I’ll admit that this week’s blog post from me has little to do with David Valentine’s examination of the category “transgender.”  His examination of this category is very  interesting, it complicates our own understanding of gender and sexuality from gender studies classes, as well as how we interact and communicate our understandings with people who do/don’t share this same background. However, what interests me is what is missing. I couldn’t help but notice that there were very little drag kings, butches, or FTM individuals in this ethnography. While Valentine does address that this is missing in the book multiple times, I still kind of think it was a cop out. Valentine’s writes

while I talked to, interviewed, and spent time with FTMs and female-bodied masculine people, the vast majority of my research was conducted with MTF transsexual-and transgender-identified people and male-bodied feminine people (24).

One of the reasons he offers is because there was not a social space where FTM’s  or female-bodied masculine people organized or congregated as a group (260). This is in contrast with the balls that he visited where male-bodied fem queens and butch queens were able to congregate as a group. However, he admits there were female-bodied butches at these venues, but it was much more centered around male-bodied fem queens and butch queens (260). While this is true, it still would have been interesting if Valentine could have either searched harder for different venues or just interviewed  more female-bodied masculine people. It would have also been interesting he had spent time trying to understand why there are more spaces that are centered around male-bodied feminine people.

While he does pose the question

if it is true that the broader cultural models of ‘transgender ‘ are being formulated around the experiences of those who were born male, what does this say about the category itself? (24)

However, this feels like an empty question posed to the reader to examine, but not really examined  by Valentine. This question is fascinating though. It highlights how the term ‘transgender’ is centered around the experiences and knowledge of individuals that were born male, not female. What does this say about the term? Is it suggesting the experiences of individuals born female are not as important? Is this just another instance of inequality in a patriarchal hierarchy? I just wish Valentine would have integrated this question and similar ones more into the text and investigated them more, rather than simply glossing over them and female-bodied masculine individuals and FTMs.


By Kristy Wilson