Discussion Questions for Richard M. Juang’s “Transgendering the Politics of Recognition”

1. Juang argues that discussions of transgender issues are kept separate from transphobia, heterosexism, racism, ethnocentrism and Eurocentrism, and that this misrepresents how oppressive forces intersect in practice.  While this is very true, do you think that the reason these issues are discussed separately is to target a single issue more directly in order to achieve direct solutions, such as specific laws and legislation?


2. The concept of “social death” was something we discussed in class in regards to Joss and Coleman Moody and their situations in Scotland.  Juang describes Tyra Hunter’s tragedy with the EMT as social death as well.  In what other areas and issues within our society does this term apply?  Do those areas intersect with these issues of racism, sexism, transphobia, etc. as well?


3. There was a very similar overwhelming feeling that crept over me while reading through this article to how I felt when watching the video in class with David Spade.  There are so many intersecting issues…what is the most logical place to start reformation?  




MOTHA (Museum of Transgender Hirstory and Art)

For my blog presentation I wanted to bring into the spotlight MOTHA, or the Museum of Transgender Hirstory and Art.  MOTHA is a project created and directed by Chris E. Vargas, who is currently a video maker & interdisciplinary artist based in central New York, whose thematic interests include queer radicalism, transgender hirstory, and imperfect role models. I thought this institution linked nicely to the essay by Eva Hayward, “Lessons From a Starfish” because it highlights the significance and impact of transgender artists of all kinds, including musicians, visual artists, other performing artists, poets and authors, etc. just as Hayward’s analysis of Antony and the Johnsons work shows us how we can come to a deeper understanding of so many issues through artistic expression.  This “museum” is the only museum in the world that is dedicated exclusively to the arts and history of transgender folks and just so happens to be based here in San Francisco!

When asked in an interview with Visual AIDS what led to the creation of MOTHA, Chris E. Vargas replied,

” Many things led me to begin this project. First is that, to my knowledge, a museum devoted to transgender art and history does not yet exist in the U.S. I know so many talented transgender artists, many of whom are not finding sufficient support for their work. I started to imagine a platform that would highlight these artists and offer them the legitimacy that many of them (not all) are looking for. At the same time, a museum is the most fraught institution imaginable. Its history of racist, patriarchal exclusion and colonialist exploitation runs deep. I also wanted to tackle the issue of composing narrative history: what would a trans cultural history look like that is both cohesive and expansive?

In case it’s not clear, MOTHA is a conceptual museum that occasionally manifests materially. It’s also designed as a work of institutional critique. I’m aiming to create a project that validates and upholds the work of trans artists, our visual culture, and activist history, while also encouraging us to be critical about the conventional ways of doing so.”

The MOTHA mission statement reads:

“MOTHA is dedicated to moving the hirstory and art of transgender people to the center of public life. The museum insists on an expansive and unstable definition of transgender, one that is able to encompass all trans and gender non-conformed art and artists.  MOTHA is committed to developing a robust exhibition and programming schedule that will enrich the transgender mythos both by exhibiting works by living artists and by honoring the hiroes and transcestors who have come before.”

MOTHA’s mission statement reflects the parodical nature of Vargas’ project.  The museum is not really committed to developing a robust exhibition and programming schedule, because it recognizes the space between how most traditional museums function and how a museum dedicated to exclusively trans art and artists would function differently.  Vargas is making a statement about where transgender folks have been placed and recognized throughout history in regards to museums having a history of “racism, patriarchal exclusion and colonialist exploitation.”

 Eva Hayward’s essay analyzes, deconstructs and comments on the song “Cripple and the Starfish” by Antony and the Johnsons. I thought it would be appropriate to focus on an organization/institution that aims to promote transgender artists by creating something dedicated entirely to celebrating their contributions to the artistic communities of the world in its own non-conforming way.

 This project/museum is relatively new, as a matter of fact the opening ceremony took place just last year at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.  There still is not a permanent location for the museum(and I really don’t think there is a plan for one in the future…) but in the mean time the museum functions as a series of autonomous off-site experiences around the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout the world.  Below are the links to MOTHA’s official website as well as to their Facebook page where you can check up on upcoming events and take a look at past events as well.





Categorizing and Labeling

The term I would like to focus on is categorizing.  In general I am going to discuss the tendency that people have to put things into specific groups, bubbles and categories and the kinds of oppression that this perpetuates.  This “need” that people have to organize the world around them through grouping and categorizing is a problem in many different areas and refers to many different topics, simply because nothing is ever really black or white, right or wrong, yes or no, etc.  When discussing gender, sex and sexuality, categorizing becomes an enormous problem due to its limitations on recognizing variation and diversity all across the many spectrums of these topics.


The significance of language, labeling and categorizing has made itself present in almost all of our readings for this class, but I will focus on just a few.  False labeling and pushing identities on people first became clear to me as a problem in one of our first required readings for the class, David Valentine’s piece, “Imagining Transgender”.  The centerpiece of conversation for that entire article was the importance of language and titles and how they are not always a good representation of reality.  Valentine writes, “ Identity can erase intersections of different kinds of social experiences, more often than not asserting the experience of white, middle-class U.S. American social actors as the implicit exemplary center.”  I thought this quote really summed up and reflected upon they ways in which people push their own identities into the mix when trying to figure out the identities of others, when they(themselves) have nothing at all to do with it!  The article also discussed how many of the people that Valentine was working with did not personally identify as trans but were being labelled and called that by most of their peers.  Just as some are labelled trans and don’t identify that way personally, there are people that would most likely be seen as either male or female and personally identify as trans.  The key concept here is that while categories and labels help us make sense of the world, when it comes to sex, gender and sexuality we cannot assume because there are so many possibilities and a variety of specific situations.


Like I have said, this idea of categorizing and false labeling has been mentioned as a problem in many of our readings.  In Martin Manalansan’s excerpt on Bakla and gay, it was discussed that there is a space between these two labels, but also how they are sometimes viewed as derogatory in certain situations and to certain people but sometimes viewed as empowering to others.  This piece in particular made me think about how terminology is not universal either, and that we cannot assume that people interpret titles and labels the same in different cultures around the globe, because that is actually very rarely the case.


It seems that in regards to transgender specifically, the general population tends to assume that a trans person is defined as someone that has gone through some kind surgery or multiple surgeries in order to feel more aligned with their body.  As we have discussed in great depth, this is in no way the case.  Trans can refer to so many different situations and it isn’t fitting or appropriate to cluster people into one umbrella category as if they all identify the same.  

Sara Petersen: Introduction

Hello everyone!

My name is Sara and I am a studio art(drawing/painting) and art history major, although as of March I should hopefully be accepted into the Design and Industry Department.  I am originally from San Diego but I love the Bay and plan to be here for many years to come.  So far I am really enjoying this class and I look forward to diving deeper into the topic at hand with all of you.