Introduction There is an unrelenting theme in the American popular imagination1 that represents transsexual people as “Frankensteinian” characters that

valorizes violence against and the death of transsexualsi. These stories condense personal issues relating to the identity politics of race, religion, sexuality, ability, and age, thereby erasing other dimensions of lived experience and essentially emptying transcharacters of identity, personality, and context; instead trans-people are portrayed as “monsters” for public display. “High Theory” also tends to use transsexuals for their liminal social positions. Judith Butler (2004), for example, upholds transgendered people as true boundary “troublers” and develops theory using the gendered embodiment2 of transsexual and intersexed people (who are born with ambiguous genitals) in order to exemplify the tentativeness of identity categories (p. 121). What is missing from both “high” and “low” discourse are the voices of transsexual people and their lived experiences, therefore, this paper seeks to provide a sense of mediation to the persistent argument over the bodies of transsexual people. “High theory” refers specifically to a discourse that is distinctive from standard daily disquisition. Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu defines social distinction through the possession of capital and habitus (embodiment) as expressed through “fields” (1984, p. 144. 171); Bordieu’s theory of personal distinction and taste can be extended to
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Popular is defined herein in terms of Webster’s (1996) lexical meaning “widely liked” (p. 531) and is discussed through its expression in current media that is easily available to vast amounts of people, easily interpreted (rather than theory which can be arduous to read), and produced in the twenty-first century. The term imagination in this project is derived from mythology theorist Sven-Erik Klinkmann (2002) and refers to the larger social patterns that emerge from a reading of certain media as they are fabricated by positioning “different subjects in relation to the chains of signification that society creates" (p. 56). 2 For argumentation and definitions of gender and sex, please review endnote i, which also defines transsexuality. “Gendered embodiment” used here refers to the overwhelming encapsulation of transsexual people in their bodies as representatives of gender and sex issues across academia and within the popular imagination. There is seemingly no escape from their liminal embodiment.

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artifacts of culture. High theory is a distinctive form of writing that produces cultural capital through an idiosyncratic body of knowledge that is usually deployed in academia; high theory almost always positions ideology above practicality, which also makes it distinctly different from low discourse. Judith Butler is the high theorist discussed in this paper. She is known for her “analytical complexity” and according to Vicki Kirby (2006) in Judith Butler Live Theory, she is “one of the most prolific and influential writers in the academy today” whose work “spans philosophy and contemporary theory” (p. vii). There is a certain reverence of Judith Butler in the Gender Studies graduate program at Indiana University Bloomington, and it is this veneration that makes her an attractive exemplar for examination within this paper. While current gender theory provides a plethora of information to scholars about the gendered lives of transsexuals, perhaps there is no wider reaching audience than that of popular television. Richard Campbell (2003) claims that as of ten years ago more than ninety percent of American households had one or more television sets (p. 173); now more than 48 million households have digital cable service. In fact, one study showed that American children between the ages eight to eighteen watch three or more hours of television per day and found that more than 60% of programs contain violence (Schmidt 2006, p. 290). This fact will become more important in a “deep reading” of transsexuals in the popular imagination. Media is an important omni-present artifact of the twenty-first century because it has proliferated to the point where it can be referred to as a social institution in its own right. Julie D’Acci (1997) in her article “Television, Representation, and Gender” argues media produces both “viewers and citizens” with shared ideals, world views,

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and narratives that all work together to structure a popular imagination where “the social construction has come to stand in for an imaginary original reality” (p. 373, 375). Television literally produces and reproduces distinct images, which can be read as texts, made available to masses of people promoting a certain standard embodiment of humanity. It is television’s very location in the “masses” that associates it with the pejorative lowliness of the “common” people as opposed to the “lofty” high theory of scholars like Judith Butler. Despite the often deleterious scrutiny that analysis of artifacts from “popular culture” elicits, it is the wide reaching affect of television that calls for a critical analysis of transsexuals in the popular imagination. The danger with the popular imagination is that these inauthentic social institutions, found in television for example, are often reproduced indefinitely creating an almost unitary world—a Baudrillardian “hyperreality”—that is determined solely by mass mediated images where the reproductions become more “real” than original lived reality (Baudrillard, 1994). People can become so involved with television, for example, that the obsession spills over into real life and viewers adopt the social norms as their own3. So, the “popular” imagination is “widely available” and produced within a certain hegemonic system “representing the general population” (Webster, 1996, p. 531), but may portray too narrow a canon to accurately represent people who are placed outside the hegemonic norm because of their “non-normative” bodies.

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Media produces image in many ways and through many means, including in and through music. To demonstrate that people sometimes live their “hyperreal” (fake is real) fantasies what follows are two well known historical examples from the music industry. In 2004 the BBC News did a follow up story on the murder of John Lennon by crazed fan Mark Chapman; he told the parole board in 2004 that he murdered Lennon to “steal his fame” (BBC NEWS, 2004). Wikipedia (2006) also cites that on May 7, 1991 a judge in the state of Georgia dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit against singer Ozzy Osbourne filed by a “local couple [who] believed their son was inspired to attempt suicide by Osbourne's music.”

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This paper seeks to illuminate the hyperreal unification of transsexual people for what it is: a way that hegemony subjects often disempowered people to a dominant legible paradigm. Exploring the ways that transsexuals are imagined in this postmodern mediated but shared cultural space, this paper is divided into four parts using the metaphor of the body. The introduction provides readers with an overview of terms used in this paper. “Embodied Transsexuals” contextualizes the lives of transsexuals through memoirs and scholarship written by trans-people, and also through the close reading of a documentary entitled TransGeneration (2005). The documentary follows four college students who are in different stages of their transformations relaying that transsexuality is not the fundamental identity for each of these young students, especially for people who are also marginalized by poverty, race, and differing abilities. “Disembodied Transsexuals” discusses the overwhelming violence that is thematicii throughout the popular imagination as evidenced in the “deep reading” of prime time CBS television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. This section specifically discusses the ways in which transsexuals are subjected to social oppression due to persistent homophobia. “The Conclusion” elaborates on some of the “in-fighting” between theorists on the subject of transsexuality in an effort to indicate the strengths and weaknesses these arguments. There is a similarity in the portrayal of trans-characters in “high” theory and “low” culture that seems to leave out the experiences of transsexuals themselves. Readers of high theory and viewers of “common” television are thus presented with an incomplete representation of what

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transsexuality is. Incomplete representations are very close to what transsexuals are already self-subjected to by feeling “non-normative” and born incomplete. Embodied Transsexuals “I want my body to match my mind.” -Gabbie, MTF, U.C. Boulder Colorado student, TransGeneration (2005) “I feel like a woman in a man’s form.” - Richard Von Krafft-Ebing, p. 21, Psychopathia Sexualis (2006) It is clear from a review of both current and historical literature that transsexuals know they are “wrong bodied” from their earliest memories. Elizabeth Grosz (1994) in Volatile Bodies claims that one’s body “is a betrayal of and a prison for the soul, reason, and mind” (p. 5), and perhaps no people feel this sense of entrapment more than transsexual people who must seek medical treatment to bring their bodies in line with their minds. While their very physical identity is shaped by medical intervention, transsexuality has also become pathologized through psychological discourse. Transsexual’s bodily imprisonment has become a “condition” or disorder through normative structures in the culture, but also through the authority of “objective” science. Judith Butler (2006) writes that humans become known through “conditions of intelligibility” that are constructed by “a certain regulatory regime” which posits what is considered normal in terms of a hegemonic power “composed of [those] norms” (in Stryker, p. 183). Human bodies are pivotal as to whether or not a particular human being is able to be recognized as deserving of “personhood”; Judith Butler (2004) argues bodies are themselves the “criterion by which we judge a person to be a gendered being, a criterion that posits coherent gender as a presupposition of humanness” (in Stryker, 2006, p. 184). Humans then are clearly “read” as either men

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or women leaving transsexuals “unintelligible” in this scheme. These notions of what constitute “normal” and “abnormal” are then repeated indefinitely in the larger culture and are pathologized within psychological and medical discourse. The “pathologization” of transsexuals has a historical background in early medical discourse and Susan Stryker (2006) in The Transgender Studies Reader points to Psychopathia Sexualis as one source that may have introduced the word “transsexual” into medical language. The early characterization of the term connects transsexuality to an abnormal condition, which now defines all “people seeking to access gender reassignment therapies” (Stryker, 2006, p. 40); David Cauldwell (1886), the writer of the case study, explains transsexuals as sexually deviant people with “a pathologic-morbid desire to be a full member of the opposite sex” (p. 40). Today, this “affliction” is fully instituted in the DSM IV (1996) and listed under Gender Identity Disorder which is defined by two criteria: first a “strong and persistent crossgender identification, which is the desire to be . . . or the insistence that one is . . . the other sex. . . . [and] evidence of persistent discomfort about one’s assigned sex (p. 532, 533). The pathological nature of transsexuality and its location in a model of medical illness or disorder leads to mixed discourse about the subject in academia. Some scholars argue for the delisting of gender identity disorder for its essentialist notions of right and wrong in terms of gendered bodies; however, Vivanne Namaste (2005) indicates that such a removal will inevitably make it “impossible to pay for sex reassignment surgery either though a private insurance company or through state/provincial health insurance” (p. 7, 8). The issue of insurance masks the reality that the majority of Americans lack proper health coverage: the National

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Coalition on Health Care (2006) estimated that one third of the population was without health care in 2003 alone (electronic resource). The fact that one must almost always be employed to get health care in America is further complicated by intersectional forces at work that seem to advance the marginalization of certain people. Race, although a contentious word4, is part of the intersectional identities that place certain bodies as texts outside of the normative to be read as either legible or illegible by others, but so too is ability and economic class. For Raci, a MTF5 student at UCLA, her position as a Philippino is just as central to her life as her marginal economic position and her (dis)ability as a deaf woman. In the documentary TransGeneration (2005), Raci is extremely insecure about her voice because she is deaf but more so about her poverty and lack of resources, which leads to her body insecurities. Raci has difficulty maintaining her hormone regime which gives her “great breasts, smooth skin, and a great figure” because she is unable to get hormones for lack of insurance coverage (Simmons, 2005); she then turns to the streets to acquire drugs illegally and is clearly afraid that she will be poisoned, but her desire to “fit in,” to avoid “stereotypes,” and to “pass” trumps all fear (Simmons, 2005). Raci eventually locates a large queer resource center in Los Angeles that purchases hormones for poverty stricken transsexuals, including those living on the streets, and her hormonal intake is restored safely.
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In this paper race is defined as a socially constructed state of being that intertwines both phenotypical expressions defined as “different” from the normative with an oppressed and marginal position in a hierarchical social structure. Race was developed mainly (though not solely) to give scientific credence, or to lend a sense of authenticity to, social stratification. Racial differentiation was developed and maintained in an effort to justify the economic exploitation of minority groups, such as Native and African Americans, by those at the top of the social hierarchy (Hunter, 2005, Alland, Jr., 2002, Frederickson, 2002, Marable, 2000). Race also justifies inhumane crimes against individuals who are “other” that the dominant Caucasian paradigm. Such crimes are exemplified in the past through slavery and lynchings, but “hate” crimes still occur today.
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MTF is an abbreviation for a transsexual who has transitioned from male to female.

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The very fact that the queer resource center disperses the hormones to needy individuals associates Raci’s transsexuality with gay and lesbian politics, which are determined by labels that center on the sexuality of or homosexual partner choices of people rather than within a more central paradigm. This queer standard that posits transsexuals as recognizable only through the lens of gay or lesbian politics is deleterious according to Viviane Namaste (2005), a Canadian transsexual scholar, for its “lack of respect for the lives of [transsexuals] who are heterosexual” (p. 20). Namaste privileges essentialist points of view, because they allow the focus of scholarship and activism to be taken off trans-bodies and placed back on institutions. She wants to be considered a woman, not a gender radical (Namaste, 2005, p. 6). Lucas, a FTM6 student from Smith College, in TransGeneration (2005), underscores Namaste’s view: “When I identify as trans it validates that I am abnormal. I don’t want to be seen as a trans-person” (Simmons, 2005). Each of these trans-people wants to be seen as “normative” women and men whose genders and bodies are not the locus for a movement toward social change. Being read as normal is possibly what makes one safe from a myriad of events, like marginalization or even violence, therefore it is entirely understandable why some —if not most—transsexuals want their bodies to reflect a sense of normalcy. Anthropologist Mary Douglas claims that symbolic ritual creates societal unity (Beynon and Dunkerley, 2000, p. 470); people in the culture at large recognize “the powers and dangers credited to social structure [which are then] reproduced in small on the human body” (Beynon and Dunkerley, 2000, p. 470). Social unity then is created through the construction of signifiers like gender norms, which are then played out
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FTM is the abbreviation for a transsexual person who has transitioned from female to male.

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through dress and behavior. As Douglas indicates with her theory of the sign, these two markers for gender in America can make individuals normative or non-normative, and therefore safe or not-safe. It is understandable that people may tend to gravitate toward the safety of social norms. To participate in the normative gender structure unifies people under the larger system and allows citizens access to the “benefits” of such a system. However, it is unclear whether transsexuals are ever really allowed to reach a state of normalcy. In her address to conference participants at the 27th annual National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA), Susan Stryker spoke of the myriad ways in which her life as a trans-woman is affected by hegemonic norms:
If I am perceived as a woman I am subject to misogyny. I am subject to homophobia because I am not a normative man. My transgendered body visually disables me through other’s perceptions of me. I am psychopathologized by Gender Identity Disorder, so I have a mental illness. I am an undocumented worker at risk due to the refusal of a United States Identification Card. I am surveiled, profiled, and repeatedly discriminated against for housing and daycare. [Stryker, June 17, 2005]

Despite wanting to pass and lead “normal” healthy lives, transsexuals due to the liminal positions of their bodies are subject to discrimination on multiple levels like lack of access to housing, employment, and other necessary social resources. Hausman (1995) writes transsexuals must “seek and obtain medical treatment in order to be recognized as transsexuals,” therefore, much of the understanding about them is located within a medical discourse (original emphasis, p. 3). Indeed, the young transsexual people in the documentary TransGeneration (2005) all worried about access to proper medical care, specifically hormones, to make their sex and gender reassignments work. This medical discourse focuses on the bodies of

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transsexual people, and subjects them and everyone else to a hyper-awareness of the constructedness of their existence. Stryker (2006) in My Words to Victor Frankenstein above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage confides that she is “too often perceived as less than fully human due to the means of [her] embodiment” (p. 245); thus due to the “unnatural” state of her body and the rage of her exclusion from mainstream society she feels a kinship with “Frankenstein the monster” (p. 245). While Stryker is making a literary move in her metaphorical kinship with the monster, the popular imagination literally makes transsexuals into monsters. Disembodied Transsexuals “The Transsexual body is an unnatural body.” -Susan Stryker (2006) The Transgendered Studies Reader, p. 245 “We are not the monsters.” -“Tranny” character, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, episode 8, Season 5 (2004) Transsexuals appear on non-cable television only on rare occasions and are more visible with token appearances on cable television shows, like Nip/Tuck on the FX Network or in HBO’s The L Word. Exhaustive searches for representations of transsexuals on prime time (non-cable networked) shows lead to one episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which is one of America’s most watched shows currently in its seventh season of production (Official CBS website, 2006)7. CSI is a version of the classic “whodunit” entertainment genre, but episodes focus upon figuring out how crimes are committed using the latest forensic technologies as a means to discover who committed the crimes. The particular episode under scrutiny here is the one

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This claim is based upon Neilsen ratings, which track audience participation in television shows to “maximize profits” for networks (AGB Neilsen Media Research online, 2006).

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hundredth, entitled “Ch Ch Changes8,” episode eight of season 5 (2004). TV.com (2006) indicates that “31.46 million viewers tuned in” to this particular episode in particular “making it the most watched episode in the show's history thus far” (electronic resource). It is peculiar that the producers picked such a contentious subject matter as transsexuality and “monster madness” to mark their centenary episode. “Ch Ch Changes” opens with a terrified woman speeding down a dark deserted road in a very nice convertible. Time lapses, but within one minute from the actual beginning of the show CSIs are on the scene looking down at the dead body of the same terrified now dead “Wendy” whose throat and genitals have been slashed. In a moment of foreshadowing one agent makes the comment that “women in convertibles are low hanging fruit,” while the other jokes “and it was a top down night” (Zuiker, 2004). These statements set the joking nature of the episode and are purely metaphorical allusion to the fact that the victim Wendy is a trans-woman, although her alterity it is not revealed until the autopsy in the next scene. Later investigators discover the decomposing body of Vern, another transwoman, in a storage unit turned operating room. Over her body, which was still naked on the table in stirrups, one CSI asks, “Catherine? What do you think went on here?” Her reply, “Someone outsourced their health care to the wrong provider.” It turns out that “Frankensteinian” Dr. Mona Lavelle had been performing illegal gender reassignment surgeries to help “normal people live normal lives” (Zuiker, 2004). The crime is resolved when the CSIs discover that Wendy, the first victim, was killed because she found “Frankenstein’s lab” and was on her way to inform police. The
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The title of the show refers to the song by David Bowie “Changes.”

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show closes with one last allegorical jab at transsexuals: “Before man crawled out of the primordial muck, perhaps it had the same option and maybe we were supposed to be able to switch sexes. The mutation may be staying one sex” (emphasis mine, Zuiker, 2004).

The body of Wendy (photo from Official CBS website, 2006).

The body of Vern (photo from Official CBS website, 2006).

The premise for the show is to solve a crime, but the running theme is the atrocity of transsexuals who are implicated as either “abnormal” or homosexual in nearly every scene in an ironic contrast to the statement of Dr. Lavelle who wants transsexuals to be seen as “normal.” In the spirit of “actions speak louder than words” transsexuals are made into monsters by their very embodied constructedness, but also in their perceived connection to homosexuality. Throughout the show the CSIs investigating the crime indicate a persistent fear of transsexuality expressed in homophobic and trans-phobic jokes. “For the record,” exclaims one agent, “I really like having a penis,” as if someone—the audience, his co-workers—are reading him as less of a man by his very involvement with people who are constrained by their penises. There is also a persistent refusal throughout the episode to call transsexuals by the gendered pronouns of their choice; essentially these acts by the show’s main

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characters rob the already liminal characters of any agency in the expression of their identities constraining them to a firm “biological sex by birth” paradigm. Actors rely on heterosexual principles to elicit information from potential witnesses teasing men who refuse to speak to the CSIs as perhaps “preferring stick” and refusing to follow “traditional values” (Zuiker, 2004). Investigators actually find the “butcher” (murderer) by testing semen found in the mouth of the victim Wendy. This leads to the “shocking” moment when investigators find out that Dr. Lavelle is a trans-woman who has not yet had “bottom” surgery—a moment of parallelism alluded to in the foreshadowing “top down night” declaration earlier in the episode. The CSIs then interview Lavelle’s husband and repeatedly marginalize him for being homosexual by highlighting his wife’s penis with jokes like “your wife is still packing” and eventually make him repeatedly admit to several different investigators that he enjoys fallating his wife (Zuiker, 2004). The agents in making Lavelle’s husband repeat this information were playing up his nonnormative and read as homosexual behavior. Because this was the most watched episode of CSI to date viewer’s comments are important to contextualize this episode within the popular imagination. One viewer lauded CSI for “informing the general public” about a “unique group of people,” however, this episode was overwhelmingly caste as the “goriest and most difficult to watch” by viewers (TV.com, 2006). The show was not difficult because of the political marginalization of transsexuals, but because of the overwhelming violence, blood, and “the descriptions of sexual acts and transference of certain body fluids” (TV.com, 2006). Insinuated in the nuance of this viewer’s comment is his

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discomfort that the transference of “particular bodily fluids” was from one man to “another”—even though the characters considered themselves heterosexual. Most (re)viewers from TV.com agreed that topics about trans-gendered and transsexual people need more media coverage, but they also agreed that this episode was a step in the right direction. This show was disturbing on many levels and not at all helpful in making trans-people more legible or visible in popular culture. The transsexual characters, living and dead, in this episode were robbed of their agency by illusion politics. FTM Matt Kailey (2005) in Just Add Hormones is perhaps too positive in his declarations that transsexuals are more visible now than ever in the media (p. 13). The show seemingly participates in the “good deed” of increasing the visibility of transsexuals in prime time television but in a deep reading it is obvious that the show erases their complex lived experiences through continual marginalization in the show’s focus on trans-sexualities—or the emphasis on trans-character’s “same sex” partner relations—but also in the repeated refusal to acknowledge trans-character’s desired gender pronouns. Additionally, perhaps in an effort to make the show more palatable, the “monster” Dr. Lavelle was played by a “real” woman, non-trans actor Lindsay Crouse, whereas no attribution is given to the dead transsexuals Wendy or Vern, although through flashbacks their characters are quite developed. Similarly, numerous “real” “tranny” characters appear in the show but none are listed in the DVD credits. This projects the illusion that “all is right” in the “real” world. This method of erasing the complexity of transsexual’s lives through physical and metaphorical violence and homophobia may be a response to what Namaste

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(2006) in Genderbashing calls an “invasion” of public space by non-normative people (in Stryker, p. 588, 589). Because transsexuals are non-normative in the expression of their gender9 they are perceived as a threat to normative societal structures. Namaste (2006) claims that many transsexuals are victims of violence due to the conflation of their gender identities (how they identify themselves) into a perceived homosexual (same sex partner relations) reading, which threatens the heterosexual norm (in Stryker 2006, p. 587); she argues that both public and private spaces are policed by gender norms upholding “the binary opposition between men and women” that is intimately intertwined in the ideology of the heterosexual paradigm (Namaste in Stryker, 2006, p. 590). People who fall outside of the socially sanctioned standard for gender are targeted for violence because they threaten the structured state of heteronormative behavior. Susan Stryker attributes the perceived danger of her presence in public spaces to be due to the “unnatural” medical construction of her body, while Judith Butler posits that the incoherent gendered nature of transsexuals makes them “illegible” thus less human (Butler, 2004, p. 58; Stryker, 2006, p. 245); perhaps this illegibility makes transsexuals more susceptible to hate crimes. In any case, even when transsexuals are heterosexual (attracted to the opposite gender than their trans-identities) their gender is often conflated with a perceived sexuality10 that falls outside of normative behavior making them prime targets for violence. Since gay bashing conflates two separate issues—gender and sexuality—into a problem focused on abnormal sexual behavior, Namaste (2006) advocates for the renaming of the term “gaybashing” to
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Gender here refers to explicit roles and behaviors attributed to men and women based upon their “biological sex.” 10 Sexuality here is defined by the partner choices of people in sexual relationships.

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“genderbashing” (p. 596). The term “gay” bashing deflects the fact that violence against gay, lesbian, intersexed, and transsexual people is really rooted in the apparent destruction of gender norms within the heterosexual paradigm: it is a gender crime, not a sexual crime (Namaste in Stryker, 2006, p. 596). CSI participated in the conflation of gender and sexuality issues by repeatedly making homophobic jokes and alluding to the non-normative sexual choices of witnesses, especially men, to coerce them into answering questions about the crime. The trans-characters were living their lives passing as “normal” people before the CSIs insisted upon pigeonholing them into a homosexual paradigm due to their nonnormative sexual practices ultimately forcing gender incoherence on viewers. Further, the show made a mockery of Dr. Lavelle’s husband and their “farcical” marriage by insisting that he describe their intimate sexual relations again conflating gender with sexuality in a politics of illusion where sexuality trumps or becomes gender. Another form of illusion politics in CSI is evident in the writing of Dr. Lavelle as a Frankenstein character. While illegal and unlicensed medical practices are unethical and dangerous, the fact is that gender reassignment surgery is truly expensive. Dr. Lavelle was providing a service to people who could not afford to “legitimately” transform their bodies by establishing her own “outside” medical practice, which was construed as the laboratory of a “mad” doctor. Kailey (2005) writes that female to male surgery including “chest reconstruction, a complete hysterectomy, and a complete phalloplasty” can cost up to $100,000 in the United States (p. 77). This figure does not account for the lifetime of hormone intake required to regulate and maintain gender reassignments. Not everyone with “Gender Identity Disorder” can

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afford “treatment”; therefore alternate means of transitioning can seem attractive in light of the overall monetary cost. Transitioning is not a matter of choice, argues FTM Kailey (2005), “if the incongruity between a person’s gender identity and his or her body and social roles is strong enough, he or she will transition or die” (p. 20). While Kailey does not provide sources for his claims, he states that many transgendered suicides are due to suffering and shame in not being able to transition; access to adequate medical care is a central issue in the transsexual community, and often insurance does not cover gender transitions (Kailey, 2005, p. 21). Recalling that Raci from the documentary TransGeneration (2005) turned to the street to acquire illegal drugs in an effort to maintain her hormone treatment it becomes evident that transsexuals will participate in risky behavior to assimilate with the “regulatory regime.” This in no way excuses fictional Dr. Lavelle from her criminal behavior, but the fact that CSI chose to collapse the lived reality of transsexual’s inadequate access to the medical industry into a dramatic portrayal of “Dr. Frankenstein plays God” indicates that transsexuality has a long way to go before it is normalized in mainstream media. Conclusion Gender theory about transsexuals is inevitably a debate couched in discussions based mainly on and about the bodies of hyper-gendered people. The bodies of transsexual people are hyper-gendered because of the emphasis discourses place upon their gendered states of being above all else; therefore, perhaps there is no more liminal space than a transsexual’s body due to the minimizing and/or essentialist viewpoints asserted by feminist and gender theorists in terms of the transsexual state of being. Bernice Hausman (2000) writes “while transsexualism may seem to

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transgress what we think of as traditional gender roles, the practice of ‘sex change’ relies on normative recountings of gender as an ontology” (p125). This gender philosophy is the essence of juridical debates over the bodies of transsexuals which ultimately decide for them whether or not they deserve full “personhood” based upon their “legibility” (Butler, 2004), which sometimes can manifest itself in the inability to get identification cards or driver’s licenses. Transsexuals must seek assistance from both the psychological and medical fields to feel a sense of self recognition, but also to achieve full personhood in the culture at large. These theories and discourses place transsexuals in no-person’s land without a safe space in which to seek refuge: one is either “illegible” or too constrained by their choice of legibility. Current American television also has a hand in reducing transsexuality to a state of being that is “not quite right,” which often ends in a crescendo of violence upon the bodies of transsexuals. Prime time television programs like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation relentlessly empty the social and medical realities that transsexuals face in the hegemonic “regulatory regime” and instead depict trans-people as “Frankensteinian” characters—monsters or mad doctors—who threaten the heteronormative status quo. The popular imagination condenses personal issues erasing all other dimensions of lived experience like race, sexuality, ability, age, and economics constructing trans-characters (and the trans- actors themselves) as monsters that are absent identity, personality, and context. Trans-people are displayed and used for their liminal positions. This lack of historical context and judgment due to the

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constructedness of the transsexual embodiment is also evident in the work of highly regarded gender theorist Judith Butler and also in the work of Bernice Hausman. Hausman (2000) refers to transsexuality as a sort of “antidote” to the “coercion” of the cultural institution, but is critical of the process; she writes (1995) that transsexuals are failed “gender outlaws” who reify the hegemonic binary (p. 197). While gender reassignment adheres to a too essentialist state of being for some theorists, others posit that the liminal space trans-people reside in can (and should) be used actively as another sort of antidote to hegemony. Butler (2004b) argues that one’s liminal embodiment could be used as a political strategy and can “become a site of contest and revision” complicating the necessity of gendered identities, or identities at all, which are only “instruments of the regulatory regime” (p. 121, 126). In the privileged refusal to acknowledge the impending violence read in the non-normative identities of transsexuals these scholars are accused of participating in colonization of the “other.” Viviane Namaste (2005) in Sex Change, Social Change: Reflections on Identity, Institutions, and Imperialism asks frankly “where would Judith Butler be if she couldn’t talk about us [as privileged sites of identity] (p. 18)? High theorist Butler argues that being a transsexual is powerful in its liminal state, because just as Mary Douglas argues “all margins are dangerous” (Beynon and Dunkerley, 2000, p.473). People who open up spaces beyond the boundaries of normative social structures are disrupting or “troubling” norms revealing the very constructedness of those social norms, thus the argument can be made that transsexuals are gender pioneers. Alternately, moving transsexuals toward the center and away from the fringes by

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embracing essentialist binary oppositions liberates trans-people from their liminal positions destroying the argument that transsexuals are somehow gender pioneers. Transsexual bodies are used to promote a certain agenda, whether it is to uphold the hegemonic heterosexual paradigm or through a theoretical destabilization of gender norms; therefore by reinforcing the destruction of essentialist arguments and keeping transsexual people liminal rather than central, high theorists privileged with an ability to “pass” when necessary are participating in marginalizing behavior. Namaste questions Judith Butler’s intentions and reads her as intentionally colonizing the lives of transsexuals to promote her own agenda of social change. In privileging the alterity of transsexuals some theorists ignore the substantive issues in the lives of trans-people; Namaste (2005) argues “when we restrict ourselves to the identity of sex change, we simultaneously limit our understandings of social change” (original emphasis, p. 18, 19). In much of her work Namaste promotes activism in the medical industry over the effectiveness of theoretical argumentation in order to increase access to and the quality of health care for transsexual people. She is critical of any anti-essential argument; in the refusal to disrupt the binary, she argues, essentialists are doing effective activist work implying that Judith Butler does not do effective work (Namaste 2005, p. 8; Namaste in Stryker 2006). However in her almost violent rejection of Butler, Viviane Namaste seems to be misreading Butler’s argument about identity. Judith Butler rejects identity as a reductive organizing principle and promotes “troubling” norms in general as a political move toward social change (Butler, 2004, p. 121, 135); therefore, for Namaste to indicate that Butler relies upon the identities of

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trans-people undergoing sex change as a theoretical position is incorrect. Rather, Butler is merely indicating that transsexualism “proves” the inherent malleability and instability of gender as an immovable stable identity (Butler, 2005, p. 120). One could criticize Viviane Namaste for her persistent refusal to acknowledge that millions of people cannot get access to health care despite the presence of an ever expanding health care system. Health insurance usually hinges on employment which, according to Susan Stryker (NWSA, 2005), is also difficult to attain and retain for transsexuals. Clearly, there is much work to be done by gender, transgender, and feminist theorists of every camp. Although it is helpful to be critical of theoretical works, criticism to spite the work of others seems antithetical and unnecessary to the “cause,” which is proliferating knowledge and access to knowledge. There is a tentative link between “high” theory and “low” (television) culture in that both presume to “know” transsexuality, yet in a practice of illusion politics they both tend to erase the lived experiences of transsexuals leaving readers or viewers with a partial picture of what transsexuality is and what it means to the people who are marginalized by such labels. In an effort to better illustrate the “either illegible thus political/or too essential” nature of current gender theory and popular culture, this paper has delineated some of the persistent critical issues in the lives of transsexuals, namely marginalization, oppression, violence, and identity misconceptions, to explore the ways in which the bodies of transsexual people are “read” in both places: high theory and low culture. This is not to minimize the gendered experience of transsexual people, but to expand upon their embodied experiences to provide a legible “text” that more fully represents

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transsexual people as lived beings with experiences beyond their gender or representations of gendered identities. Bibliography: Alland, Jr. Alexander (2002). Race in Mind. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. AGB Nielsen Media Research (2006). Audience Ratings. Located on the World Wide Web on December 7, 2006 at: http://www.agbnielsen.net/system/system.asp Ames, Jonathon (Ed.) (2005). Sexual Metamorphosis: An Anthology of Transsexual Memoirs. New York: Vintage Books. Anderson, Jane. (Producer). (2003). Normal [DVD]. HBO Films. Baudrillard, Jean (1994). Simulcra and Simulation. University of Michigan Press. BBC NEWS (2004, October 15). “John Lennon Killer Wanted Fame.” Accessed via the World Wide Web on December 9, 2006 at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3745492.stm. Beynon, John, and Dunkerley, David. (2000). Jean Baudrillard. In Beynon and Dunkerley (eds.), Globalization: the reader. Routledge: New York. Bourdieu, Pierre (1984). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Butler, Judith (2004a). Undoing Gender. New York: Routledge. Butler, Judith (2004b). To Theorize as a Lebian. In (Ed.) Sarah Salih, The Judith Butler Reader. Malden: Blackwell Publishing. Butler, Judith (2006). Doing Justice to Someone. In Stryker, Susan and Whittle, Stephen (eds.) The Transgender Studies Reader. New York: Routledge. Campbell, Richard (2003). Media and Culture: an introduction to mass communication, third edition. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s. Cauldwell, David O. (2006/1886). Psychopathia Transexualis. In Stryker, Susan and Whittle, Stephen (Eds.). The Transgender Studies Reader. New York: Routledge. CBS.com (2006). CSI Episode Guide from the Official CBS Website: CSI, Ch Ch, Changes. Accessed on the World Wide Web on December 7, 2006 at: http://www.cbs.com/primetime/csi/episodes/508/ D’Acci, Julie (1997). Television, Representation and Gender. Feminist television criticism: a reader, pgs. 372-388. (Eds.) Charlotte Brunsdon, Julie D'Acci and Lynn Spigel. New York : Oxford University Press. Douglas, Mary. (1966). “External Boundaries (from Purity and Danger).” In (Eds.) Beynon, John, and Dunkerley, David, Globalization: the reader. Routledge: New York. DSM-IV (1993). Gender Identity Disorder. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. Feinberg, Leslie (1993). Stone Butch Blues. New York: Firebrand Books. Foucault, Michel (1990). The History of Sexuality, Part 1. New York; Vintage Books. Frederickson, George M. (2002). Racism: A Short History. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Grosz, Elizabeth. (1994). Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

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Hausman, Bernice L. (1995). Changing Sex: Transsexualism, Technology, and the Idea of Gender. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press. Hausman, Bernice L. (2000) “Do boys have to be boys? Gender, narrativity, and the John/Joan case.” NWSA Journal; 12(3):114-38. Hunter, Margaret L. (2005) Race, gender, and the politics of skin tone. New York: Routledge. Kailey, Matt (2005). Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience. Boston: Beacon Press. Kipnis, Laura (1993. Ecstasy Unlimited: On Sex, Capital, Gender, and Aesthetics. Minneapolis; University of Minnesota Press. Kirby, Vicki (2006). Judith Butler Live Theory. New York; Continuum International Publishing Group. Klinkmann, Sven-Erik (Ed.) (2002). Popular Imagination: Essays on Fantasy and Cultural Practice. NNF Publications 12. Krafft-Ebing, Richard Von (2006) Psychopathia Sexualis. In (Eds.) Stryker, Susan and Whittle, Stephen. The Transgender Studies Reader. New York: Routledge. p. 21-27. Marable, Manning (2000). Dispatches from the Ebony Tower: Intellectuals Confront the African American Experience. New York: Columbia University Press. Meyerowitz, Joanne. (2002). How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. (Intro & Chapter 3). Namaste, Viviane (2005). Sex Change, Social Change: Reflections on Identity, Institutions, and Imperialism. Toronto: Women’s Press. Namaste, Viviane (2006). Genderbashing: Sexuality, Gender, and the Regularion of Public Space. In (Eds.) Stryker, Susan and Whittle, Stephen. The Transgender Studies Reader. New York: Routledge. National Coalition on Health Care (2006). Facts About Health Care. Accessed via the World Wide Web on December 11, 2006: http://www.nchc.org/facts/coverage.shtml Schmidt, M. E. and M. Rich (2006). Media and Child Health: Pediatric Care and Anticipatory Guidance for the Information Age. Pediatrics Review, August 1, 2006; 27(8): 289 - 298. Simmons, Jeremy (Director). (2005). TransGeneration [DVD]. Logo, Sundance Film. Stryker, Susan and Whittle, Stephen (2006). The Transgender Studies Reader. New York: Routledge. Stryker, Susan (June 17, 2005). Speech: Transgendered Theories, NWSA Presidential Sessions, 27th Annual Conference: Locating Women’s Studies: Formations of Power and Resistance. Tucker, Duncan (Producer). (2005). Transamerica [DVD]. Weinstein Company. TV.com (2006). CSI: Ch-CH_Changes Episode. Accessed via the World Wide Web on December 5, 2006 at: http://www.tv.com/csi/ch-chchanges/episode/369425/summary.html?tag=ep_list;title;7. Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary, Revised Edition (1996). “Popular,” p. 531. Boston; Houghton Mifflin Company. Wikipedia (2006). “1991 in Music.” Accessed on December 12, 2006 on the World Wide Web at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1991_in_music.

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Zuiker, Anthony E. (2004). CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Ch Ch Changes episode, Season 5 [DVD]. CBS Productions

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Transsexuals are people who live their lives in the opposite gender role, which is outward expression of embodiment as a man or a woman, as their original sex assignment—the reading of their male or female genitals at birth as the biological expression of gender—due to an overwhelming feeling that they were born into the “wrong” body. Transsexuals take hormones and get surgery (if it is affordable) to more closely align their bodies with their desired sex (the biological expression of gender). Sex and gender are often used interchangeably in literature. For example, one of the many surgeries transsexuals often undergo is “bottom surgery” or “sex reassignment” corresponding to a transformation of genitals from one manifestation (penis) to the other (vagina). Other writings use the term “gender reassignment” in discussions about transsexuals perhaps indicating more than just surgery to the genitals: this terminology may in fact include the switching of social roles from that of male to female. It is very difficult to maintain a difference between gender reassignment and sex reassignment, for example, as there is slippage between the terms. For the purposes of this paper, sex is the “biological” manifestation of a male or female expressed in genitals, penis or vagina, and phenotype (bone structure, body hair texture, voice octave, and other physical manifestations said to be embodied by either men or women). Whereas, gender is a social or cultural manifestation of sex; accordingly, John Money (1995) writes gender is the expression of “general mannerisms, deportment and demeanor” usually in accordance to biological sex which helps to “write” a person as either male or female (p. 21). All of these terms are particularly limiting.
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There is a dearth of fictional literature written about transsexuals, and after exhaustive research looking for popular fiction about transsexuality or featuring trans-characters, two novels were reviewed: Trans-sister Radio (2000) by John Bohjahlian Invisible Monsters (1999) by Chuck Palahniuk writer of Fight Club. These two novels are polemic in their overall messages. Not applicable here for many reasons, but often mentioned by queer theorists and gender novelists is Stone Butch Blues (1994) by Leslie Feinberg. This novel is clearly about one woman’s journey toward an identity she can reconcile herself with, which ends up to be he-she or “stone butch,” and the perils associated with being located outside of a socially normative identity. It is not about transsexuality though it has been highly criticized as so by transsexual scholar Viviane Namaste. Although the main character wrestles with many identity issues and even begins the transition from women to man, she eventually ceases the hormone therapy in her acceptance of her woman body. While Namaste (2005) via Transsexual scholar Max Valerio read the departure from creating a male body to keeping a female body as negative, it can be read it as a brave exploration of identity (p. 19). The author never reaches a gender finality as claimed by Valerio and Namaste, but imagines a world where one is possible. There is a scarcity of information on transsexuality at all let alone in popular American media, but there are several recent (21st century) mass produced films for central (not interstitial) audiences including The Badge (2002), Transamerica (2005), and Normal (2003). Also produced recently is the horror of a film Soldier’s Girl (2003), which is based on the true story of Calpernia Addams an MTF and her relationship with a soldier who was brutally killed in 1999 due to that relationship. Few documentaries are available although several featuring Transsexuality have been made, therefore, for the purposes of this paper I reviewed TransGeneration (2005) and Unhung Heroes (2002). Finally, if there is little popular literature or film featuring transsexuals there is even less television focusing on people located (by others) outside of a very rigid binary of “male or female born.” Therefore, after exhaustive searches of many internet and DVD databanks Season 3 of The L Word (2005), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, episode five, Season 5 (2004) and Nip/Tuck, season two (2004) were reviewed which all feature transsexual characters. Finally, for the sake of comparison or contrast of the imagined realities to actual lived experiences numerous memoirs written by transsexuals were reviewed. Similar themes emerged from readings of these artifacts of popular culture, but unrelenting in all of them (even in the more positive books and movies) was the comparison of transsexuals to monsters. Rather than produce a paper that shallowly reviews numerous representations of transsexuality in the popular imagination, the focus is on one artifact in particular to produce a close reading of transsexuality. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2004), episode five, “Ch Ch Changes” is representative of all artifacts reviewed because it encapsulated every imaginable theme throughout the many books, television shows, and movies that were reviewed.

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