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Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography
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Trans geographies, embodiment and experience
Catherine J. Nash
a a

Department of Geography, Brock University, Mackenzie Chown Building, St. Catharines, Ontario, L2S 3A1, Canada Published online: 25 Aug 2010.

To cite this article: Catherine J. Nash (2010) Trans geographies, embodiment and experience, Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 17:5, 579-595 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2010.503112

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Gender, Place and Culture Vol. 17, No. 5, October 2010, 579–595

Trans geographies, embodiment and experience
Catherine J. Nash*
Department of Geography, Brock University, Mackenzie Chown Building, St. Catharines, Ontario, L2S 3A1, Canada Queer geographers have long been interested in the interconnections between sexuality and space. With queer theorizing as its hallmark, queer geographical research has made substantial contributions to our understandings of genders, sexualities and embodiment and their constitution in, and production of, space and place. This article examines how trans scholarship intersects with several themes central to queer geographical research – subjectivity/performativity; experience/embodiment; and the historical, political and social constitution of what are now called ‘traditional’ LGBTQ or ‘queer’ urban spaces – and offers geographers interested in intersections between sexuality, gender and the body, alternative and challenging avenues of inquiry. This scholarship highlights, in part, the discontinuities and silences embedded in so-called LGBTQ and queer communities and spaces and points to the need to explore more particularly historical and political conceptualizations of the formations of subjectivities, identities and forms of embodiment in play in these spaces. Keywords: gay; lesbian; queer theory; trans; queer geographies; sexuality; gender

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Introduction Transfolk are an increasingly visible presence in many North American queer communities. In Toronto, the addition of the ‘T’ in the naming of various lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) political and social organizations is largely viewed as a positive and welcome, although not completely uncontested, recognition of that trans presence. Many trans individuals experience unsettling combinations of reification and celebrity and/or exclusion and rejection in LGBTQ spaces (Halberstam 2005; Stryker 2006; Browne and Lim 2010).1 Such experiences suggest that despite the political and social struggles waged to foster inclusivity in spaces variously represented as gay, bi-sexual, ‘feminist’, ‘lesbian’ and ‘women-only’, ‘LGBTQ’ and ‘queer’, transfolk are sometimes taken as transgressing spatially specific gendered, sexualized and embodied expectations. In Toronto, several transfolk participating in ‘trans friendly’, queer women’s bathhouse events, report receiving hostile glances and derogatory comments seemingly because they were not immediately legible as normatively ‘female’ (Nash and Bain 2007). The long-standing battle between trans activists and organizers of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (Browne 2009) and the case of Kimberly Nixon, a trans woman excluded from volunteering for a feminist-based sexual assault crisis centre, attest to the fact that North American LGBTQ spaces are not inherently inclusive either. Trans men often experience a mixed reception at gay male bathhouses, suggesting that even spaces understood by some as libratory and transgressive

*Email: cnash@brocku.ca
ISSN 0966-369X print/ISSN 1360-0524 online q 2010 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2010.503112 http://www.informaworld.com

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(Tattleman 2000; Warner 2002) may have limits on who may be present to experience such radical imaginings (Syms 2007; see also Doan 2007). These troubled spatial experiences mirror long standing and often acrimonious debates between some feminist, queer theorists and transfolk over the political, social and theoretical implications of the increasingly visible (and vocal) trans subject (Raymond 1994; Stone 1991; Hausman 1995; Nestle et al. 2002; Devor and Matte 2004; Currah, Juang, and Minter 2006; Stryker 2006). Largely excluded (self-imposed and otherwise) from feminist, gay/lesbian and to a lesser extent, queer studies, trans scholars have carved out a mainly independent field of study cutting across both the humanities and social sciences (e.g. Bornstein 1994; Cameron 1996; Califia 1997; Prosser 1998; Cromwell 1999; Rubin 2003; Macdonald 1998; Noble 2004, 2006; Stryker 2006). Such scholarship provides rich explorations of lived trans experiences both within and beyond the traditional North American urban ‘gay’ village. Such work often reflects complex, although not necessarily reconcilable conceptual work around gender, sexuality and embodiment as well as race, class and ability/dis-ability.2 While attention to trans issues has surfaced in the geographical literature, we have yet to see a truly sustained engagement with the distinctive intellectual and conceptual threads emerging in trans scholarship utilized in queer geographies and geographies of sexualities (Browne 2004; Doan 2007; Nash 2010). This article offers a very broad and preliminary sketch of some of the more intriguing possibilities and challenges of trans scholarship for geographical work on sexuality, gender and the body. This is by no means a proscriptive discussion or call to set some sort of research agenda; rather it is an attempt to work across semi-permeable disciplinary boundaries, established, at least in part, through the particular vagaries of North American scholarly and grassroots histories and politics. This article begins with a brief overview of contemporary geographies of sexualities and queer geographies in order to provide a backdrop for subsequent discussions on select aspects of trans scholarship. I then consider three selected themes from a diverse body of trans scholarship that engages with central issues of ongoing concern in feminist and queer geographical research – notions of subjectivity/performativity, experience/embodiment, and the historical, political and social constitution of what are now called ‘traditional’ LGBTQ or ‘queer’ urban spaces. Drawing on my ongoing research on trans men’s and trans women’s experiences in various gay and lesbian spaces in Toronto’s gay village, I sketch out how the particularities of these experiences mark points of engagement and divergence with some contemporary geographical scholarship. I conclude with some final thoughts on queer geographical engagements with various strands of trans scholarship. Considering sexuality and space: gay/lesbian and queer geographies Beginning in the late 1970s, geographical research on space and sexuality took as its primary focus the historical, social and political development of gay and lesbian identified commercial and residential neighbourhoods in western cities. This research, grouped as ‘geographies of sexualities’, generally assumes a constructed but largely essentialized and stable gay (and lesbian) subject, defined largely through straightforward assumptions about gender, embodiment and ‘same-sex’ object choice (e.g. Castells 1983; Lauria and Knopp 1985; Adler and Brenner 1992; Valentine 1993; Rothenberg 1995). Research on gay and lesbian experiences in urban space, particularly the focus on urban residential neighbourhoods was more pronounced in North American geography. As Knopp argues (2007, 48), scholarly attention tended to fix on ‘sexual minority experiences from

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a geographical perspective’ where identities are largely fixed and aligned unproblematically with particular spaces. By contrast, research in the UK, while interested in sexuality in urban spaces, looked more broadly at notions of performativity and the subversion of normative sexuality and gender assumptions (e.g. Bell et al. 1994; Binnie 1995). Work by Australian and New Zealand scholars over the last decade has explored the particularities of gay and lesbian experiences in both urban and rural locals, across the public/private divide and in more overtly considered colonial and postcolonial contexts (e.g. Hodge 1993; Taylor 1998; Shale 1999; Markwell 2002; Johnston 2005; Riggs 2006; Hutchings and Aspin 2007). More recent work considers contextual similarities and important differences between Anglo-American and Australasian geographies of gender and sexualities (e.g. Waitt and Markwell 2006; Gorman-Murray, Waitt and Gibson 2008; Gorman-Murray, Waitt and Johnson, 2008; Johnson and Longhurst 2008). In the geographies of sexualities scholarship as a whole, with some notable exceptions, ‘gender’ was largely understood as those social behaviours and practices linked to presumed bodily difference (either male or female) while sexuality tended to be understood as falling on one side or the other of the heterosexual/homosexual binary (but see Valentine 1993).3 More recent geographical work, grouped under the heading ‘queer geographies’ and drawing on a range of theoretical, ideological and political commitments, theorizes more unstable and oscillating intersections between identity/subjectivity, sexual desire, embodiment and spatial organization (Nash 2006; Browne, Lim, and Brown 2007; Nash and Bain 2007). Drawing on a vast but not necessarily reconcilable body of postmodern and poststructuralist thinking, queer theorists critique essentialist categorizations of human subjects, arguing that human cognizance of lived possibilities is more complicated and subject to variation than essentialized, binary categories of male/female, man/woman, heterosexual/homosexual admit. Geographers’ queer conceptualizations tend to adhere to postmodernist precepts that ‘distrust certainties, universal truths’ and reject mechanical ontological versions of reality that ignore the multiple ways in which people experience the world (Knopp 2007, 48; see also Turner 2000). Queer geographies focus on how non-normative sexual practices operate to both queer space and constitute various formulations of queer subjectivities. This work operates beyond essentialized gay and lesbian identities through an exploration of non-normative practices, behaviours and desires that are not commensurate with identity-based understandings. More recently, scholarship has turned toward a consideration of how traditional gay and lesbian spaces are being ‘queered’ through the presence of ‘queer’ practices and behaviours although debates about the efficacy and limitations of this queering have also surfaced (Prichard, Morgan, and Sedgley 2002; Browne 2006a; Nash and Bain 2007). Within these historical contexts, North American gay and lesbian, urban-based political and social organizations have increasingly conceptualized their constituency as selfidentifying beyond the hetero/homo; masculine/feminine and male/female binaries. Organizations strategically employ a variety of acronyms (exemplified, for example, by ‘LGBQQT’ – lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, queer, questioning, trans, two-spirited) that strive to embed non-exclusionary practices in both community building and activism. In Toronto, traditional gay and lesbian neighbourhoods, built on a more essentialist and assimilationist identity politics, increasingly contains bodies, genders and sexualities that ‘queer’ the stable categorization of these spaces as straightforwardly ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ (Nash 2005, 2006). Queer practices and experiences challenge the hegemonic, normative binaries that initially organized contemporary gay and lesbian villages (and arguably remain a dominant aspect of social and political life) and disrupt the neat division of more traditional ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ geographies (Knopp 2007). In much queer geographical research, questions of

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gender usually only surfaces in work focused on the distinctions in gay male and lesbian experiences in urban space (Adler and Brenner 1992; Valentine 1993; Rothenberg 1995; Nash 2001; Podmore 2001). While queer scholarship questions ‘the supposedly stable relationship between sex, gender, sexual desire, and sexual practice’ (Browne, Lim, and Brown 2007, 49), scholars tend to portray queer geographies as centrally concerned with sexuality. Knopp explicitly argues that queer geographies might be expanded to include a ‘queering of the spatialities of gender’, foregrounding queer geographies’ primary interest in sexualities (2007, 48). Critiques of queer geographies point out that despite its conceptual commitment to move beyond essentialist notions of sexual subjects, much of its scholarship continues to focus mainly on gay and lesbian subjects and spaces (Oswin 2008). The failure to recognize that queer spaces are themselves always complicit in the reproduction of normativities around class, gender and ethnicity challenges ‘queer’ (anti-normative) pretensions. Also, queer aspirations to render subjectivities fluid, unstable and ‘capable of obliterating boundaries’ is often compromised when ‘queer’ is taken up as an identity and politic and attains a disciplining fixity that belies its desire to be ethereal and uncontained (Browne 2006a, 888; see also Nash and Bain 2007). Queer theories’ impulse to dissolve boundaries and render identities fluid, partial and unstable works to make certain groups such as lesbians ‘disappear’ and render invisible the very diversity it strives to highlight ´ a 1991 in Goldman 1996). Both Knopp (2007) and Oswin (Jeffreys 1997; see Anzaldu (2008) urge queer geographers to move beyond a general focus on sexual minorities, sexuality and sexed spaces (usually gay and lesbian spaces) towards a more fully integrated consideration of gendered, racialized and classed experiences of space (Besio and Moss 2006; Browne 2004, 2006b). Taken together, there is a rich body of geographical work that attempts to work through the political, social and spatial implications of gendered and sexualized identities, practices and behaviours. With the increasing visibility and activism of transfolk in gay and lesbian communities, new possibilities (and points of contention) have emerged in how we think about the spatialized experiences of particularly gendered, sexualized and embodied individuals. Trans geographies: queer tropes, experience/embodiment and LGBTQ spaces Trans experiences in LGBTQ spaces attest to the complex and contested interconnections between sexuality, gender, embodiment and the (re)constitution of spaces and subjectivities. Trans scholarship argues pointedly for the need to seriously consider ‘the body, sentiment, emotion and desire as coequal’ to ‘reason, rationality and the mind’ in the production of knowledge (Knopp 2007, 53). Such sentiments reflect trenchant critiques of postmodern and poststructuralist engagements, with their focus on texts, discourses and representations that seemingly fail to produce understandings about the lived, material experiences of the everyday. Despite the argument that queer geographies are attuned to the material experiences of their queer conceptualizing, they too sometimes appear detached from the material in favour of the representational (Knopp 2007). Some trans scholarship is quite critical of queer theories’ poststructuralist proclivities and seeks alternative modalities for understanding the inter-layering of gender, sexuality and the sexed body. In this section, I undertake a selective, but detailed, examination of three key themes in trans scholars’ critiques of queer scholarship – the themes of subjectivity and performativity; questions of experience/embodiment; and experiences in ‘traditional’ LGBTQ or ‘queer’ urban spaces.

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Subjectivity and performativity: queer tropes Over the last 20 years or so, a rich and diverse body of work has been loosely consolidated under the rubric ‘trans studies’ or ‘trans scholarship’ (Stryker 2006). In North America, trans scholarship developed relatively independently from Women’s Studies programmes, feminist scholarship, gay and lesbian and queer studies despite overlapping areas of interest. As Sue Stryker (2006, 7) argues, trans scholarship has a rather ‘vexed’ relationship with both feminist and queer theory due, in part, to the animosity exhibited by some feminists to trans-identified individuals. That the increasing visibility of transsexual and transgendered people met overt hostility from the feminist movement is notably exemplified by Janice Raymond’s Transsexual Empire (1974). The hostility generated by Raymond’s book and much of trans scholarship’s distaste for both feminist and queer theorizing spans several generations. Attempts at reconciliation have been ongoing but with varying degrees of success (e.g. Butler 1990, 1993, 1997; Nataf 1996). As queer geographers take up the challenge of understanding queer spaces as ‘contested sites in which racializations, genderings, and classed processes take place’, trans scholarship offers potential insights into how some of these processes are lived and experienced (Oswin 2008, 100). According to Stryker and Whittle (2006), trans scholarship encompasses a broad array of subject positions, behaviours and practices that far exceed a narrow focus on either same-sex desire or gender inversion. Stryker and Whittle (2006, 3) claim trans scholarship has as its purview:
[T]ranssexuality and cross-dressing, some aspects of intersexuality and homosexuality, cross cultural and historical investigations of human gender diversity, specific subcultural expressions of ‘gender atypicality’, theories of sexed embodiment and subjective gender identity development, law and public policy related to the regulation of gender expression and many other similar issues.

Trans theorists have been highly critical of many of queer theory’s foundational texts, including the work of Judith Butler (1990, 1993, 1997), Marjorie Garber (1992) and Eve Sedgwick (1990). The main critique is the way these authors take up the transgendered subject as ‘the key queer trope by which theorists has challenged sex, gender, and sexuality binaries’ particularly through Butlarian notions of performativity (Prosser 1998, 6). Such critique mirrors work by feminist scholars such as Biddy Martin (1982) who argue that we can never really regard bodies and psyches as merely discursive effects within power relations and that invested with the ‘historicity of lived experience’, they ‘exert pressure’ on the normalizing tendencies through which they are constituted (Elliot and Roen 1998, 234). While queer notions of performativity have been a productive conceptual move, trans scholars argue that notions of performativity, deconstruction and signification have rendered the transgendered subject an imaginary, fictional and merely metaphorical presence in the service of a larger intellectual project. In a particular trenchant example of a grassroots acrimony to the way ‘performativity’ has been deployed in certain queer spaces, Kyle Scanlon, Trans Services Coordinator for Toronto’s 519 Church Street Community Centre, no longer gives interviews to feminist researchers who traffic in the trope of queer performativity. Ray argues, ‘being trans is not a fashion statement. Trans-ness is not a fucking playground for the trendy, elite and hip members of academia’ (Scanlon 2006, 88). Being ‘transgendered’ as it has been utilized in some queer theorizing seemingly means being an ethereal and disembodied subject apparently capable of ‘shape-shifting’ at will in ways that deny, for some trans folk, the subjective experience of gender, sexuality and embodiment as stable and unchanging. Such theorizing also opens a rift between

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transsexual and transgendered subjects through a reification of transgendered individuals’ supposed fluidity as transgressive and resistive which positions transsexual subjects as apparent prisoners of medicalized gendered systems (Prosser 1998; Rubin 2003). Poststructuralist deconstructions of gender and sexuality as fluid, contingent and open to multiple variations also dissolves important political and social categories that matter, including, for example, ‘the differences between men and women, the difference between those who occasionally play with the trope of transsexuality and those for whom it is a matter of life and death’ (Felski 1996, 347; see also MacDonald 1998). While perhaps overstating the matter somewhat, Namaste (2000, 16) asserts that queer theory, at its worst, is a kind of academic enquiry that is ‘contemptuous and dismissive of the social world’ and ‘exhibits a remarkable insensitivity to the substantive issues of transpeople’s everyday lives’. Trans scholarship also troubles queer research that takes as its starting point the hetero/homosexual binary, that is, taking up an exclusive focus on sexual object choice. Sue Stryker (2006, 7) points out that queer theory loses coherence ‘to the precise extent that the sex of the object is called into question, particularly in relation to the object’s gender’. Put another way, Stryker is arguing that queer studies, with its focus on same-sex object choice, is ill-equipped to deal with conceptualizing alternative differences from heterosexist cultural norms. Transgendered individuals, in this argument, constitute another axis of difference that cannot be subsumed to an object choice model of ‘antiheteronormativy’ and their presence suggests as yet unexplored modes of queer difference in place (Stryker 2006, 8). Current queer geographical work tends to see the hetero/homo binary as the primary defining spatial moment and focuses on non-heterosexual spaces as the main object of study (but see Hubbard 2000). Arguably, this reinforces an artificial and readily collapsible boundary; effacing the multiple incursions that occur across and between normatively understood heterosexual and homosexual spaces (Bell et al. 1994). As Jasbir Puar (2002, 935 –6) notes, in most queer research:
the assumed inherent quality of space is that it is always heterosexual, waiting to be queered or waiting to be disrupted through queering, positing a single axis of identity which then reifies a heterosexual/homosexual split that effaces other kinds of identity – race, ethnicity, nationalism, class and gender.

Queer research on sexual minorities is largely focused on the experiences of gays and lesbians in traditional gay and/or lesbian urban spaces and homogenizes the vastly distinctive experiences of bisexuals, transfolk and queers in both hetero and homosexual urban spaces (e.g. Hemmings 2002; Oswin 2008). Research on the specificity and disciplinary properties of some queer spaces and their homogenizing tendencies (Nash and Bain 2007) as well as work on trans experience (Halberstam 1998, 2005; Noble 2006) demonstrates the need to pull apart the term ‘LGBTQ’, and/or ‘queer space’, in order to get at the relational and subjective experiences and constitution of space. While queer geographers are concerned with the ‘queering’ of spaces through alternative non-normative practices and behaviours, some trans scholars argue that ‘queer’ as it is currently explicated may not be the best conceptual lens through which to understand trans spatial processes and experiences. Work by Bobby Noble on the entwined emergence of FtM and drag king culture in Toronto’s lesbian community in the 1970s argues that spaces typically understood as ‘lesbian’ now reflect a ‘post-queer’ (rather than ‘queer’) sensibility although queer conceptualizations may still circulate. Noble (2006) argues that drag king performances of gender transitivity arguably deploy complex performances of

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masculinity that move beyond the anti-misogynist, butch-femme and female masculinities of queer conceptualizations towards an illegible post-queer incoherence. Audiences for these performances are themselves increasingly queered through the complicated meanings circulating in traditionally lesbian space through their being read ‘against the grain of hegemonic gender and desire’ (Noble 2006, 61). Although drag kinging may have originated within a lesbian aesthetic and place, what is in play now, according to Noble, ‘is not “lesbian identity” as ontology but the beginnings of a very clear and eventually post queer desire’. For Noble, this is not a ‘queering’ of space in terms of rejecting or overcoming the heterosexual/homosexual binary, but a transformation where spaces and subjects cannot be rendered familiar through ontological gender (male/female); sexuality (hetero/homo) or biological (male/female) bodies. While one can debate whether the Noble’s term ‘post-queer’ captures shifting formulations of desires, eroticism and practices more fully than notions of ‘queer’, his argument illustrates the conceptual complications of an increasingly gender-variant presence in LGBTQ spaces. Embodying experience/experiencing the body A second major theme in trans scholarship addresses the importance of the narration of lived experience in understanding transsexual subjectivities, in particular, as they emerge outside of authoritative medical and legal discourses on gender, sexuality and embodiment (Prosser 1998; Rubin 2003; Stryker and Whittle 2006). For some scholars, understanding ‘transsexuals’ as a product of medical intervention casts transsexuals as ‘medicine’s passive affect, a kind of unwitting technological product’ and as lacking any agency or self-determination (Prosser 1998, 7). Transsexual historical narratives claiming the veracity of subjective experiences support the contention that transsexuality ‘constitutes an active subjectivity that cannot be reduced to either technological [medical] or discursive fact’ (Prosser 1998, 7; see also O’Hartigan 1997; Wilchins 1997; Roen 2001a, 2001b). The importance of experience and agency in understanding subjectivity and embodied experiences raises challenges for some feminist and queer geographers conducting research within poststructuralist approaches who tend to deny the possible efficacy of cognitive human resistance and intervention. Dominant theorizing associated with various strands of second wave feminism tended to valorize or reify ‘experience’ as a way of giving voice to or recovering the knowledges of marginal or subjugated groups, particularly women (Rose 1993; McDowell and Sharpe 1997; Moss and Al-Hindi 2008). By valorizing and recording women’s experiences, second wave feminist scholars sought to dislodge what was regarded as hegemonic masculinist ways of knowing. A substantial body of research recorded the first-hand experiences of a broad range of marginalized women and was designed, in part, to demonstrate women’s common experience of oppression in western patriarchal society (Canning 1994; Hall 1991; Scott 1988a, 1988b, 1993). Feminists employing postmodern and poststructuralist approaches have critiqued the use of ‘experience’ as the foundation of certain knowledges in ways that challenge trans narratives of the ‘experience’ of gendered embodiment (Scott 1993; Canning 1994; Dias and Blecha 2007). Within poststructuralist approaches (including various versions of queer theorizing), subjects and identities are understood as discursively constructed within multiple, intersecting systems of meaning embedded in language and including ‘the physical arrangement of things, architectural plans, clothing and any other entities’ (Scott 1993, 36). Discursively constituted social categories such as male/female, heterosexual/homosexual, or black/white organize our understanding of ourselves within social

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relations. Understood this way, the record of our subjective experience is ‘merely’ a record of the particular discursive constitution of the self we have selected, demarcating a limited form of agency (Scott 1993; Canning 1994). Poststructuralist projects have largely (although not completely) rejected ‘experience’ as representing an ‘authentic, reliable or transparent mirror to reality’ and portraying subjective knowledges as partial, situated and constructed (Dias and Blecha 2007, 7 – 8). In more recent scholarship, feminists and others have taken up the challenge of thinking through the interconnections of emotion, experience and place (e.g. Davidson, Bondi, and Smith 2005; Smith 2009). This marks a potential crucial point of connection between trans scholarship strongly influenced by experiential and subjective accounts of the self and work by geographers on embodiment, emotion and queer formulations of self-understandings. For queer theorists, language and discourse are central to the constitutive understandings of subjective experiences of embodiment. In most versions, queer theorists draw heavily on Judith Butler and her rejection of the notion of the body as assuming ‘materiality prior to signification and form’ (1990, 130). Butler suggests that our ‘conceptions of our bodies come to us through language: the belief in the pre-culturally material body as the ground for identity itself depends on the circulation of meanings in culture’ (Turner 2000, 114). Bodies become sexed through continual gendered performances that render the body intelligible in social relations. We experience our bodies through the systems of meaning available through language and discourse and not through some a priori state. Some trans researchers take exception to feminist and queer studies which, with its distrust of ‘experience’, have managed to detach subjects (gays, lesbians, queers and transfolk) from the ‘knowability’ of their everyday lived experiences. As Rubin (2003, 13) asserts, any conceptualization of internalized essentialist subjectivity has been strongly critiqued as a ‘fiction of our combined cultural imaginations’. Yet many trans researchers advocate a return to a consideration of experience and the production of knowledges at the level of the individual (Prosser 1998; Namaste 2000; Rubin 2003; Stryker 2006). This is driven in part by a desire to wrestle the narrative of transsexual subjectivity and identity away from the medical profession and to place agency, resistance and self-constitution back in the hands of those experiencing and living trans lives. Namaste (2000) argues that queer theory begins with transfolk as a starting point and dismisses individual agency by limiting its focus to how subjects are constituted in and through social institutions and discourse. Namaste cites the work of sociologist Dorothy Smith (1987) who proposes ‘that we develop ways of knowing and ways of doing research that begin from the perspective of the lived experience of the people under investigation’ (cited in Namaste 2000, 47). Trans scholars often reject queer discursive approaches that seemingly mask the ‘real’ of the biological. The apparent usurping of bodily sensations and desires to manifestations of linguistic effects denies some trans experiences of the body as present and pre-figurative to an understanding of the self. Some trans scholarship calls for a radical recorporealization of the understanding of the everyday lived experiences, or a return to what some call ‘an unvarnished materiality of bodies’ (Prosser 1998, 9). For example, Henry Rubin (2003, 11) argues that ‘bodies are a crucial element in personal identity formation and perception’ and that bodies, including secondary sex characteristics are integral and central to the recognition of a core gendered self. So while Butler (2001, 622) argues that the performative gesture of a legible gender is a ‘presupposition of humanness’ and ‘governs the recognizability of the human’, others argue that performance-based theories of gender cannot account for the ways in which transfolk conceive of gender as ‘an internal, persistent identity that is not in accordance with the biological body’ (Cromwell 1999, 48).

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For many transfolk, embodiment in a physical body legible to others as either ‘male’ or ‘female’ in no way negates a subjective sense of being ‘other gendered’ in ways not in tandem with their biological selves. For some individuals, in order for there to be coherence within socially legible configuration, some form of physical alterations may be desired in order to live unambiguously (Stryker 2006). For others, ‘trans’ marks emergent categories of new configurations of genders and bodies that do not require any stability or fixity in order for there to be subjective compatibility, particularly around heterogendered constructs. Noble (2006, 3) argues, for example, that the prefix trans itself:
captures what we imagine our various levels of sex and gender crossing, in various levels of permanence to these transitions, seeming to signify everything from the medical technologies that transform sex bodies to cross-dressing, to passing, to a certain kind of ‘life plot,’ to being legible as one’s birth sex but with a ‘contradictory’ gender inflection.

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While Noble’s comments have resonance with aspects of queer theoretical positions, this work nevertheless gives new perspectives on notions of subjective embodiment beyond queer theoretical notions denying or at the very least calling into question the possibilities of pre-discursive subjectivities. Work by trans scholars contains a diverse array of theoretical and conceptual approaches to notions of embodiment and experience that might extend geographical scholarship concerned with gendered, sexuality and embodiment and in relation to other markers of the self including race, class and age. Transfolk and LGBTQ spaces The preceding discussion about subjectivity and embodiment signal the need to attend to the specificity of trans experiences in myriad spaces including LGBTQ spaces. In this section, I link some of these theoretical considerations with material from interviews with trans individuals to highlight how trans experiences in LGBTQ spaces open up new avenues for research. The individuals cited here give breadth and materiality to the historically specific possibilities and incoherencies of lives lived in gay, lesbian and LGBTQ spaces that emerged in North America in the post-World War II period. Twelve individuals from the Greater Toronto area, ranging in age from 20 to mid-60s, participated in in-depth, semi-structured interviews exploring differing experiences in ‘LGBTQ’ and ‘queer’ spaces in Toronto over the last decade. Several participants identified as unambiguously male and heterosexual while others employed a range of terms that crossed normative categories, including ‘heteroflexible’, ‘intersex’, ‘queer’, ‘transsexual’ and genderqueer’. Collectively, participants largely identified as white and middle class although several understood themselves as currently living a working class life based on income and employment. Most have some post-secondary education. Participants’ shifting self-understandings and changing or transformative embodiments raise complex methodological questions. Being legible as the self one understands oneself to be, can be influenced by the expectations and practices of the inhabitants of the places one is in (Butler 2004; Nash, forthcoming). For trans folk in particular, shifting self-presentation, the potential contradictions for the experiencing self in place and the possibility of being illegible to others suggests the need for research that can grapple with more flexible and unstable realities and slippery and unstable knowledges (Butler 2001; Stryker 2006). Further, and as I have discussed elsewhere, researcher positionality, experience and the shifting nature of the ‘field’ in queer geographical work complicates the constitution of geographical knowledge across and between differently embodied folks (Nash 2010). For feminist geographers focused on both gender and sexuality, the body and embodied experience is seen to ‘anchor feminist geography at the dawn of the twenty-first century’

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(Nelson and Seagar 2005, 1). Both queer and feminist geographers also acknowledge difficulties with Butler’s notions of performativity, noting that a focus on discursive formulations constitutes a ‘performative subject abstracted from the personal, lived history as well as from its historical and geographical embeddedness’ (Nelson 1999, 332). Bodies and spaces thus simultaneously (re)create one another and while bodies are understandably ‘biological’, the meanings attached to bodies ‘are always historically and spatially located’ (Longhurst 2005, 388; Longhurst and Johnson 2005; Nast and Pile 1998). Trans scholarship demonstrates that in North America at least, many trans lives are experienced at some time or another in and through gay, lesbian and queer spaces in ways that reconstitute subjectivities, embodiments and spaces themselves. Some of this work contests the exclusions and oppressions at work in these spaces that make it difficult to make visible the historic specificity of trans lives. Henry Rubin, in his examination of ‘butch-femme’ culture in lesbian spaces in the 1950s and 1960s, argues that the so-called butches of that era might better be understood as trans men although such possibilities have been eradicated in the histories of gay and lesbian spaces that dominate scholarship including geographies of sexualities and queer geographies. Also contentious are the histories written about so-called ‘passing’ and cross-dressing women (e.g. Brandon Teena) that claim these individuals as lesbians and for a ‘lesbian’ history. Some trans scholars argue, these individuals might just as ‘easily be recuperated as transgendered men’ (Boyd 1997, 422; see also Noble 2004). Such re-visionings of gay and lesbian political and spatial histories challenges queer geographers to reconsider some of their own historical narratives about the emergence of ‘gay and lesbian’ spaces in terms of ‘who’ was present, how they understood themselves (as gendered, sexualized, racialized and embodied) and who has arguably been erased by these accounts. This raises important questions about the power relations inherent in the production of knowledges about spaces and about how our theoretical or conceptual frameworks (and our political and activist leanings) are implicated in how we, as scholars, tell particular tales that might fail to ‘see’ the others in the spaces we study. The overlapping histories of butch/femme social organization in Toronto’s working class bars of the 1960s and the more contemporary debates over trans presence in women’s spaces such as Toronto’s women’s bathhouse events illustrates the alternatively contested and accepted gendered (and embodied) permutations in lesbian spaces. For trans men, whose pre-transition social and cultural lives revolve around lesbian communities, the process of transition often comes with dissonant experiences in lesbian spaces prior to, during, and after transition (Hines 2007; Nash and Bain 2007). For some trans men, ‘butch’ lesbian or dyke identities are the first or preliminary identifications through which they struggle to reconcile embodiment with social categories of gender and sexuality despite their sense that ‘lesbian’ does not accurately describe their sense of self. In such cases, lesbian spaces such as bars, restaurants, sports teams and university women’s centres become primary social spaces. For example, George, who self-identifies as ‘a heteroflexible’ man, notes that:
I came out as gay. I didn’t know why I had an issue with the word lesbian but I did. Like that was definitely one of those like gut feeling that word doesn’t work for you . . . . I assumed that my attraction for women which is what I recognized explained my gender . . . But the whole time . . . like I said, the word lesbian was just like no, I’m not a lesbian. I somehow felt better with the word dyke, I’m not sure why. (11 October 2006)

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For trans men who initially took on a lesbian identification and socialized within the lesbian community, transitioning can mean discovering that one is no longer welcome in lesbian social and political spaces. For those trans men who are increasingly embodied or

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legible as masculine and male, participating in lesbian spaces can grow awkward when others object to the presence of individuals sporting so-called male ‘attributes’ (e.g. facial hair). This disapproval sometimes forces trans men to leave the lesbian community and to establish new social networks beyond or outside that community. As Kyle, a transsexual man notes:
I actually kind of felt like the lesbian community abandoned me. There I was all alone wanting support, wanting friends and suddenly people stopped calling. I had one friend who stuck around . . . But because she was still part of this bigger group, I wasn’t welcome at the group anymore . . . So I began staking out my claim in the FtM community, so to speak. It sounds awfully territorial, doesn’t it? I don’t mean it quite like that. I guess I mean more of like trying to find a place in the FtM community. (3 August 2006)

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For other trans men, transitioning meant a rejection of lesbian spaces as no longer relevant to their lives and a seeking out spaces that supported shifting self-identifications. For some trans men this meant frequenting exclusively heterosexual spaces, exclusively straight male spaces and/or gay male space. This decision was sometimes grounded in the experience of being members of lesbian communities and developing sensitivity or commitment to feminist precepts. Denis noted that through his experiences as a member of the lesbian/feminist community, he was prepared to recognize the importance of lesbian-only spaces.
I’d rather see it be the guys excluding themselves, just saying ‘okay, that’s women’s only space, I’m not a woman, I’ll respect that’. It seems like a lack of respect to fight your way into women’s space. (3 March 2007)

Queer geographers and trans scholarship share a growing concern with understanding how race and class, as well as other markers of social positioning are implicated in understanding gender and sexuality and embodiment (Oswin 2008; Valentine 2007). In considering trans subjectivities and embodiment, Emi Koyama (2006) argues that lesbian feminists’ and trans activists’ contestations over the presence of transsexual women at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is easily read as both racist and classist although such perceptions are rendered invisible and unspoken. In attempting to resolve matters, the festival’s organizers and trans activists have an de facto ‘no-penis’ policy that permits some trans individuals access to the festival grounds although the controversy (and its practical ramifications) has by no means been resolved. This policy clearly ignores the fact that minority trans women are far more likely to lack the financial resources to obtain the ` necessary surgery. Richard Juang, in a more nuanced argument, draws on Kimberle Crenshaw’s (1993, 705 – 706) conceptualization of intersectionality to argue for a transgender politics that would acknowledge how ‘constellations of forces’ constitute forms of racialized, classed and gendered discrimination that result in unique kinds of physical and representational violence. This offers the possibility of teasing out how, for example, ‘sexualized racial stereotyping combines with racialized gender stereotypes’ in ways that prompt distinctive and unique forms of oppression (Crenshaw 2006, 709; see also Valentine 2007). This work echoes calls by Gill Valentine (2007, 10) for geographers to consider the concept of intersectionality to ‘theorize the relationship between different categories: gender, race, sexuality and so forth’. Because of the social and political history of LGBTQ activism in Canada, trans political aspirations have largely been yoked to gay and lesbian community-based organizations. In places such as Toronto, with a well-established gay village and a well-funded community centre, trans out-reach and support groups operate through gay and lesbian spaces and organizations. Major government funding for trans services is funnelled through these organizations, embedding trans issues (and lives) within gay and lesbian social and

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political organizations. This has not been an easy road to follow and there is a sense that trans interests may not best served under the umbrella of LGBTQ organizations despite the obvious commitment of those organizations. Trans interests do not always mesh with gay and lesbian political aims such as ‘gay marriage’ and ‘same-sex’ health benefits. As Nick points out:
trans issues and people do not resonate with the majority of gay and lesbian people . . . On the trans side, most trans people have a problematic relationship with the ‘gay and lesbian communities’ as well. So it’s not a happy marriage if you will. But it’s sort of some type of family, like there’s a relation. But it’s not easy or simple. (10 October 2007)

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Trans presence in LGBTQ spaces is a complicated experience and can only be understood through paying particular attention to the specificity of historical, locational and spatial contexts. Terms such as butch-femme, transvestite, cross-dressers, gay men, lesbians, FtM, MtF, transsexual and queer are subject positions made available and operative in particular ways and disappear, re-emerge and transform both those so identifying and the spaces they frequent. The various strands of trans scholarship briefly touched on here offer intriguing challenges to queer geographers to position their ‘queer perspective’ as the site of difference in order to articulate the historical and material specificity of gendered and sexual practices. Final thoughts Some three decades of scholarship on sexual and queer geographies has produced a theoretically diverse body of work examining gender and sexuality. More recently conceptualized queer geographical scholarship, drawing on feminist research and postmodern and poststructuralist ideas, has expanded our formulations of how identities and subjectivities are spatially constituted and specifically embodied in historically and culturally particular ways. However, critiques of queer geographical research suggest that geographers have perhaps stepped far away from what Knopp calls the ‘messy realities, including fluidity, hybridity, incompleteness, moralities, desire and embodiment’ and that ‘a queer perspective ought to be informed as much by embodied experience as by theory’ (Dias and Blecha 2007, 7). What I suggest here is that certain strands of trans scholarship intersect with and trouble certain aspects of queer geographical scholarship in productive ways. We need to pull apart what we mean by ‘LGBTQ’ spaces and identities in order to get at the more particular, historical and transformative operations of subjectivities, identities and forms of embodiment in play in these spaces. Trans scholarship potentially challenges the histories and geographies we have written about what we initially called ‘gay and lesbian’ spaces. Trans scholarship also suggests intriguing possibilities for understanding how some conceptualization of the ‘queering’ of space finds itself trapped by its dependency on sexual object choice (as opposed to notions of desire eroticism) and how, at this historical juncture, alternative subjectivities grounded in differently gendered and embodied ways of being, challenge this notion of space as ‘queer’. Scholarship suggests that these differently gendered and embodied ways of being not only contribute to the ‘queering’ of space but have taken those spaces to a ‘post-queer’ incoherence. We need to press forward with work considering the intersectionality of subject positions that are compilations of gendered, sexed, racialized and classed experiences and the spatial implications derived from this. These transformations in identities and spaces need to be considered within the political, economic and social processes in what we call traditional gay and lesbian villages (and beyond of course) – places that support the currently successful conservative and assimilationist ‘gay and lesbian’ politics in places such as Canada. While these political

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‘gains’ protect gay and lesbian subjects through human rights legislation and inclusion in mainstream institutions such as marriage, such a politic has difficulty supporting those who are not legible as the subjects these initiatives are designed to protect. Trans political interests are often starkly at odds with mainstream gay and lesbian political agendas and have, in recent years, been used by anti-gay right-wing groups to further oppositional political goals. While a ‘queer’ politic has been about building alliances across difference, the multiplicity of subject positions begs the question of whether it can bear the weight of its own contradictions. For geographers interested in grappling with these issues, trans scholarship has much to offer.

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Acknowledgements
This article is based on a paper given at the American Association of Geographers Annual General Meeting, in San Francisco, April 2007 and is funded in part through a grant from the Faculty of Social Sciences Dean’s Fund for Research, Brock University, St. Catharines, ON, Canada. Many thanks to Kath Browne and Sally Hines for their thoughtful and engaging comments and to the two anonymous reviews and Robyn Longhurst for their careful assessment and suggestions.

Notes
1. I use the term ‘transfolk’ as an umbrella term for an admittedly diverse and not necessarily commensurate series of gender variant subject positions encompassed by myriad terms (e.g. transgendered, transsexual, FtM, MtF, gender variant, bois, cross-dressers, drag kings, drag queens trykes; trannyfag, boychik). In this article, I adhere to the terminologies used by the participants who generously took the time to speak with me. I use the term ‘transsexual’ for those persons who so identify and who desire complete physical transformation from female to male or male to female through medical and surgical intervention. I use the term FtM (trans men) or MtF (trans women) to refer to those individuals who so identify and who may have various surgical and medical interventions and may live primary as ‘men’ and ‘women’ while refusing the total disappearance of a ‘trans’ identity. I use the term ‘transgendered’ or ‘trans’ for those individuals who so identify or where the term makes sense given the nature of the discussion. 2. ‘Trans’ scholarship is an umbrella term for a sweeping range of research and writing on, by and about transfolk. This article is not intended as a thoroughgoing review of that body of work and draws on a selective set of writings that offer points of interesting engagements for feminist and queer geographers among others. 3. While bi-sexuality and heterosexuality have been the focus of geographical research on sexuality and space, it is largely eclipsed in volume by work on gays and lesbians (but see, for example, Hemmings 2002; Hubbard 2000).

Notes on contributor
Catherine J. Nash is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Catherine has published articles in a number of journals including ` isi Geogra ` fica Social and Cultural Geography, Antipode, Canadian Geographer, Documents d’Ana and elsewhere and has contributed a number of book chapters to various projects. Her research interests include urban and regional geography, urban development, feminist, trans and queer geographies, and urban social movements with an emphasis on gender, sexuality and social relations.

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ABSTRACT TRANSLATION ´ n y experiencia trans ´as trans, corporizacio Geografı ´ grafo/as queer han estado interesado/as en las Hace mucho tiempo que las y los geo ´ n queer como su sello distintivo, interconexiones entre sexualidad y espacio. Con la teorizacio ´ n geogra ´ fica queer ha hecho sustanciales contribuciones a nuestras formas de la investigacio ´ neros, las sexualidades y la corporizacio ´ n y sus constituciones en una entender los ge ´ n de espacio y lugar. Este artı ´culo examina co ´ mo la investigacio ´ n acade ´ mica trans produccio ´ ´a queer – se intersecta con varios temas centrales a la investigacion del trabajo de la geografı ´ ´ ´ ´tica subjetividad/interpretatividad; experiencia/corporizacion, y la constitucion historica, polı y social de lo que ahora se llaman espacios urbanos ‘tradicionales’ LGBTQ o ‘queer’ – y ´ grafos y geo ´ grafas interesado/as en intersecciones entre sexualidad, ge ´ nero y el ofrece a los geo ´ ´ ´ mica cuerpo, caminos alternativos y provocativos de investigacion. Esta investigacion acade ´ trans resalta, en parte, las discontinuidades y los silencios encerrados en las ası llamadas ˜ ala la necesidad de explorar comunidades y espacios LGBTQ o queer y sen ´ n ma ´ s particularmente histo ´ rica y polı ´tica de las formaciones de una conceptualizacio ´ n en juego en estos espacios. subjetividades, identidades y formas de corporizacio ´a queer; trans; geografı ´as queer; sexualidad; ge ´ nero Palabras clave: gay; lesbiana; teorı

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