In the new Preface, I discuss some of the history (both personal, as well as within feminist, queer, and transgender activism) that led to me writing the book, and addressing the topics and subject matter in the manner that I did. I also share many of my thoughts about what has happened in the decade since the book was originally released in 2007: the many promising developments in trans awareness and activism, plus the countless aspects and areas where there is still vital need for improvement.
While I cannot reprint the entire Preface here, I did want to share this brief excerpt (specifically, the first three chapters) for those who may be interested:
Ten years ago, I was in the throes of writing the book that would eventually become Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. At the time, I believed that I had important and relatively novel things to say about a variety of issues that all seemed interconnected to me. My recent transition (from having others view and treat me as male, to being viewed and treated as female) provided me with numerous insights into gender and sexism that I wanted to share with the world. That experience, combined with my background as a biologist, led me to question both sides of the “nature versus nurture” debate as it applies to gender. I was also concerned by the ways in which movements that were vital to my existence—such as feminism and queer (i.e., LGBTIQ+) activism—would sometimes forward theories and policies that served to further marginalize other gender and sexual minorities. And I wanted to examine the many under-discussed issues and obstacles faced by those of us on the transgender spectrum, and the parallels that I saw between media, psychiatric, and academic stereotypes of trans people. Finally, I wanted to challenge how trans women and feminine gender expression—individually, but especially in combination—were routinely demeaned and derided in both the straight mainstream, as well as in feminist and queer settings.
I thought that the book would likely be appreciated within trans communities—especially among those on the trans female/feminine spectrum, for whom I was explicitly advocating—and with at least some non-transgender feminists and queer activists—especially those who identify as feminine or femme. But I had no idea that, in the years that would follow, it would eventually be considered to be an important book within feminism, that it would be used in gender and queer studies, sociology, psychology, and human sexuality courses in colleges across North America; that parts of it would be translated and published in other languages, that it would reach and resonate with many people outside of feminist, queer, and trans circles, or that the book (and some of the ideas contained therein) would often be cited and discussed in mainstream publications.
While the major themes that I forward in Whipping Girl remain just as vital and relevant today as they were when I was first writing the book, some of the specific descriptions and details will surely seem increasingly dated as time marches on. So in this preface to the second edition, I want to place the book in historical context, as it most certainly was a reaction to what was happening in society, and within activist and academic circles, during the early-to-mid aughts (or “the zeros,” as I prefer to call the first decade of this millennium). While a decade is not a huge amount of time in the grand scheme of things, it certainly feels like a lifetime ago when it comes to public understandings and discussions about transgender people.
More info about the book, plus links to outlets where it can be purchased, can be found here.