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Stryker to meet with CIIS students

by Alex Madison

Susan Stryker recalls first reading the word transsexual in a Dear Abby column in the local newspaper when she was 16 years old. This was the first time the transgender academic, author, filmmaker, and historian had ever heard a word she felt somewhat described the way she was feeling. She searched for texts of any kind that might help her understand her situation only to discover a college psychology textbook at her local library that Stryker said described people with gender identification issues as "freaks."

Almost 40 years later, Stryker has gone on to become a leader in the trans community for her literary and film works that have changed and helped shape the cultural conversation on transgender issues, including her book, "Transgender History."

She's an associate professor at the University of Arizona, and splits her time between Tucson and San Francisco.

The book, which came out in 2008 with a revised second edition published in November 2017, will be the topic of conversation at "An Evening of Trans Revolutionary Experience," Saturday, January 20, hosted by the California Institute of Integral Studies. The critically acclaimed book was chosen last summer by the CIIS' student-led Transformative Inquiry Department as a community-wide suggested reading.

Jennifer Peer, a second-year Ph.D. student at CIIS and a leader of the Transformative Inquiry Department, said the book was chosen not only because it, "furthers the mission of CIIS of inclusiveness and diversity," but because it, along with Stryker's long commitment to trans issues, have helped shape an entirely new discipline.

"We have a rare opportunity to spend an evening with someone who is the heartbeat of an entirely new discipline of transgender studies," Peer said. "For anyone who is an activist, the book is a necessary read. Her work is as timely today as it was in 2008. With the current [Trump] administration, there is basically a war going on against the transgender community."

Talking with Stryker, she'd have to agree with Peer.

"Transgender History" is a chronological account of American transgender history from the mid-20th century to today. The second revised edition, renamed "Transgender History: The Roots of Today's Revolution," adds a new chapter surrounding the last decade of trans events, progression, and challenges.

"The decade from 2008 to 2018 was momentous in terms of trans history in the U.S.," Stryker said in an interview. "There were civil rights advances, changes in media representation for trans people, and a general level of cultural visibility especially of trans youth."

That being said, Stryker also talked about how the trans community is targeted by right-wing conservatives today. She said Republicans have conceded that they will no longer be able to defeat the voices of the lesbian and gay community and have shifted their efforts toward the trans community.

"As gay and lesbian issues have become more familiar, mainstream, and acceptable, cultural politics are increasingly shifting attention to trans issues, with the bathroom bills becoming a new flash point, the Supreme Court's rejection of the Gavin Grimm case, controversy in the military, and an increase of violence against trans women of color."

She was referring to the proliferation of state bills that seek to restrict trans people's access to public restrooms. Grimm was a high school student who took his case to court after the school board adopted a discriminatory bathroom policy. Last spring the Supreme Court said it would not hear the case.

In the revised book, Stryker also focuses heavily on the relationship between transgender issues and intersectional feminism. Although Stryker acknowledges that the book is written from her experiences as a white, 56-year-old trans woman, she hopes readers can try to dissolve the idea of the monolithic feminist or woman. A trans woman of color's experience and fight as a feminist is not the same as that of a white or Latino trans or lesbian woman, Stryker explained. The book focuses on how these intersections relate and differ.

"You can't just talk about women and women's oppression without talking about intersectional feminism," Stryker said.

At the event, Stryker will also talk about her background and other work, including her Emmy-winning documentary "Screaming Queens," her consulting work for the Academy Award-winning film "The Danish Girl," and San Francisco's recent designation of the first transgender historic district in the Tenderloin, among other things.

A small panel will also be on stage with Stryker to ask questions and moderate the event. Among the panel members are students of the Transformative Inquiry Department, including Alex Combs, the son of CIIS professor Lesley Combs, who will introduce his graphic novel that surrounds transgender characters and issues. The event is free and open to the public. People are asked to RSVP at http://www.ciis.edu/ciis-news-and-events/campus-calendar/transgender-history-talk.

The event will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Portola Room at the Best Western Plus Lighthouse Hotel located at 105 Rockaway Beach Avenue in Pacifica.

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