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The increasing representation of trans identity throughout art and popular culture in recent years has been nothing if not paradoxical. Trans visibility is touted as a sign of a liberal society, but it has coincided with a political moment marked both by heightened violence against trans people (especially trans women of color) and by the suppression of trans rights under The increasing representation of trans identity throughout art and popular culture in recent years has been nothing if not paradoxical. Trans visibility is touted as a sign of a liberal society, but it has coincided with a political moment marked both by heightened violence against trans people (especially trans women of color) and by the suppression of trans rights under civil law. Trap Door grapples with these contradictions. The essays, conversations, and dossiers gathered here delve into themes as wide-ranging yet interconnected as beauty, performativity, activism, and police brutality. Collectively, they attest to how trans people are frequently offered “doors”—entrances to visibility and recognition—that are actually “traps” accommodating trans bodies and communities only insofar as they cooperate with dominant norms. The volume speculates about a third term, perhaps uniquely suited for our time: the trapdoor, neither entrance nor exit, but a secret passageway leading elsewhere. Trap Door begins a conversation that extends through and beyond trans culture, showing how these issues have relevance for anyone invested in the ethics of visual culture.


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The increasing representation of trans identity throughout art and popular culture in recent years has been nothing if not paradoxical. Trans visibility is touted as a sign of a liberal society, but it has coincided with a political moment marked both by heightened violence against trans people (especially trans women of color) and by the suppression of trans rights under The increasing representation of trans identity throughout art and popular culture in recent years has been nothing if not paradoxical. Trans visibility is touted as a sign of a liberal society, but it has coincided with a political moment marked both by heightened violence against trans people (especially trans women of color) and by the suppression of trans rights under civil law. Trap Door grapples with these contradictions. The essays, conversations, and dossiers gathered here delve into themes as wide-ranging yet interconnected as beauty, performativity, activism, and police brutality. Collectively, they attest to how trans people are frequently offered “doors”—entrances to visibility and recognition—that are actually “traps” accommodating trans bodies and communities only insofar as they cooperate with dominant norms. The volume speculates about a third term, perhaps uniquely suited for our time: the trapdoor, neither entrance nor exit, but a secret passageway leading elsewhere. Trap Door begins a conversation that extends through and beyond trans culture, showing how these issues have relevance for anyone invested in the ethics of visual culture.

30 review for Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Furger

    As RuPaul’s Drag Race becomes more main stream, this is an important reminder of how entertainment has been dramatically changed drag/transsexual people for a long time. Important read, but it is pretty scholarly- not a criticism, but may not be a read accessible to everyone!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Zaynab Shahar

    I honestly didn't know what to expect when I decided to buy this book on a whim. I was looking for trans theory and trans cultural production beyond the usual suspects of the academy. So I bought this whim on impulse, and took a long time reading it. There are so many things I loved about this book. Beyond its extremely high production values, the essays and conversations between cultural producers, academics, and artists contain so many gems and so many profound insights. There are essays about I honestly didn't know what to expect when I decided to buy this book on a whim. I was looking for trans theory and trans cultural production beyond the usual suspects of the academy. So I bought this whim on impulse, and took a long time reading it. There are so many things I loved about this book. Beyond its extremely high production values, the essays and conversations between cultural producers, academics, and artists contain so many gems and so many profound insights. There are essays about the ethics of cultural production, the struggles of curation and the construction of cultural/collective memory, histories of trans resistance that can be found in art, film, etc. By the same token, I was left wondering about a lot of things. I wonder who realistically could afford a $50 art book. I understand price has to compensate for production values. Yet by the same token the price alone made me question who is the intended audience of this book. If its widely understood that TPOC, particularly TWOC, live below the poverty line, I wondered how they're supposed to access this book. In the five years since this book has been published, I wonder how price point and inaccessibility affects its reception to the very communities that its documenting and writing about. This question was further complicated by the inclusion of theorists like Sara Ahmed. While I appreciated Sara Ahmed's essay, I did wonder whether it was appropriate to be included. I really didn't care to see a cisgender voice in a volume about trans cultural production. Above and beyond Ahmed's name recognition, I think it was a missed opportunity to forfeit the politics of academic celebrity that is understood to help sell books and actually include a theorist who could effectively write an essay on the same subject, just from a different take. I would have wanted to hear from someone who I don't know, who doesn't have name recognition, but has something important to say nonetheless. All and all I enjoyed this book, but it did leave me wondering "who is this for?" Maybe such an underlying question and the embodied contradictions of assembling an anthology is intentional. I could see that, as much as I think its kitschy and unnecessary given that embodied contradictions are always a thing in anthologies.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Squirrel

    Rounded up from 3.5. This collection is a mixed bag of pieces. Theoretical, practical, art, activism. Thematically I think that Gossett did a good job at linking these somewhat disparate pieces together. The problem is one of momentum, though; Gossett spaces out her more theoretical pieces in between more approachable pieces such as roundtable discussions, which I actually found to be more difficult than, say, grouping all of the theoretical pieces together. Which is part of why it sat open half Rounded up from 3.5. This collection is a mixed bag of pieces. Theoretical, practical, art, activism. Thematically I think that Gossett did a good job at linking these somewhat disparate pieces together. The problem is one of momentum, though; Gossett spaces out her more theoretical pieces in between more approachable pieces such as roundtable discussions, which I actually found to be more difficult than, say, grouping all of the theoretical pieces together. Which is part of why it sat open halfway, unread, for about 3 months. While reading it, I kept thinking, who is this collection for, really? I'd also like to thank the person who checked this book out before me as they put pencil marks next to all of the more theoretical articles in the index. It turns out that they were the articles that I liked the least but ignored all of the articles about more concrete ideas, such as archives, political organizing, and history-making. And they put a question mark next to Sara Ahmed's "An Affinity of Hammers," which imo they should not have passed on. The main question that is the backbone of this book is, "what is the value of increased visibility & representation?" What might have been an interesting conversation in the summer of 2016 but is somewhat moot in October of 2020. Like no, no, please stop the representation! We would like to *not* be the visible part of the conservative backlash now. I appreciate the introduction to people such as Chris E Vargas and MOTHRA, and Kai Lumumba Barrow. But in 5+ years, who will even read this?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    This book contains a series of essays that center around the current "transgender tipping point" and grapple with the dichotomy of increased trans visibility and increased violence against trans people. An essay that stuck with me was "The Labor of Werqing It" which discussed how accounting for race challenges the "trans tipping point" narrative and the exceptionalism/death binary. The essay uses the example of a black drag performer that was the target of harassment by the police while white dr This book contains a series of essays that center around the current "transgender tipping point" and grapple with the dichotomy of increased trans visibility and increased violence against trans people. An essay that stuck with me was "The Labor of Werqing It" which discussed how accounting for race challenges the "trans tipping point" narrative and the exceptionalism/death binary. The essay uses the example of a black drag performer that was the target of harassment by the police while white drag performers were hired to perform without a problem. This article takes issue with the narrative of the "transgender tipping point" because the narrative suggests that public interest in trans people is peaking in the present (when there has always been evidence for public interest) and misses the ways in which peaks in violence/visibility are cyclical. Another reading that stuck with me was the one on violence against black people and how social media exploits our feelings and how we should stop sharing videos of violence against black bodies. This reading was particularly pertinent given the current riots. The "Models of Futurity" reading was along a similar vein and discussed how peaceful protests had not worked to dismantle the neo-liberal state in the past.

  5. 5 out of 5

    cosima concordia

    Trap Door is a gorgeous collection of essays and other art that explores the uncomfortable contradictions within the media's obsession with the "Transgender Tipping Point" and the mixed results it brings for the actual lived experiences of trans people. What does visibility actually mean? What are the consequences of "acceptance" within oppressive dominant norms? How does one live authentically within a system that was built for your erasure? The beautiful voices bursting from within Trap Door b Trap Door is a gorgeous collection of essays and other art that explores the uncomfortable contradictions within the media's obsession with the "Transgender Tipping Point" and the mixed results it brings for the actual lived experiences of trans people. What does visibility actually mean? What are the consequences of "acceptance" within oppressive dominant norms? How does one live authentically within a system that was built for your erasure? The beautiful voices bursting from within Trap Door brings revolutionary weight to these questions, elevating the discourse to new heights.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tallon Kennedy

    The pieces in this collection were hit or miss for me. Regardless, a lot to think about in terms of trans visibility, violence, trans art, and more. Certainly a valuable collection of trans thought and imagination. 6/10

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    I really loved how this book was set up. I liked that articles further in the book referenced back to past chapters. They were also building on the history and interweaving that discussion into the Art that was discussed in multiple articles. I will probably reread this book in the future!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Eamon

    essential - particularly recommend the Sara Ahmed, Evay Hayward, Miss Major, and the archival materials

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tobias Wiggins

  10. 5 out of 5

    tara

  11. 4 out of 5

    Milan

  12. 4 out of 5

    TL

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anéya Sousa

  14. 4 out of 5

    Megan

  15. 4 out of 5

    Eric Stanley

  16. 4 out of 5

    Morgan M. Page

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steppenfreak

  18. 4 out of 5

    Molly Ye

  19. 5 out of 5

    Spence

  20. 4 out of 5

    Simon

  21. 5 out of 5

    sage elle

  22. 5 out of 5

    Finn Johnson

  23. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Hosford

  24. 4 out of 5

    Flungoutofspace (CMJW)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  26. 4 out of 5

    Fabiola Rivera

  27. 5 out of 5

    Maxe

  28. 5 out of 5

    Aut

  29. 4 out of 5

    Denisse

  30. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

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