Term: Spring 2018, University of Oregon

Instructor: Amy Marvin / Billingsley

Email: amyrbillingsley@gmail.com 

WGS 399: Transgender Studies Syllabus

Course Description

Since Time magazine declared 2014 the “Transgender Tipping Point” and Caitlyn Jenner graced the cover of Vanity Fair in 2015, the subjects of trans, transgender, nonbinary, genderqueer, transsexual, and more have been framed with a heightened “moment” of visibility often associated with representation and progress. However, this visibility has not stopped the persistent violence experienced by trans people, and narratives of trans “progress” often neglect trans histories and differences across trans populations.

In this course we will look at the present moment of heightened trans visibility through the lenses of history, institutions, cultural production, and activism to gain a richer understanding of the past and future of trans, transgender, nonbinary, genderqueer, and transsexual people. Course materials will range from high academic theory to poetry, interviews, literature, podcasts, zines, Internet posts, video games, and films to introduce students to a range of perspectives on trans experiences, their pasts, and their futures.

Amy’s Approach to the Classroom:

My approach to the classroom is to try to find a happy medium between what I think is important from the readings and what you want to talk about. To that end, having a great term is very much on you as it is on me, especially in the efforts of avoiding a quiet, awkward classroom.

Learn to ask questions and request clarifications when you are confused (or when I am confusing), and take advantage of office hours, where you are always welcome. I will do my best to respond to important e-mails, but they can only go so far.

Course Expectations:

Be respectful of your classmates, including their preferred pronouns (keep in mind pronouns and/or names may change over the course of the term). Additionally, please refrain from making statements or using language that is racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc., or generally disrespectful to your peers. Let’s work together to make this as great a course as possible!

Do the readings and bring them to class. Not doing this will affect your attendance and participation grade, even if I don’t call you out on it.

Feel free to call me out if I make a mistake or you can’t read my handwriting on the board. I can

take it.

Safe Spaces, Content Warnings, and Internet “Callouts”

In this class we will often look at and critically discuss difficult materials and topics that include violence, anti-trans or trans-skeptical arguments, and terminology that may be archaic, disputed, or used as a slur. Though I hope this will be avoided, the subjects of this course make it likely that people in this class may make mistakes, accidentally misgender someone, say something hurtful, or otherwise make others uncomfortable. People in this class also may have very different levels of familiarity with trans topics and trans people. To that end, while the class may not serve as a safe space, I hope it can serve as a space of mutual respect, conversation, sharing, learning, and growth. Please also be sensitive with lived experiences that students (or I) share with the class, as we may not want them to leave the room.

Because we will be discussing several transphobic, anti-trans, trans-skeptical, and slur-containing texts, I have marked a few with ** as a content warning. I will try to give you a heads up about sensitive material to the best of my abilities ahead of time. Keep in mind that there are days I may miss an important warning, and because triggers vary my warnings are not comprehensive and I may miss one that is important to you. Please speak with me if any topic/day/reading of class may be difficult for you.

In this class we will sometimes discuss heavy and contested topics, and break down arguments that may be anti-trans on their own terms to better understand how they work and how to critically respond. While I have no power over your Internet life (nor would I wish to have this power), if it feels safe to do so please let me know if there are any problems I can address with the class (including but not limited to me or other students saying hurtful things, terminology being used in an incorrect way, exclusions, etc.) before posting about it online. This can (to an extent) help facilitate a classroom dynamic of mutual respect and conversation without anxiety that mistakes and learning moments will permanently be recorded outside the course.

Names and Name Plates

One of my biggest weaknesses as an instructor is remembering student names. However, I also believe that good education involves me knowing your names and you knowing the names of your classmates! To that end, I ask that you bring a folded piece of paper displaying your name to each class. We will set these up during the first two days of the course. Please include your pronouns too.

Required Course Materials:

All course materials will be available on our course Canvas site by the end of Week 1. Usually you can find everything under Modules or Assignments.

If you want all the readings to be collected together in a physical copy so they aren’t lying about, print them out and then have them bound either at UO Campus Copy or The Copy Shop. You will still spend much less than with a class that requires books to be purchased.

We will be looking at a lot of material found in The Transgender Studies Reader 1 and 2, and Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility so these may be worth purchasing if you plan to continue with transgender studies (or in general).

Feel free to ask me for book/essay/media/Internet recommendations throughout the term and I will do my best!

Course Assignments:

Information about letter grades and what they mean will be posted to Canvas.

Attendance and Participation (15%)

This is based on your ability to show up to class prepared and positively contribute to our discussions. If you are shy, office hours can be a good alternative to share your thoughts on the material. Students will be given one free absence that will not count against them (be wise about this and please do not email me about it!). Students who miss over two weeks of the course (four classes) without a written and approved excuse can expect to receive no higher than a C as their final course grade. It is your responsibility to catch up to missed material (checking Canvas is often a good call).

Additional specific guidelines for Participation will be posted to Canvas.

Discussion Group (10%):

You and 4-5 other students will work together to lead one discussion session (of no more than 15-20 minutes) during the semester. Together you will guide our discussion, directing it to topics and issues you find important or significant. Do not merely summarize the assigned texts, as your classmates have read them. Rather, try to make connections between the readings, the overall topic, and other materials from class. In thinking about the materials, ask yourself, what ideas are the most critical, controversial, enlightening, provocative or difficult to understand? What key terms or questions can you draw from these readings, and how might you use these ideas outside this particular context? Try to illuminate key issues with specifics and examples from the readings, bringing relevant passages to the class’s attention, or comparing different authors, scholars, and artists. Your goal is to prompt interesting class discussion, so highlight things in the readings you found illuminating, challenging, surprising, informative, and unusual. By 11:59 PM the evening before the class you will lead, email me with a list of 5 to 6 discussion questions you plan to go over with students.

Make sure that each member of your group has a task to contribute (whether that be planning questions, running smaller groups for discussion, etc.) Please also make sure to be respectful for your classmates and sensitive to differences. Students who are not prepared or disrespectful while their peers are leading a discussion will receive an extreme penalty to their attendance and participation grade -- be the audience you want to have when it is your turn!

You will be prompted to fill out a survey on Canvas that I will take into account while grading. Additional resources for discussion leading will be posted to Canvas, and sign-ups will take place on Wednesday of Week 1 (it is your responsibility to sign up if you miss this or enroll later).

Topic 1 Essay and Topic 2 Essay (40% total, worth 20% each)

These essays (5 pages each) will give you a chance to write and receive feedback on an essay responding to course materials from the given topic. More information and prompts for these essays will be provided in class as the deadline approaches.

Topic 3 Quiz (5%)

You will take an online timed quiz due by 11:59pm of Friday during Week 10 to check that you did and thought about the readings from Topic 3.

Final Project (30%)

The Final Project will task students with going beyond course materials to critically engage with the transgender studies with their own voice and vision. Students will be able to follow one of three paths: Research, Creativity, or Relevancy. More details will be provided later in the term. Each Final Project will be 5-6 pages in length (this will vary with the Creativity Path).


You may use technology, but I will ban it if it becomes a distraction to you, me, or your classmates, and it will affect your attendance and participation grade harshly if you use it often for non-class purposes. Please let me know if someone is distracting you with technology (you don’t have to say who it is specifically) and I will respond appropriately. Sometimes we might look up information online, or maybe even share videos or articles with each other (as long as they remain on-topic). Please do not post online about your peers during class, because that creates an uncomfortable environment to teach and learn in. Please do not text during class unless it is an emergency.

Lateness Policy

You must complete ALL assignments to pass the class. All written assignments will be turned in through Canvas by the posted Syllabus due dates/times. Late essays will lose a 1/3 of a grade point each day late starting from after the due time (ex. from B+ to B, or from B to B-). A grades will only be given to the sharpest, most impressive work (rather than those that fit the basic requirements).

Academic Honesty

All work submitted for this course must be your own, produced exclusively for this course. The use of sources (ideas, quotations and/or paraphrases) must be properly documented. I will report cases of suspected plagiarism to university authorities for disciplinary action. Possible penalties for plagiarism include, but are not limited to, assignment and/or course failure. Please see me if you have any questions about your use of sources. Please refer to the University guide on plagiarism: http://library.uoregon.edu/guides/plagiarism/students/index.html 


Please let me know during the first week of class if you need any documented (or not documented) learning accommodations (letting me know later is fine too). If you do not and need one, please contact the Accessible Education Center (https://aec.uoregon.edu/)

We may encounter profanity, violence, and offensive language in our required readings. If a particular topic is difficult for you, let me know as soon as possible so that we can work out an alternate reading or assignment.

UO’s Teaching and Learning center can provide you with additional study and writing resources


On- and Off-Campus Resources 

Please take advantage of the following on and off campus resources:

On Campus

Community (off-campus) and National

  • Womenspace Help Line (they say they are trans-inclusive): 541-485-6513
  • Transponder (meetings for Eugene and Springfield trans-identified and questioning people): https://transponder.community/
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-(800)-273-8255


(subject to change by me as needed via notifications)

**Weeks or readings marked with ** may be particularly disturbing to some readers (including intense discussions of racism, violence, homophobia, etc. Students who anticipate difficulty with these readings and others should contact me for alternative assignments.


Week 1 - Trans 101 and the “Tipping Point”

4/2 - The Trans “Moment”: Trans 101 and Visibility

  • GLAAD Media Reference Guide - Transgender
  • The Transgender Tipping Point in Time Magazine by Katie Steinmetz
  • Gender Revolution in National Geographic Magazine

4/4 - The Trans “Moment”: Non-Binary Representation

  • “Non-binary Activism” by S. Bear Bergman and Meg-John Barker
  • “Beyond Beyond ‘He’ or ‘She’: The Changing Meaning of Gender and Sexuality” in Time Magazine by Katy Steinmetz:
  • ** “Gender, Rights, and Freedom of Speech” on The Agenda with Steve Paikin (with Jordan Peterson)


Week 2 - Creating “Trans”

**4/9 - Medicalization

  • Take the “Combined Gender Identity and Transsexuality Inventory” (COGIATI) and bring the results (or just your thoughts about it if that makes you uncomfortable) to class
  • "Psychopathia Sexualis with Special Reference to Contrary Sexual Instinct: a MedicoLegal Study" by Richard von Krafft-Ebing
  • "The Transvestites: the Erotic Drive to Cross-Dress" by Magnus Hirschfeld
  • "Transsexualism and Transvestism as Psycho-Somatic and Somato-Psychic Syndromes" by Harry Benjamin
  • Take a look at: “Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People” (SOC) by World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH)

4/11 - “Beyond” Medicalization

  • Take a brief look at Kate Bornstein’s “Gender Aptitude” Test from My Gender Workbook
  • Skim: Transgender Liberation pamphlet by Leslie Feinberg
  • “History and Cultural Diversity” by Ben Vincent and Ana Manzano
  • “Decolonizing Transgender: A Roundtable Discussion” with Tom Boellstorff, Micha Cárdenas, Trystan Cotten, Eric A. Stanley, Kalaniopua Young, and Aren Aizura

Week 3 - Histories of Activism and Visibility

4/16 - Trans Activisms  

  • Selections from Transgender History by Susan Stryker (read whole selection or at least marked parts)
  • “Trans History in a Moment of Danger: Organizing Within and Beyond ‘Visibility’ in the 1970s” by Abram J. Lewis
  • “‘Still at the Back of the Bus:’ Sylvia Rivera’s Struggle” by Jessi Gan
  • Listen to (or at least start listening to): “The Trans Howard Hughes” from One From the Vaults podcast by Morgan M. Page:

4/18 - Trans Visibilities

  • Skim:“Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty” by Ben White (from 1952)
  • “A Nightmarish Silhouette: Racialization and the Long Exposure of Transition” by C. Riley Snorton
  • Watch: Paris is Burning (NETFLIX) -- if you cannot arrange sharing an account with a friend or other students, let me know
  • Listen to the following songs (on Youtube, Spotify, 8-track tape, etc.):
  • “Walking the Dog” by Jackie Shane
  • “You Are My Sunshine” by Little Axe and the Golden Echoes
  • **”Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed
  • “Candy Says” by The Velvet Underground
  • “Lola” by the Kinks

Week 4 - Trans/Feminist Contentions

**4/23 - Feminist Contentions

  • "Boundary Violation and the Frankenstein Phenomenon” from Gyn/Ecology by Mary Daly
  • Selections from the “Introduction to the 1994 Edition” of The Transsexual Empire: the Making of the Shemale by Janice Raymond  
  • “Radical Feminism FAQ” by Deep Green Resistance
  • If you have time: “Deep Green Resistance Feminist Solidarity Guidelines”
  • “For a Critical Radical Feminism: An Open Letter to Lierre Keith from a Former Sister-in-Arms” by Bonnie Mann
  • An alternative (but equally long) set of readings can be provided to specific students ahead of time by request.

4/25 - Transfeminisms

  • "The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto" by Sandy Stone
  • “The Seam of Skin and Scales” by Elena Rose
  • Listen to: “On Cartographies and Dissection” by Elena Rose
  • “The Transfeminist Manifesto” by Emi Koyama
  • “Trans, Feminism: Or , Reading like a Depressed Transsexual” by Cameron Awkward-Rich

4/27, Friday - Topic 1 Essay due via Canvas by 11:59pm


Week 5 - Contemporary Visibility and Backlash

4/30 - Addressing Visibility

  • “Cautious Living: Black Trans Women and the Politics of Documentation” interview with Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Cece McDonald, and Toshio Meronek
  • “Existing in the World: Blackness at the Edge of Trans Visibility” interview with Che Gossett and Juliana Huxtable
  • "Look! No, Don't!: The Visibility Dilemma for Transsexual Men" by Jamison Green

**5/2 - Backlash and Responses

  • “Regarding Human Sexual Identity” by Kansas Republican Party
  • “Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • “Anti-Online Trafficking Bills Advance in Congress, Despite Opposition from Survivors Themselves” by Melissa Gira Grant
  • “Tangled Webs” by Alice Dreger
  • Watch: “Autogynephilia” by ContraPoints

**Week 6 - Violence

**5/7 - Violence and Public Space

  • “Genderbashing: Sexuality, Gender, and the Regulation of Public Space” by Viviane Namaste
  • “Evil Deceivers and Make Believers: On Transphobic Violence and the Politics of Illusion” by Talia Bettcher
  • “A Poetic Beyond Resilience” by jay dodd
  • Look at: 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey Executive Summary” via National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE)

**5/9 - Necropolitics and Remembrance

  • Look at the International Transgender Day of Remembrance website
  • “Retelling Racialized Violence, Remaking White Innocence: The Politics of Interlocking Oppressions in Transgender Day of Remembrance” by Sarah Lamble
  • “Trans Necropolitics: A Transnational Reflection On Violence, Death, and the Trans of Color Afterlife” by C. Riley Snorton and Jin Haritaworn

Week 7 - Institutions

5/14 - Education

  • Look at: “Trump Administration Withdraws Federal Protections for Transgender Students”
  • Look at Trans Student Educational Resources: http://www.transstudent.org 
  • “Fuck You and Fuck Your Fucking Thesis: Why I Will Not Participate in Trans Studies” by Anne Tagonist:
  • “The (Tiring) Labor of Practicing Trans* Genders” by Z. Nicolazzo
  • “PISSAR’s Critically Queer and Disabled Politics” by Isaac West
  • Take a look: Dismantling the Ivory Tower: A How-To Guide for POC* Charting New Strategies for Social Justice Organizing by Van Bailey, Moya Bailey, Kai Green, and Jessica Marie Johnson

**5/16 - Incarceration and Resistance

  • “ICE Arrests Transgender Woman Seeking Help for Domestic Violence”
  • “Rounding up Homosexuals: The Impact of Juvenile Court on Queer and Trans/Gender Non-Conforming Youth” by Wesley Ware
  • “Foreword” to Captive Genders by CeCe McDonald
  • Skim: “Building an Abolitionist Trans & Queer Movement with Everything We’ve Got” by Morgan Bassichis, Alexander Lee, and Dean Spade

5/18, Friday - Topic 2 Essay due via Canvas by 11:59pm


Week 8 - Trans Cultural Critique

5/21 - Trans Cultural Critique

  • Interview with Janet Mock by Nia King (from Queer and Trans Artists of Color)
  • “Transsexuality, the Curio, and the Transgender Tipping Point” by Amy Marvin
  • “What Counts as Trans Literature?” by Gabrielle Bellot
  • “Trans* Generations” by Jack Halberstam
  • Watch (or at least start watching) “bell hooks and Laverne Cox in a Public Dialogue at The New School”

5/23 - Writings, Rereadings, and Poetics

  • “Mansion” by Jamie Berrout
  • “Transitionings and Returnings: Experiments with the Poetics of Transatlantic Water” by Dora Silva Santana
  • “Passing” by Carta Monir
  • “‘Time isn’t after us’: Some Tiresian Durations” by Trish Salah
  • **“Sleepaway Camp (1983)” by Imogen Binnie from Imogen Watches Classic Films podcast
  • We will look at trans poetry in class! Fun!

Week 9 - Trans Archives

5/28 -- MEMORIAL DAY - no class!

5/30 -- Trans Archives

  • Look at: Gender Trash from Hell zine by Xanthra Philippe
  • “Happy Birthday Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson!” by Reina Gossett
  • Watch: Interview with Reina Gossett and Sasha Wortzel about Happy Birthday, Marsha!

Week 10 - Subjugated/Disciplined Knowledge

  • Recommended reading for the week: selections from Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins

6/4 - Internet

  • **Play: With Those We Love Alive by Porpentine Charity Heartscape
  • **“Dark Shimmers: The Rhythm of Necropolitical Affect in Digital Media” by Micha Cárdenas
  • “Everywhere Archives: Transgendering, Trans Asians, and the Internet” by Mel Y. Chen
  • Look at: “LesBiGay and Transgender Glossary” from USENET, 1992
  • “date nite one” by Rory Frances and J Bearhat

6/6 - Trans Studies

  • Watch “How to Become an American Transgender Theorist” by Viviane Namaste
  • “Undoing Trans Studies” by Trish Salah
  • “Bathrooms and Beyond: Expanding a Pedagogy of Access in Trans/Disability Studies” by Cassius Adair
  • “We Got Issues: Toward a Black Trans*/Studies” by Treva Ellison, Kai M. Green, Matt Richardson, and C. Riley Snorton

6/8 Take Topic 3 Quiz by 11:59pm!


6/13 -- Final Projects due by 5pm on Wednesday! submit via Canvas (and in-person before the office closes for some Creative projects). Please give WGS staff space during their lunch hours, thanks!