the then chairperson had instructed members to refuse any conflation with homosexuality, to dress elegantly, like respectable women, and to do everything in their power to avoid being found out. Though slightly less concerned with secrecy and sexual orientation, the current chairperson – she called herself hostess – often took it upon herself to advise members on how to pass, especially when, after meetings, we relocated to a nearby restaurant or pub. The claim that sticks most in my memory is this one. Frowning at members who failed to leave their male eating habits behind, she more than once asserted: Ordinary women don’t order big steaks and a pint of beer; they have a salad and a glass of white wine.


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

In hindsight, I doubt that this insistence on passing has had much political impact. In this particular country, the pressure on transsexuals to pass for therapy has been relaxed, at least in some regions, much thanks to association’s lobbying efforts. And as I just mentioned, many of us members did not or do not crossdress to pass. However, I do suspect that the contemporary effort to normalize trans folks has changed things. While this normativity has strengthened the community’s political influence, improved the quality of healthcare for some and possibly made life easier for many of us, it has also weakened our libidinal powers. As Cremin (2017) notes, it is fine to crossdress but not if you gain pleasure from it. But is it not a least bit ironic that everything trans must be desexualized, even when we live in a hyper-sexualized society where so much is libidinized as matters of fun and enjoyment and where ‘everyone’s a fetishist’. So, to paraphrase that still modern question which Deleuze borrowed from Spinoza, what can a transvestite body do above and beyond this trans normativity?

What can a transvestite body do? I approached this chapter re-excited by the possibility that Deleuze and Guattari would help me reclaim transvestism as a concept-tool that expresses the kind of demeanour and pleasures that I embody and experience when crossdressing. But the more I have delved into it, the less certain I have become that Deleuze and Guattari offer a straightforward answer to this question. Not that they ever were in the business of straightforward answers. When I first began to explore transvestism through their writing, I did so not through their explicit references to transvestism but through their more general writing on the body without organs, particularly as it appears in A Thousand Plateaus. More specifically, I was optimistic that the ‘passionate experimentation’ that creating a body without organs might involve could be pursued through the ‘gender-bending … practices of … female-to-male and male-to-female transvestites’ who ‘never attain a final state of femininity or masculinity but continue to live in-between’ (Thanem 2004: 210). But despite my initial excitement on turning to page 17 in the prequel Anti-Oedipus to read about the crossdressing Daniel Paul Schreber, I now realize that there is much about Schreber, and their account of him as a body without organs, that makes me uneasy. Deleuze and Guattari’s account of Schreber’s transvestism begins with a moment based on his Memoirs ([1903] 2000) when he is ‘practically cured’

Death and Rebirth of Transvestism


of paranoiac schizophrenia yet, they are quick to stress, remains ‘trapped in the paraphernalia of a transvestite’ – alone, frozen in front of the mirror ‘wearing sundry feminine adornments, ribbons, trumpery necklaces, and the like’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1984: 17). Schreber’s mirror image makes him ‘wonderstruck’, they argue, and helps him finally realize what has troubled him because he has become part of an autoerotic and automatic celibate machine that makes him radiate with ecstasy. At this point, Deleuze and Guattari have already deemed Schreber a catatonic body without organs plagued by loneliness, self-inflicted violence and suicidality, maintaining that he not only ‘lived for a long time without a stomach, without intestines, almost without lungs, with a torn oesophagus, without a bladder, and with shattered ribs’ but also that ‘he used sometimes to swallow part of his own larynx with his food’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1984: 8). Further on, they turn to Schreber’s proto-fascist and paranoid deliria – that Schreber believes he must save ‘God’s chosen peoples …, the Germans, who are threatened by the Jews, the Catholics, and the Slavs’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1984: 89). Thus, Schreber becomes a near ideal case not only of what Deleuze and Guattari conceive of as the schizophrenic body without organs but also of the non-productive and potentially fascist body without organs, which consumes ‘every social activity’ so as to ‘bring … all desiring-production to a halt’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1984: 194; Thanem 2004: 209). Another body without organs who fascinated me yet made me cringe was the effeminate Antonin Artaud, who first coined the term and who Deleuze and Guattari (1988: 150) claim declared war on the organs through his play ‘To Have Done with the Judgment of God’, a play that was recorded for French Radio at the end of November 1947 but shelved without being broadcast. The play was produced following a near decade which Artaud had mostly spent hospitalized in different mental asylums. During his three years at the Rodez psychiatric hospital, electric shock therapy had been routinely administered by Dr Gaston Ferdiere (Murray 2014). About twelve years before Artaud declared war on the organs, he had, commissioned by French publisher Robert Denoël, written a novelized biography of Heliogabalus, who at the age of fourteen had become Roman emperor in 218 CE (Dio 1927). I do not know how much Artaud crossdressed, but his book leaves no doubt that Heliogabalus was an avid crossdresser,2 whose legacy is otherwise tainted by boundless narcissism, hedonism and despotism, by treacherous scheming and murderous tyranny, by an extreme appetite for power and pederasty.


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

Artaud (2015: 73) describes the almost fourteen-year-old Heliogabalus as a fully developed beauty with a woman’s rounded figure, a face soft like vax, with full lips and eyes the shade of burnt gold. According to the historians, Artaud states, Heliogabalus sought to have his own penis cut off (104),3 yet on the coronation journey from his birthplace in Homs in current Syria to Rome, Heliogabalus’s entourage parades a gigantic phallus said to weigh ten tons (121). When arriving in Rome one of his first political moves is to throw out the senators (121). He puts a dancer in charge of the praetorian guard (139). He also takes great pleasure in staging the fable of Paris, where, assuming the role of Venus, he appears in full make-up, drops his clothes and bends over to show off his backside to a jubilant audience of friends and followers (116), thus confirming that for him, the highest possible accomplishment is to satisfy the lewd passions of as many as possible (117). Upset by such transgression, even the emperor’s own police force seems prepared to get rid of him but decide not to, when, as a compromise, his cousin the young Alexander Severus is installed as a second emperor. However, Heliogabalus accepts no sharing of power and incites a crowd of horsemen, artists, beggars and imposters to siege Alexander’s palace. Sensing that the praetorian guard have finally had it, Heliogabalus tries to escape with his mother. They hide in a latrine but are soon found. Heliogabalus is pulled up by his long hair, and both of them are slaughtered before the corpses are paraded through the streets to a cheering crowd (141–2). Heliogabalus, once praised for his broad ‘Egyptian’ shoulders, is too large to fit down the gutter, whereupon the soldiers try to file his body but end up skinning him down to the bone. While Deleuze and Guattari (1988: 160), in the name of caution, insisted that the body without organs should be approached with ‘a very fine file’, Artaud (2015: 142) coolly states that his murder gives Heliogabalus another two names: ‘Filed and Shaved’. So, what happened to all the radically joyful transgressions that I thought could be envisaged and articulated with and via Deleuze, and Guattari? For one, Heliogabalus was not simply a cruel and egomaniac tyrant arsehole crowned and draped in the imperial shade of purple. His replacing of male senators with women may have made him the world’s first named anarchist feminist. According to Artaud (2015), Heliogabalus was a born anarchist (104) because he was both man and woman in one person (102, 139), because he replaced male senators with women. On Roman custom, Heliogabalus’s crossdressing, his gemstones, pearls, corals and talismans were an act of anarchy. For himself, it was an expression of loyalty to a cosmic religious order (118) resting upon a unity of masculinity and femininity.

Death and Rebirth of Transvestism


On his own part, Artaud renounced his father’s name Artaud in 1940, assuming instead his mother’s family name Nalpas in an attempt to embody a different conscience (Lotringer undated). According to Lotringer, Artaud did so, sharing Schreber’s belief ‘that in order for the world to be saved, someone had to offer themselves up to the enemy as a sacrificial victim’ (unpaginated). Indeed, Judge Schreber had been convinced that he could only ‘give birth to a new humanity or a glorious organism’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1984: 17) and restore the blessedness of the world ‘by first being transformed from a man into a woman’ (Schreber 2000: back cover). However glorious their aspirations, their megalomania cannot do other than embarrass me. Somehow, in the midst of their efforts to become-woman, none of them managed to liberate themselves from hyper-masculine ambition and self-centredness. While I am less and less sure that I ever have or will be able to do so myself, this pulls me back to the Spinozian question, which some commentators have insisted is the only possible way of meaningfully understanding Deleuze and Guattari’s body without organs (Ansell Pearson 1999): namely, that the body without organs is a question of what a body can do in concord with other bodies, and that a body can only enhance what it can do in interaction with others (see esp. Spinoza 1994: 221; see also Deleuze 1988: 55, 1992: 244; Munro and Thanem 2018; Thanem and Wallenberg 2015). Sure, the wonderfully tactile and erotic sensations that I still experience when getting all dolled up and putting on my best pair of glossy anthracite pantyhose remain a necessary part of my transvestism. While I realize that this, on some level, turns me into an unreasonable hedonistic beast, I like to think that it also, however temporarily, inadvertently relieves me from some of the macho harshness that I otherwise so easily fall back on. It helps me be well, at least reasonably well, and live a somewhat healthy life. But I also like to think that however insufficient, the pleasures that I gain from crossdressing help me live a more meaningful life. Not that I am able to be well on my own, in isolation. No transvestite is an island. Wearing pearls and ribbons, frozen in front of the mirror, gets pretty unsatisfying in the end. However, dressing up makes it easier for me to connect with others and be well in the company of others. Not just people like myself. I increasingly feel, and understand, that enhancing what a transvestite body can do can only fruitfully be pursued through multitude, in a diverse and open-ended community, which it has been easier for me to explore and become part of when wearing make-up and feminine paraphernalia.


Deleuze, Guattari and the Schizoanalysis of Trans Studies

Notes 1 Furthermore, Hirschfeld maintained that fetishists prefer objects and garments already worn by someone else whereas transvestites prefer new objects and garments in mint condition. 2 In a full-figure portrait by Simeon Solomon (1866) Heliogabalus is wearing not the customary crown and a purple mantle draped over a white toga but a voluminous tiara and a purple shawl draped over a women’s gown. 3 The Roman historian Cassius Dio (1927 (third century)) made this claim in his Roman History.

References American Psychiatric Association (1952), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. American Psychiatric Association (1980), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 3rd edn, Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. American Psychiatric Association (1994), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th edn, Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. American Psychiatric Association (2000), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edn, Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. American Psychiatric Association (2009), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edn, revised, Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. Ansell Pearson, K. (1999), Germinal Life: The Difference and Repetition of Deleuze, London: Routledge. Artaud, A. ([1979] 2015), Heliogabalus: Eller den krönte anarkisten (trans. H. Johansson), Södermalm/Sala: Vertigo förlag. Bauer, H. (2017), The Hirschfeld Archives: Violence, Death, and Modern Queer Culture, Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Bloch, I. (1906), Das Sexualleben unserer Zeit in seinen Beziehungen zur modernen Kultur, Berlin: Marcus Verlagsbuchhandlung. Cremin, C. (2017), Man-Made Woman, London: Pluto. Deleuze, G. ([970] 1988), Spinoza: Practical Philosophy (trans. R. Hurley), San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books. Deleuze, G. (1968] 1992), Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza (trans. M. Joughin), New York: Zone. Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ([1972] [1972]), Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, vol. 1 (trans. R. Hurley, M. Seem and H. R. Lane), London: Athlone. Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ([1980] 1988), A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, vol. 2 (trans. B. Massumi), London: Athlone.

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Dio, C. (1927 [third century]), Roman History, Portsmouth, NH: Loeb Classical Library. Dose, R. (2014), Magnus Hirschfeld: The Origins of the Gay Liberation Movement, New York: NYU Press. Foucault, M. ([1966] 1970), The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, London: Routledge. Gijs, L., and R. A. Carroll (2010), ‘Should Transvestic Fetishism Be Classified in DSM 5? Recommendations from the WPATH Consensus Process for Revision of the Diagnosis of Transvestic Fetishism’, International Journal of Transgenderism, 12 (4): 189–97. Hirschfeld, M. ([1910] 1991), Transvestites: The Erotic Drive to Cross-Dress (trans. M. A. Lombardi-Nash), Amherst, NY: Prometheus. Krafft-Ebing, R. von ([1886] 1894), Psychopatia Sexualis with Especial Reference to Contrary Sexual Instinct: A Medico-Legal Study (trans. C. G. Chaddock), Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis Co. Available online: https://arch​​ils/psycho​ path​iase​x00c​hadg​oog (accessed 1 June 2019). Lotringer, S. (undated), ‘Evil influences’, in More or Less, 3, Los Angeles, CA: Semiotexte. Available online: http://sem​iote​ (accessed 31 October 2020). Munro, I., and T. Thanem (2018), ‘The Ethics of Affective Leadership: Organizing Good Encounters without Leaders’, Business Ethics Quarterly, 28 (1): 51–69. Murray, R. (2014), Antonin Artaud: The Scum of the Soul, Springer: Berlin. Purdy, D. (2004), The Rise of Fashion: A Reader, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Reed, G. M., J. Drescher, R. B. Krueger, et al. (2016), ‘Disorders Related to Sexuality and Gender Identity in the ICD-11: Revising the ICD-10 Classification Based on Current Scientific Evidence, Best Clinical Practices, and Human Rights Considerations’, World Psychiatry, 15 (3): 205–21. Schreber, D. P. ([1903] 2000), Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (trans. and ed. I. Macalpine and R. A. Hunter), New York: New York Review of Books. Solomon, S. (1866), Heliogabalus, High Priest of the Sun, pencil and water colour, 47.6 cm × 28.9 cm. Spinoza, B. de ([1677] 1994), The Ethics and Other Works (trans. E. Curley), Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Thanem, T. (2004), ‘The body without Organs: Nonorganizational Desire in Organizational Life’, Culture and Organization, 10 (3): 203–17. Thanem, T., and L. Wallenberg (2015), ‘What Can Bodies Do? Reading Spinoza for an Affective Ethics of Organizational Life’, Organization, 22 (2): 235–50. Thanem, T., and L. Wallenberg (2016), ‘Just Doing Gender? Transvestism and the Power of Underdoing Gender in Everyday Life and Work’, Organization, 23 (2): 250–71. World Health Organization (2020), International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Geneva: WHO. Available online: (accessed 15 December 2020).


Index abandoning identity  2. See also identity(ies) ableism  2 abstract deterritorialization machine  148. See also deterritorializations abuse of children by male offenders  90 and ostracization  3 of signature  5 Africa famine in  131 Northern  120 African American  74 agender  151, 161, 172 and gender-fluid  19 people  31n.12 Alabama  131 alienation  31n.5, 36–7 American Psychiatric Association  179 amnesia  148 androgyny  24 Anglo-European-South Asian  96 anti-conservative  77 anti-foundationalist approach  39 anti-generality  38 anti-normative/antinormativity  9, 23, 27–8 feminist  31n.14 in gender ontopolitics 21–2 politics 11–12, 21 Anti-Oedipus (Foucault)  5, 38, 46, 129, 137, 139, 175, 182 Anti-Vietnam protests  131 Artaud, Antonin  160, 183–5 assemblages  5, 25, 148 collective 146–9 corporeal  99 environments and  22 gendered  6, 26 macro  147 molecular  64, 136, 143, 161 monstrous  88

of transformative connections  93 transgender  133, 138 trans hormonal  135 trans* teratologies 84–6 without bodies  110 Australia  7, 82–3 authentic  24, 96 gender  23 (trans) genders  23 self-expression  13 trans  23 autopoiesis as central schematics  83 process  87 schizoanalysis  86 trans* teratologies 95–8 Barbin, Herculine 39–40, 42, 45 becoming-woman  97, 160–1, 175 beliefs  3, 39, 46, 92, 138, 164, 169, 183, 185 Buddhist  110 human subjectivity  155 political  131 queer theory  110 Benjamin, Walter  178 Berlin, Samuel  30n.1 Bersani, Leo Homos  109 beyond gender  39. See also gender bi-gender  95, 151 bigotry  26 binary anti-binary  12 being/non-being  45 conservatism 74–7 constraints  14 divide  162 gender 1–4, 7, 14, 16, 19, 23–4, 26, 59–60, 65–6, 68, 72–3, 75, 77–8, 80–1, 92, 94, 101n.2, 107–10, 115, 125, 125n.3, 151–2, 159, 162, 164, 167



heteronormative  92 imagination  168 male/female  16, 91 models  100 normativity  79n.8 oppositions  113 sex/sexual  81, 92, 101n.2, 159, 162–3, 166, 170 trans identities  18 biopolitics. See also  politics of identity  131 of masculinity 118–21 bisexual/bisexuality  7, 46, 82, 85, 90–1, 95, 97, 140, 159 Bloch, Ernst  178 Bloch, Iwan  176 Bodies That Matter (Butler)  62, 74 body(ies) Black  145 cacophony of  29 cisnormative  16 corral  82 disabled  51 and embodiment 46–52 gendered  12, 83 and genders  12 and identities  17 individual  48, 69 intersex  81, 84 male  96, 115 messiness of  99 monstrous  93 multiplicity  27 naturalization of  20 normalization  162 objectivity  7 ontology  9, 21 organic and inorganic  7 organised  162 sexed  5, 83, 87, 95, 164 technologies and  110 transgender lives and  101 trans/trans*  9, 16, 26, 46, 48, 51, 83, 85, 109, 145, 171 transvestite 182–5 usurpation  148 Body without Organs (BwO)  11, 18, 22–3, 26, 49–51, 53, 83, 87–8, 91–2, 99, 114, 126n.7, 126n.9, 160, 162, 169–71, 182–5

borderless fluid and  152 love 88–92 Braidotti, Rosi  30n.4, 37, 40–1, 43–4, 51, 100 Brice, Sage  30n.1 Brontsema, Robin  126n.6 Buchanan, I.   86 Butler, Judith  11, 17, 25, 28, 31n.11, 35–6, 38, 40–4, 46, 52, 74 Bodies That Matter  62, 74 Gender Trouble  35, 39 psychoanalytic paradigm  42 theory of performativity  20 capitalism  61, 130–1, 140–1, 146 charge of conservatism 59–60, 67, 72, 78–9 Charlus, Baron  107, 122 Château de la Borde  142 Chu, Andrea Long  10, 17, 25, 27 cis academic  4 cisgender/cisgendered  4, 6, 19, 159 consensus  16 fixity  19 identities  162 men  101n.2 multiplicities  165 notions of gender binary  7 trans and  162 women  101n.2 cisnormative/cisnormativity  9, 16, 27, 59, 63, 138 binary gender  26 (see also binary) gender  9, 18, 23, 29 misrecognitions  26 sex  23 territorializations  9 cis women  3 citizenship 112–13, 119–20 Civil Rights Movement  130 coalition of sexual minorities  35 code scrambling  98 coding the mindful body  137–42 cognitive mapping  6 Cohen, Jeffrey  44, 93, 95 coherence  15, 36, 100 Colebrook, Claire  28, 30n.4, 31n.9, 47, 50

Index collective assemblage 146–9. See also  assemblages colonialism  130 coloniality  16 conatus 11–12, 23 conceptual territory  62 congenital adrenal hypoplasia (CAH)  90 conservatism 59–79 binary 74–7 charge of 59–60, 67, 72, 78–9 identification 66–7 ‘personal’ territory 62–6 queering 67–71 territory 61–2 trans* movement 72–3 ‘considered as One’  69 constraints  96 binary  14 in gender ontopolitics 24–7 molar identitarian  8 self-identity  17 constructivism  20, 87 Crawford, Lucas Cassidy  48, 50–1, 53, 98 Cremin, Ciara  98, 182 critical perversity  75 Cuboniks, Laboria  37, 53 Xenofeminist Manifesto  36 cultural intelligibility 36–7 cyborg politics  37 Czechoslovakia  131 Danish Girl, The  178 Das Institut für Sexualwissenschaft  178 de Beauvoir, Simone  2 de Charlus, M.   107, 122–4 decoding the mindful body 137–42 and recoding  145 Deleuze, Gilles 1–8, 10–12, 18–19, 21–3, 25–6, 29, 31n11, 49–52, 60–1, 63–4, 68, 70, 77, 79n.5, 86, 91, 122, 130, 132–3, 135–9, 149, 149n.1–2, 149n.5, 157–8, 160–1, 176, 182–4 inhumanism  44 Introduction to the Non-Fascist Life  137 process ontology  25 Proust and Signs  121 theories of difference  18 theories of matter  21


Thousand Plateaus, A  6, 16, 22, 61, 79n.7, 153, 175, 182 Deleuzian-Spinozan  29 Deleuzo-Guattarian  2, 7, 9, 126n.9 denaturalization of sex 74–5. See also  sex Denoël, Robert  183 Descartes, René  155 desire 1–2, 158–9 abnormal  164 becomings of  52 biological  157 child  156 determination and  15 discourses and  7 in Freudian psychoanalysis  139 gendered assemblages  6 heterosexual  120 liberation  8, 130 micro-assemblage of  147 molar power and molecular  147 molecular politics of  147 multiplicities  135 Oedipal/Lacanian  4, 86, 162 patriarchy  4 queer theories  27 revolutionary  140 schizophrenic  140 self-repression of  157 sexual  84, 93, 99, 116, 120 synthetic  136 territorializing  4 theorization  157 transgender/sexual  152, 161 of trans/trans*  16, 75 deterritorializations 2–4, 6–7, 23, 26, 61–2, 67, 69, 73, 75, 142–3 absolute  70, 79 abstract machine  148 negative  77 as positive  71 relative 71–2, 76, 78 and reterritorialization 60–2, 65–6, 68, 76 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, The  179 Didier, Eribon  126n.6 Die Transvestiten: Eine Untersuchung ü ber den Erotische Verkleidungstrieb (The Transvestites: An Investigation



into the Erotic Drive to Dress Up) (Hirschfeld)  176 digitalization  61 Dio, Cassius  186n.3 discrimination  24, 121 dysphoria and  9 and oppression of women  159 and prejudice  4 unlawful  180 in the workplace  2 disorders of sexual development (DSD)  89 disrupting taxonomies 121–2 diversity bisexuality  82 sex/gender  7, 82, 84, 98, 100 sexual  31n.6 of trans articulations  11, 19 of transgender  6, 9, 177 double articulation  149n.5 Drager, Harsin  27 driver of existence  6, 9 duality machine of citizenship 112–13 dysphoria  9, 15, 24, 31n.5, 115, 124–5, 164, 166, 168, 170, 179 and discrimination  9 gender dissonance of  12 of gender identity  83 in transgender community  114 and transphobia  12 dysphoric assemblage 107–25 biopolitics of masculinity 118–21 disrupting taxonomies 121–2 duality machine of citizenship 112–13 dysphoria  125 embryology of sexual difference 115–16 feeling dysphoric 113–15 male bonding 116–18 new breaks 122–4 new connections 122–4 sexual selection 116–18 Elbe, Lili  178 embodiment  17, 31n.13, 50, 53, 71 abnormality  95 and (the) body 46–52 defined  49 ethics  49 and experiences  18

gender/gendered  10, 20, 26 identity and  17 masculine/feminine  51, 95 passing  23 queer aesthetic  98 sex/gender  93, 98 sexual  96, 168 trans 6–7, 23, 26–7, 31n.5, 48, 50–1, 117 viable  31n.5 women  110 embryology of sexual difference 115–16 empathy  3 epistemology  17, 20, 100 Epistemology of the Closet (Sedgwick)  123 Eribon, Didier  123 especially psychoanalysis  84 ethics of becoming  167, 169 embodiment  49 of imperceptibility  49 line of flight  168 of transgender  171 in ‘Traveler’s Book of Gender Wandering, The’ 162–70 exclusion  30, 37, 68, 80 of binary gender  16 feminist  125n.2 of intersex  16 normalizing and  23 politics of  37 existence, driver of  6, 9 extrinsic death 45–6, 52–3 extrinsic determination  45 extrinsic individuation  38, 42 extrinsic negation  50 failure  123 and anxiety  152 of becoming  166 contingent  39 and ethics  152 negative 165–6 positive 166–7 sexual differentiation  116 sexual or gendered subject  166 in ‘The Traveler’s Book of Gender Wandering’ 162–70

Index transgender  166 trans people  153 fascism  18, 137–8, 149n.2 homoeroticism and  118 liberation of desire  130 fatal ambivalence  39 Federalist, The  56n.92 feeling dysphoric 113–15 female to male (FtM)  163 feminine/femininity  6 behaviours  4 dress  3 masculinity and  6, 19, 24, 35, 66–8, 75, 96, 98, 107, 113, 117, 120, 123, 184 paraphernalia  185 reterritorialization  75 sensibilities  96 stereotype  74 woman  68 feminism  20, 110, 159 feminist  3, 21, 27, 43, 84–5, 94, 107, 125n.2, 132, 159–60, 165, 184 Ferdiere, Gaston  183 fetishism  176, 179 fluidity  19, 95 gender  39 identity  151 multiplicity and  153, 159 rhizomes and  159 Foucauldian-Lacanian synthesis  41 Foucault, Michel  21, 39–41, 46, 89, 125n.2–3, 176 Anti-Oedipus  5, 38, 46, 129, 137, 139, 175, 182 History of Sexuality, The  149n.1 France 130–1 Paris  129 Freud, Sigmund 3–4, 98, 133, 156–7, 162 Freudianism  142 friendshipsex  95 Gadow, Sally  169 Garner, T.   48, 51 gender abolition  27 affirming healthcare  14 authenticity  23 binary 1–4, 7, 14, 16, 19, 23–4, 26, 59– 60, 65–6, 68, 72–3, 75, 77–8, 80–1,


92, 94, 101n.2, 107–10, 115, 125, 125n.3, 151–2, 159, 162, 164, 167 (see also dysphoric assemblage) cisnormative  18, 23, 29 difference  31n.13 dissonance of dysphoria  12 dissonance of transphobia  12 diversity  7 dysphoria  4, 170 embodiment  10, 20, 26 euphoria  31n.5, 65 fluidity  19, 39 heteronormative  98 identity 9–11, 19–20, 35–6, 38–9, 53, 61–3, 65–8, 71–2, 74–5, 77–9, 83, 95, 115, 118, 125, 151–2, 156–7, 159–60, 162, 169–71, 179 immaterial relationship to  8 inauthenticity  17 normativity  23, 26 ontology of  30n.3 politics  6, 9, 180 as process 22–3 as relation 9–10, 13, 22–3 reterritorializes  4 self-identity 16–21 and sex  5, 9, 23, 100n.1 and sexual ambiguity  97 and sexuality  92, 98 teleological and binary ideology  14 transgression  24 transition  10 Gender Clinic  13 genderqueer  95 Gender Trouble (Butler)  35, 39 Gide, André  7 Immoralist, The  109 Gide’s Bent (Lucey)  120 Global North  30n.1 Global South  30n.1 Graf, Herbert 50–1 Gressgård, R.   92 Grosz, Elizabeth  37, 45–7 theory of the impersonal  38 Guattari, Félix 1–8, 10–12, 18–19, 21–3, 25–6, 29, 31n.11, 49–52, 60–1, 63–4, 68, 70, 77, 79n.5, 86, 91, 122, 130, 132–3, 135–9, 149, 149n.1–2, 149n.5, 157–8, 160–1, 176, 182–4

194 Introduction to the Non-Fascist Life  137 Thousand Plateaus, A  6, 16, 22, 61, 79n.7, 153, 175, 182 Halberstam, J.   89, 99 Queer Art of Failure, The 166–7 Hallward, P.   21 Haraway, Donna  37 Hartman, Saidiya  132 Hayward, Eva S.   143 Heaney, Emma  126n.8 Heliogabalus  183, 186n.2 hermaphrodite  39, 89, 121 heteronormative/heteronormativity  16, 83, 90, 97, 108–9 binary  92 gender  98, 114 male  96 heterosexuality 74–5, 159, 162 heterosexual matrix  39 heterosexual relationship  97 Hickey-Moody, Anna  30n.4 Hirschfeld, Magnus  121–4, 176–8, 186n.1 Die Transvestiten: Eine Untersuchung über den Erotische Verkleidungstrieb (The Transvestites: An Investigation into the Erotic Drive to Dress Up) (Hirschfeld)  176 History of Sexuality, The (Foucault)  149n.1 Hocquenghem, Guy Homosexual Desire,The  126n.11 homogeneity of identity  18 homogenization  18 homophobia  107, 123, 125, 146 Homos (Bersani)  109 Homosexual Desire, The (Hocquenghem)  126n.11 homosexuality  181 male  7, 107, 109, 115, 117–20 humanism  21, 42–5, 52 humanity 43–4, 53, 92, 111, 185 identification conservatism 66–7 gender  63, 66, 71, 78 molar  2 non-binary  72, 73, 75–8 recognition and  41

Index structures of  37 trans/trans*  7, 59–60, 62, 71, 73–80 identitarian logical systems  39 identity(ies)  1 abandoning  2 biopolitics of  131 embodiment and  17 fluidity  151 gender 9–11, 19–20, 35–6, 38–9, 53, 61–3, 65–8, 71–2, 74–5, 77–9, 83, 95, 115, 118, 125, 151–2, 156–7, 159–60, 162, 169–71, 179 homogeneity of  18 personal  37 queer  41 schizoanalysis of  7 transgender  2 immanence  6, 91–2, 155–7, 160 Immoralist, The (Gide)  109 imperceptibility ethics of  49 politics of  7, 37–8, 44–5, 52 and recognition 35–8 trans-politics  44 individuality  22, 38, 43, 157, 177 individuation 38–9, 42, 45, 116–17, 132 inferiority, sense of  4 inform territory  62 inhumanism  44, 55n.44 In Search for Lost Time (Proust)  107 intelligibility cultural 36–7 social  73 Intersex Human Rights Australia (IRHA) 100–1n.1 intersex/intersexual  7, 35, 46, 88, 89, 140 borderless love 88–92 children  89 exclusion of  16 and non-binary people  16 trans* and  81, 84–5, 88–93 transgender and  35, 85 intra-binary  59, 72, 76, 78. See also binary intrinsic death 45–7, 49, 52–3 intrinsic dysphoric  113 intrinsic existence  45 intrinsic individuation  38

Index Introduction to the Non-Fascist Life (Deleuze and Guattari)  137 inventions of self 95–8 Isherwood, Christopher  178 Jim Crow  131 Keating, Tom  31n.11 Kelley, Lindsay  51 Kirk, Charlie  56n.92 Koyama, Emi  75 Lacan, Jacque  157, 162 Laurie, Timothy  151, 161 lesbian lifestyle  95 lesbian Phallus  41 LGBTQ  180 LGBTQI  83, 85, 95 line of becoming  153 lines of flight 2–3, 23, 26, 88, 125, 133, 136, 146, 170, 172, 175 Linstead, S. 158–9, 163 Livingston, Jennie Paris Is Burning  7, 74, 77 living trans  29 Lotringer, S.   185 Lucey, Michael Gide’s Bent  120 Mahmood, S.   31n.14 male bonding 116–18 male-female dualism  87 male homosexuality  7, 107, 109, 115, 117–20 man-made woman  98 Marx, Karl  137 Marxism  142 masculinity biopolitics of 118–21 feminine/femininity and  6, 19, 24, 35, 66–8, 75, 96, 98, 107, 113, 117, 120, 123, 184 obligatory  13 Massumi, Brian  149n.3 master categories  7 materialism  25, 125n.2 materializing transgender becoming 151–72


ethics in ‘The Traveler’s Book of Gender Wandering’ 162–70 failure in ‘The Traveler’s Book of Gender Wandering’ 162–70 norms in ‘The Traveler’s Book of Gender Wandering’ 162–70 transgender becoming 153–61 transgender being 153–61 transgender (im)materiality 153–61 ‘May ’68’  7, 129–32, 137, 145 medicalization  51 Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (Schreber) 182–3 Mexico City Olympics  131 microscopic transsexuality  100 Middle Ages  89 middle ground, trans* teratologies 83–4 misogyny  10, 110, 125 molar borderlines 132–7 molecular borderlines 132–7 moment of individuation  45 monosexuality  95 monstrosity 82–3, 86–9, 93, 119 monstrous (trans)formations 93–5 multi-gender  96. See also gender multiplicity  4, 27, 84–6, 99, 132, 136–7, 139, 142–4, 151, 153, 158–63, 168–72 myths  3, 89 Namaste, Viviane  59, 79n.8 National Central Library  163 National Health Service (NHS)  13 naturalization of binary beings  162 of body  20 neo-humanism  43, 52 new breaks 122–4 new connections 122–4 New Zealand  83 Nietzsche, Friedrich  37, 47 nomadic subjectivity  37 non-binary  24 nonbinary  77 non-binary  82 identification 72–3, 75–8 identities  18 and intersex  7, 16 intra-binary and  59 and trans  7, 15, 19

196 trans woman  30n.1 nonhumanism  55n.44 non-normative  4, 21, 59, 84–5, 97 normativity  6, 16, 20–2, 24–7, 67, 79n.8, 176, 182 norms  15, 21, 30n.4 gender  5, 8, 17–18, 24, 27, 63, 67, 74, 78, 94, 114, 168 heterosexual  31n.6 and recognition  31n.9 sexual  90 societal  13, 18–19, 101n.1 sociocultural  87 in ‘The Traveler’s Book of Gender Wandering’ 162–70 Oedipus Complex  4, 41, 156 ontology  17 of accidental attributes  39 of gender  30n.3 of present participles  39 ontopolitics of gender 9–30 anti-normativity 21–2 conditions for thriving 27–30 gender as process 22–3 gender as relation 22–3 gender self-identity 16–21 normativity 24–7 power of constraints 24–7 ostracization 2–3 Paris  184 Paris Is Burning (Livingston)  7, 74, 77 patriarchy  1, 4 performative/performativity  17, 20, 75 becoming  11 and norms  31n.9 in trans politics  17 personal identity  37 personal space within gender  7 personal territory 62–6 physical violence  2, 138 Plato  154 politics anti-normative 11–12, 21 cyborg  37 of exclusion  37 gender  6, 9, 180 of imperceptibility  7, 37–8, 44–5, 52

Index queer  7 racial  8 of recognition  52 of self-identification  10 trans-politics  17, 25, 44 post-anthropocentrism  43 posthumanism  25, 43–5, 55n.44 prejudice and discrimination  4 privileged signifier  41 process ontology approach  24 prohibitive law 39–40 Prosser, Jay  75 Proust, Marcel  7, 123 Remembrance of Things Past  122, 124 In Search for Lost Time  107 Proust and Signs (Deleuze)  121 pseudo-hermaphrodite  89 Puar, Jasbir  51 Pullen, A. 158–9, 163 Purdy, Daniel  178 queer aesthetic embodiment  98 community  3, 114 feminist activism  94 gender  159 identity  41 and non-binary trans woman  30n.1 politics  7 studies  108 theory  7, 12, 17, 20–1, 23, 28, 44, 60, 109 transfixion in  27 trans* people  59 Queer Art of Failure, The (Halberstam) 166–7 queering conservatism 67–71 heteronormative gender  98 racial inequities  16 racial politics  8. See also politics Rae, Gavin  154 Ramlow, Todd  44 Rasmussen, L.   30n.4 recognised individuality  38 recognition  162 gendered  169

Index as human  42 and imperceptibility 35–8 and inclusion  16 norms and  31n.9 politics of  7, 37, 52–3 structure of  37 trans  14 relationality  9, 12–13, 49, 142 Remembrance of Things Past (Proust)  122, 124 re-territorialization/reterritorialization  7, 60–2, 65–6, 68, 70–3, 75–9, 138 Richter, Dora ‘Dörchen’  178 Rome  184 rural divide  49 sad passions  5 schizoanalysis  1, 3, 42, 82, 85, 137 of identity  7 of trans/trans*  1, 3, 86–8 Schreber, Daniel Paul  185 Memoirs of My Nervous Illness 182–3 Second World War  179 Sedgwick, Eve Kososky Epistemology of the Closet  123 self-acceptance  10 self-expression  10, 13, 61, 151, 167 selfhood  15 self-identification  16, 17, 26, 159 politics of  10 of trans  9 self-identity  10, 15, 16–21, 50, 53, 159 self-invention  96 self-understanding  10 semiotization  133 sense of inferiority  4 sensuality  3 Serano, Julia  3 Severus, Alexander  184 sex/sexuality  52 binary/binaries  23, 81, 92, 101n.2, 159, 162–3, 166, 170 cisnormative  23 denaturalization of 74–5 desire  84, 93, 99, 116, 120 difference 115–16 diversity  7 embodiment  96, 168 and gender  5, 9, 20, 92, 98, 100n.1


immaterial relationship to  8 irreducible complexity of  35 minorities  35 misalignment to  4 norms  90 selection 116–18, 126n.10 sexual reassignment surgery (SRS)  162 Shildrick, M.   90 singular identity  28 Snorton, C. Riley  144 social stratifications  11 Solomon, Simeon  186n.2 Spinoza  5, 11, 47, 182 Sri Lankan Christian  97 Stark, Hannah  151, 161 static identity  28, 73 Stone, Sandy  19 Stryker, Susan  91 subjectivity  41 embodiment and  31n.13, 143 gender and  27 imperceptible  38, 53 nomadic  37 political  45 posthuman  43 trans  46, 48–9, 51 of transgender  98 trans-imperceptible  47, 49 Sullivan, Nikki  48 Syria  184 Taiwan  165 territorializations  7, 9, 11, 29, 64, 66, 136, 144 territory conservatism 61–2 personal 62–6 of queer politics  7 theory of life  29 Thousand Plateaus, A (Deleuze and Guattari)  6, 16, 22, 61, 79n.7, 153, 175, 182 thriving, conditions for 27–30 totalizing theory  6 tranimals  51 transcendental empiricism  25 trans-exclusive  9 transfeminine  13, 15, 109 transfixion in queer  27

198 transgender assemblages  133, 138 becoming  153–61 (see also materializing transgender becoming) being 153–61 diversity of  6, 9, 177 ethics of  171 failure  166 identities  2 and intersexuality  35 lives of  2 (im)materiality 153–61 physical violence against  2 rights  108 subjectivity of  98 theory  2 Transgender Studies Quarterly  51 transgression  18, 24, 27, 87, 89, 100n.1, 151, 170–1, 184 transition/transitioning  10, 31n.6, 151, 168, 180 dysphoria and transphobia  12 gender  10, 14, 114 medicalized  15 sex/gender  100n.1 transmolecular revolution 129–49 coding the mindful body 137–42 decoding the mindful body 137–42 molar borderlines 132–7 molecular borderlines 132–7 transversality 142–8 working for the unpredictable 142–8 transness  10, 16, 18, 20, 27–9, 137, 140, 143–4, 146 transphobes 25–6 transphobia  10, 12, 16, 30, 64, 138 trans-politics  17, 25, 44 transsexual  15, 18–19, 26–7, 46, 79–80n.9, 136, 140, 162–4, 168, 171, 177–8, 181–2 trans/trans*  30n.2, 81–100 assemblages 84–6 autopoiesis 95–8 borderless love 88–92 concepts 84–6 conservatism  68 embodiments  7, 48, 51 femininity  19 healthcare  14

Index identification 59–60, 72 imperceptible subject  50 intersex 88–93 inventions of self 95–8 lives 7–8 masculinity  19 men 1–2, 4, 16–17 middle ground 83–4 monstrosity 86–8 monstrous (trans)formations 93–5 movement 72–3 multiplicity 84–6 ontopolitics  18, 26 people  14, 16, 59, 64 queer theory  7 recognition  14 regret  15 schizoanalysis 86–8 self-identification  9 theory 27–9, 37 viable embodiments  31n.5 women 1–4, 16 transversality 142–8 transvestism 175–85 birth of 176–9 discursive death of 179–82 transvestite body 182–5 transvestite body 182–5 ‘Traveler’s Book of Gender Wandering, The’ (Wenyu)  8, 152, 162–70 Twitter  56n.92 Ulrichs, Karl Heinrich  121 United Kingdom  16 United States  8, 130–1 urban divide 48–9 Valerio, M. W.  84 Vietnam  131 von Krafft-Ebing, Richard  176 Warren, Calvin  143 Warsaw Pact  131 Weber, M.   84 Weininger, Otto  121 Wenyu ‘Traveler’s Book of Gender Wanderingm, The’  8, 152, 162–70 White supremacy  8

Index working for the unpredictable 142–8 World Health Organization  179 Xenofeminist Manifesto (Cuboniks)  36 Xtravaganza, Angie  74

Xtravanganza, Venus  7 Žižek, S.   163