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Ungendering the Real: The Trans * Politics of Monsters in Brazilian Medicine, Literature, and Visual Culture

Dr. Janek Scholz (Universität zu Köln)

Dr. Carlos Halaburda (University of Toronto)

Ungendering the Real examines how the notion of the monster operated in medical and cultural texts to perpetuate and yet simultaneously resist coercive systems of sexual discipline and gender regulation. By studying a series of scientific and cultural sources, from psychiatry, criminology, and endocrinology to trans* memoirs, poetry, and graphic narratives, this research explores the multiple somatic and aesthetic constructions of the trans* subject. The project traces an ample genealogy that identifies a radical shift in perspectives of transness. Whereas in the twentieth century, the monster was a marker of pathology, contemporary trans* literature and visuality reimagine the meanings of monstrosity and trans* embodiment through a post-humanist lens. Based on an aesthetic reappropriation of ‘monstrosity,’ used as a leitmotif of body modification, twentieth-first century trans* cultural interventions refuse what we call in this investigation ‘cis-hetero realism.’ This critical perspective shows the interdependency of factuality and fictionality in medical and aesthetic representations of the experience of transitioning, either through cosmetic techniques, hormone replacement therapy, or surgery. Revealing these bio-aesthetic procedures of ‘monstering’ and ‘re- monstering’ will offer new methodologies to show the cultural trajectory of transness within the current scholarship on minority populations. 

Carlos Halaburda