Trans/Gressive (Paperback)

How Transgender Activists Took on Gay Rights, Feminism, the Media & Congress... and Won!

By Riki Wilchins

Riverdale Avenue Books, 9781626013681, 218pp.

Publication Date: May 31, 2017

List Price: 19.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


In the early 1990s, no one talked about transgender people, and no one knew one. We were not on TV or in movies. What formed the visible part of the transcommunity - overwhelmingly white, urban, and middle class - was also overwhelmingly focused on conferences, surgery or hormones and cisgender acceptance.

This was still a determinedly non-political population, often in defensive crouch because it was also constantly under attack by the media, police, local legislatures, feminists and even LGB-but-never-T advocates.

We were a group that still thought of ourselves as a collection of separate individuals, not a movement. What made political consciousness so difficult was that there was no "transgender section" of town, where we saw each other regularly.

And mainstream society mostly ignored us. And when it didn't, it usually made clear it despised us. We were freaks. We were gendertrash.

We lived in a transient and indoor community that knew itself only a few days at a time during conferences at hotels out on the interstate.

But all that was about to change.

Even when politics are avoided, bringing despised and marginalized people together is itself a political act. Without realizing or intending it, the community was reaching critical mass.

Even in those pre-Internet, pre-cellphone days, enough transpeople were running into one another often enough to begin realizing we could be a force, that we didn't really need cisgender acceptance. What we needed was our civil rights.

This is the inside story of how in just a few years, a handful of trans activists would come together in the face of enormous difficulties and opposition to launch from the very margins of society what would grow into the modern political movement for gender rights.