Histories of the Transgender Child Book
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A groundbreaking twentieth-century history of transgender children
With transgender rights front and centre in American politics, media, and culture, the pervasive myth still exists that today’s transgender children are a brand new generation—pioneers in a field of new obstacles and hurdles. Histories of the Transgender Child shatters this myth, uncovering a previously unknown twentieth-century history when transgender children not only existed but preexisted the term transgender and its predecessors, playing a central role in the medicalisation of trans people, and all sex and gender.
Beginning with the early 1900s when children with “ambiguous” sex first sought medical attention, to the 1930s when transgender people began to seek out doctors involved in altering children’s sex, to the invention of the category gender, and finally the 1960s and ’70s when, as the field institutionalised, transgender children began to take hormones, change their names, and even access gender confirmation, Julian Gill-Peterson reconstructs the medicalisation and racialisation of children’s bodies. Throughout, they foreground the racial history of medicine that excludes black and trans of colour children through the concept of gender’s plasticity, placing race at the centre of their analysis and at the centre of transgender studies.
Until now, little has been known about early transgender history and life and its relevance to children. Using a wealth of archival research from hospitals and clinics, including incredible personal letters from children to doctors, as well as scientific and medical literature, this book reaches back to the first half of the twentieth century—a time when the category transgender was not available but surely existed, in the lives of children and parents.
"Histories of the Transgender Child is a tour de force contribution to transgender studies, tracing little-noticed pathways from the past toward convergences that increasingly take centre stage in the next field. An elegant combination of sophisticated theorisation with equally sophisticated attention to archival and historical materials, this is one of the best books in trans studies in recent years."
Susan Stryker, University of Arizona
"Julian Gill-Peterson excavates the history of medicine, introducing readers to a century’s worth of gender nonconforming youth. This remarkable book is not merely a backward glance; it offers an urgent call to reimagine trans as a form of self-knowledge children can hold and for an ethics of care that focuses on affirmation."
Tey Meadow, author of Trans Kids
"Meticulously researched and compellingly argued, this book is a welcome addition to a number of fields, including trans of colour critique, childhood studies, and queer and trans history."
C. Riley Snorton, author of Black on Both Sides