In their new groundbreaking study reviewed in this special issue, The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) are Creating a Gender Revolution (2018), sociologist Ann Travers details the experiences of transgender children in the US and Canada, some as young as four years of age, who participated in research interviews over a five-year period. Establishing a unique picture of what it means to grow up as a trans child, Travers offers numerous examples of daily life and challenges for children like, for example, Martine and Esme, both of whom sought to determine their own gender at an early age: Martine and her family recount how at the age of seven she responded to her upcoming appointment at a gender clinic by asking if the doctor would have “the machine where you walk in as a boy and walk out as a girl,” while Esme’s story begins in preschool and leads to the care of a “trans-affirmative doctor” (168) from the age of six and the promise of hormone blockers and estrogen at the onset of puberty. Although Travers’s work is devoted to and advocates for trans children as a whole, its implications for our understanding of and research into girls and girlhood cannot be understated. What does it mean to “walk out” of that machine in the doctor’s office “as a girl?” What happens when you displace the seemingly monumental onset of puberty from its previous biological imperatives and reproductive futures? How might feminist work on girlhoods, which has sought to challenge sexual and gender binaries for so long, approach an encounter with what Travers calls “binary-conforming” or “binary-identifying” (169) trans girls or with the transgender boys in their study who, at first, respond to the conforming pressures of adolescence very similarly to cisgender girls who will not ultimately transition away from a female identity?
Barbara Jane Brickman
Super Hero Girls Together
Lucy I. Baker
DC Super Hero Girls (DCSHG) is a trans-media franchise that includes not just screen media texts but a wide array of themed merchandise aimed at a multi-generational market. I argue here that key components of the franchise present a queered version of girlhood that critiques femininity as a gender role while presenting femaleness as encompassing a variety of signifiers, acts, and presentations that can be read as queer (particularly by the so-called big girls in the audience). This is evident in the representation of queer relationships that exist in the sexualized zone of the canonical material, allowing the DCSHG characters to inhabit a liminal proto-queer space between homosocial/gender non-conforming and lesbian that is considered more appropriate for young girls. I examine the way in which the DC Super Hero Girls franchise rejects and reforms familiar elements of comics, super heroism, and princess culture to create that space for girls.
Queer Gothic Girlhood in John Harding’s <em>Florence and Giles</em>
Literary fiction is a widely popular arena in which discourse on sexuality and queerness is produced and disseminated. The Gothic is an especially crucial mode in literary fiction that has a historically intimate relationship with queer subjectivity. Observing this relationship between Gothic fiction and queer subjectivity, in this article I analyze the representation of queer Gothic girlhood in contemporary fiction, taking as my focus John Harding’s 2010 reworking of the Henry James classic, The Turn of the Screw (1898). I show how Florence and Giles develops familiar tropes attached to the figure of the queer child and look specifically at how readings of the parent text implicate contemporary readings of this figure. With close readings that draw on the queer feminist ethics of Lynne Huffer, I consider what seems to be happening to the figure of the queer Gothic girl in contemporary fiction.
Lucy D. Curzon
Ann Travers. 2018. The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) Are Creating a Gender Revolution. New York: New York University Press.
Ann Travers’s new book, The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) Are Creating a Gender Revolution (hereafter The Trans Generation) is a highly persuasive investigation that sheds much-needed scholarly light on a grossly marginalized, precarious community. Travers interviewed 36 transgender children, and many of their parents, to reveal the challenges they face in everyday use of bathrooms, locker rooms, and other rigidly gendered spaces, as well as in interactions with friends, parents, and siblings, as well as schools, and local and state or provincial governments. Apart from the scope of this study, what is remarkable about The Trans Generation is its accessibility. Instead of presenting a quantitative analysis, which can be alienating to readers outside academia, Travers offers an exhaustive qualitative study parsed in highly thoughtful, eloquent, and open terms—one that prizes the individuality, indeed the knowableness, of each child interviewed. And, although The Trans Generation is not explicitly dedicated to discussions of girlhood, the focus of this journal, it nonetheless offers, I argue, valuable new paradigms or strategies for thinking about girls’ lives and identities.
Marginalizing Queer Girls in YA Dystopian Literature
Miranda A. Green-Barteet and Jill Coste
In this article we consider the absence of queer female protagonists in dystopian Young Adult (YA) fiction and examine how texts with queer protagonists rely on heteronormative frameworks. Often seen as progressive, dystopian YA fiction features rebellious teen girls resisting the restrictive norms of their societies, but it frequently sidelines queerness in favor of heteronormative romance for its predominantly white, able-bodied protagonists. We analyze The Scorpion Rules (2015) and Love in the Time of Global Warming (2013), both of which feature queer girl protagonists, and conclude that these texts ultimately marginalize that queerness. While they offer readers queer female protagonists, they also equate queerness with non-normative bodies and reaffirm heteronormativity. The rebellion of both protagonists effectively distances them from the queer agency they have developed throughout the narratives.
Queer Girlhood and Coming of Age on Screen
In this article, I seek to interrogate the visibility of queer girls in contemporary cinema. I demonstrate how queerness has long been associated with a passing phase of adolescent development in the teen media sphere. I reflect on the nuanced relationships between queerness and girlhood in four contemporary US independent queer films, arguing that Pariah (2011), Mosquita y Mari (2012), First Girl I Loved (2016), and Princess Cyd (2017) are representative of a new wave of queer girlhood on screen. Rejecting the pervasive tropes of coming out as coming of age and just a phase, these films use queer girlhood to challenge linear models of girlhood.
Queering the One Direction Fangirl
Hannah McCann and Clare Southerton
Like other fangirls, fans of former boyband One Direction (“Directioners”) have often been represented in media discourse as obsessive and hysterical, with fan behaviour interpreted as longing for heterosexual intimacy with band members. Subverting this heteronormative framing, a group of Directioners known as “Larries” have built a sub-fandom around imagining a relationship (“ship”) between two of the band members, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson. Representation of the Larry fandom has gone beyond pathologizing fangirls to framing their shipping practice in terms of “fake news.” The conspiracy theory panic around Larries misses the complex ways that subtext and queer reading are mobilized within the fandom to invoke feelings of queer intimacy and belonging. Drawing on a digital ethnography conducted on Twitter with Larries, we argue that these fans engage in queer reading strategies to explicitly imagine and interrupt dominant heterosexual narratives, and thus queer the figure of the fangirl.
Queer Girls’ Voices in the Liberation Era
Amanda H. Littauer
Drawing on letters and essays written by teenage girls in the 1970s and early 1980s, and building on my historical research on same-sex desiring girls and girlhoods in the postwar United States, I ask how teenage girls in the 1970s and early 1980s pursued answers to questions about their feelings, practices, and identities and expressed their subjectivities as young lesbian feminists. These young writers, I argue, recognized that they benefitted from more resources and role models than did earlier generations, but they objected to what they saw as adult lesbians’ ageism, caution, and neglect. In reaching out to sympathetic straight and lesbian public figures and publications, girls found new ways to combat the persistent isolation and oppression faced by youth whose autonomy remained severely restricted by familial, educational, and legal structures.
Methodologies and Practicalities
In this article I examine the potential of the Femorabilia Collection of Women’s and Girls’ Twentieth Century Periodicals for the study of girlhood in Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations and I explain why the collection was originally created and describe its current purpose and policy to promote future research. I consider the importance of material and reading cultures as well as approaches to understanding the content of these varied publications and discuss the difficulties of working with mass culture, ephemeral texts, and the problem of obtaining examples, and I consider the collection’s particular focus on popular fiction. I consider the development of the collection, examples of methodology and practice, and its use in pedagogy, research, and public engagement.