This book is for Vicki and the innumerable, unnamable trans children, whose lives have made piercing beauty out of a heavy world inimical to their survival.
This project found its beginning during my time as a graduate student at Rutgers University. I remain grateful for the contributions of the faculty and my fellow graduate students there, especially Fran Bartkowski, Ed Cohen, Jasbir Puar, and Whitney Strub on my dissertation committee. I am also indebted to the Rutgers Institute for Research on Women seminar “Trans Studies: Beyond Hetero and Homo Normativities” and especially to Aren Aizura for shaping my thinking about trans studies.
My colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh, both in the English department and in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program, have been incredibly generous in their support of this work. Immense gratitude goes to my incredible colleagues in Children’s Literature, Tyler Bickford and Courtney Weikle-Mills; to Peter Campbell, Paul Johnson, Imani Owens, and Elizabeth Rodriguez Fielder for writing with me; to Todd Reeser, Julie Beaulieu, Natalie Kouri-Towe, and Lisa Brush for being interlocutors in gender studies; and to Don Bialostosky for supporting my research and writing as junior faculty. The students in my graduate seminars “The Body Now” and “Gender and the Child,” as well as those in the undergraduate seminar “Literature, Medicine, and Sexology,” have left indelible marks on my thinking and on this book. I am thankful to have the privilege of working with brilliant and courageous students from whom I have learned so much, especially Gabby and Brooke. Further thanks also go to Todd for his transformative mentorship and to Julie for teaching me how I could be a queer/trans child and a professor at the same time. The archival research for this book and time to write were made possible by a John Money Fellowship from the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, the Office of the Provost, and a Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Faculty Fellowship.
The labor of many librarians and archivists went into the research for this book, and I am forever in their debt for being patient with my unusual itineraries through archives that had not previously yielded the stories of trans children. At the Kinsey Institute, Liana Zhou and Shawn C. Wilson were instrumental in helping me find the heart of the project, as well as securing permission for the image in this book. Jeanne Vaccaro opened her home to me while I was in Bloomington, providing a wondrous place to dream the project into being. At the LGBT Community Center National History Archive in New York City, the incomparable Rich Wandel generously shared his firsthand knowledge of early trans activism while bringing me boxes. I am particularly indebted to the incredible labor of the staff at the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives and the Medical Records Office of the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Marjorie Kehoe and Phoebe Evans Letocha worked with me at every stage of the long process of developing a research protocol and applying to the Privacy Board of the hospital and throughout the exhilarating but meandering research process. I cannot thank them enough. Linda Carson worked tirelessly to welcome me to the already impossibly overtaxed Medical Records Office, not to mention helping me navigate the overwhelming bureaucracy at Hopkins. The staff at the Office were likewise incredibly welcoming when I had to disrupt their day by using the cranky microfilm machine in the middle of their workplace. I also owe thanks to the librarians at the Charles E. Young Special Collections at the University of California, Los Angeles, and to Jennifer Needham at the Special Collections of Hillman Library at the University of Pittsburgh. I further want to thank Laura Wexler for sharing her archival research in Maryland with me.
I owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who read, listened to, and provided feedback on parts of this project at many stages and in many venues. Kadji Amin, Natalia Cecire, Emma Heaney, Meridith Kruse, Brie Owen, and Eliza Steinbock organized important panels and seminars for the growth of this book. Roderick Ferguson’s and Lynne Huffer’s feedback at our MLA panel, “Foucault and Queer of Color Critique,” has been invaluable, as has Rod’s support of the project more broadly. The Child Matters Conference hosted by Indiana University Bloomington and organized by Rebekah Sheldon was a profoundly important moment in the development of this book, and I thank Paul Amar, Sarah Chinn, Anna Mae Duane, Clifford Rosky, Kathryn Bond Stockton, and Mary Zaborskis for two days well spent. The Trans* Studies conference at the University of Arizona in 2016 was also a watershed moment in showing the true power and ethic of care of trans studies. Toby Beauchamp, Jack Halberstam, Benjy Kahan, Katrina Karkazis, Tey Meadow, Jennifer Nash, Robert Reid-Pharr, Gabriel Rosenberg, Gayle Rubin, Gayle Salamon, and Jane Ward all passed through Pitt at decisive moments in my thinking, generously sharing their time and work. I am grateful for conversations with Claudia Castañeda, Ann Travers, Elias Vitulli, and Elizabeth Wilson at similarly key moments that have informed my thinking. Kyla Schuller has been a true fellow traveler into the strange historical archives of the body and the reader of my dreams. Emma Heaney’s brilliant reading took this book’s Conclusion where it needed to go. Kathryn Bond Stockton is a cherished friend, incomparable mentor, and profoundly important voice in shaping the ways that the child touches queerness and transness in this book. For reading the entire book, in more than one form, and for making me the thinker and writer that I am through a special kind of friendship, I can never fully convey my gratitude to Rebekah Sheldon and Jean-Thomas Tremblay, my closest of kin in these pages.
With the University of Minnesota Press I have been the lucky recipient of Danielle Kasprzak’s brilliant editorial vision for this book from day one. I am ever dazzled by how Dani has seen this book in the moments when I could not. The anonymous readers provided incredible feedback on the manuscript, particularly at a critical stage that helped me propel the project into its full form. Any shortcomings in the final version of this book are very much my own.
There are many, many people whose lives intertwine with mine, in and outside academia, to whom I am grateful for the ways, quantifiable and unquantifiable, that they have made the work and life behind this book possible. I cannot possibly name them all, but I hope they will know, each in their own way, how much their part in my life matters. Marissa Brostoff, Summer Kim Lee, Jean-Thomas Tremblay, and Hella Tsaconas knit together a special kind of cohort that transcends time and institutional form. Erin English gave me the gift of a vision of what capacious, rigorous, queer thinking looks like at just the right moment when I was a baby graduate student, a baby queer, and a baby New Yorker. There are gorgeous queers all over this country, but especially in Brooklyn, to whom I owe my voice and confidence. It’s hard to express just how profoundly Bryn’s genius shared during haircuts means to how I see transness. I think about Mamma often, wondering how I would translate all this for her, but certain that she would return it with love. I hope this book offers my Mom a special insight into what beautiful things (like a book) can come out of a queer and gender-expansive childhood (mine) lived in the affirmative world that she built for me. There is much I have learned about what it means to grow and give back across the generations from my Dad. I count myself lucky to have the wisdom of a brother who has taught me, by always seeing things more clearly than I do, and long before I ever do, that concepts of age and childhood don’t make people. The constant, furry, and cuddly company of B and H while writing this book leaves its imprint in my sheer happiness about the time there spent, as do multiple vegetable gardens now long gone.
And to J, who has fiercely championed my growth and vision, in this book as in all things in our lives, I thank you most of all.