Imagining Transgender

Front Cover
Duke University Press, Aug 30, 2007 - Social Science - 302 pages
1 Review
Imagining Transgender is an ethnography of the emergence and institutionalization of transgender as a category of collective identity and political activism. Embraced by activists in the early 1990s to advocate for gender-variant people, the category quickly gained momentum in public health, social service, scholarly, and legislative contexts. Working as a safer-sex activist in Manhattan during the late 1990s, David Valentine conducted ethnographic research among mostly male-to-female transgender-identified people at drag balls, support groups, cross-dresser organizations, clinics, bars, and clubs. However, he found that many of those labeled “transgender” by activists did not know the term or resisted its use. Instead, they self-identified as “gay,” a category of sexual rather than gendered identity and one rejected in turn by the activists who claimed these subjects as transgender. Valentine analyzes the reasons for and potential consequences of this difference, and how social theory is implicated in it.

Valentine argues that “transgender” has been adopted so rapidly in the contemporary United States because it clarifies a model of gender and sexuality that has been gaining traction within feminism, psychiatry, and mainstream gay and lesbian politics since the 1970s: a paradigm in which gender and sexuality are distinct arenas of human experience. This distinction and the identity categories based on it erase the experiences of some gender-variant people—particularly poor persons of color—who conceive of gender and sexuality in other terms. While recognizing the important advances transgender has facilitated, Valentine argues that a broad vision of social justice must include, simultaneously, an attentiveness to the politics of language and a recognition of how social theoretical models and broader political economies are embedded in the day-to-day politics of identity.


What people are saying - Write a review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

After 1969 due to riots associated with Stonewall bar/ wrested dominion about this subject from Psychiatrists by disrupting meetings of APA. Eventually succeeded from erasding this type of diagnosis from DSM as an abnormality. Transgender as a political type category to ease the struggle.


Imagining Transgender
Reframing Community and Identity
Making Community
I Know What I Am Gender Sexuality and Identity
The Transexual the Anthropologist and the Rabbi
The Making of a Field Anthropology and Transgender Studies
The Logic of Inclusion Transgender Activism
The Calculus of Pain Violence Narrative and the Self
Making Ethnography
Works Cited

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2007)

David Valentine is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota.

Bibliographic information