A Movable Closet: Constructions of Femininity Among Twentieth Century Transfeminine Periodical Communities




Pihlak, Chris

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I examine conceptions of ‘proper’ femininity across North American and South African English-speaking transfeminine networks from the 1960s through the 1990s via a range of transfeminine periodicals. I first demonstrate the liminal nature of many members’ transfemininity and how the prevalence of an affluent and otherwise normative positionality informed a subcultural idealized construct of (trans)femininity. This model of transfemininity was both heteronormatively desexualized and distanced from homosexuality. The process of erasure of alternative articulations of transfemininity from this desexualized ideal, I term transfeminine normatization. This process played out at the level of idealized comportment and aesthetics, as sartorial and etiquette advice largely matched this subcultural ideal that was further congruent to white, heteronormative, whorephobic, middle-class, and gender normative societal valuations of ideal femininity. Finally, such norms were readily internalized by members through the affective power of transfeminine social spaces, given members’ former isolation and ignorance on knowledge of transfemininity in general.



Transfeminine, trans, feminine, transsexual, transfeminine nomatization, transnomativity, liminality, social history, crossdressing, cross-dressing, cross-dresser