How the “bad feelings” of trans experience inform trans survival and flourishingSome days–or weeks, or months, or even years–being trans feels bad. Yet as Hil Malatino points out, there is little space for trans people to think through, let alone speak of, these bad feelings. Negative emotions are suspect because they unsettle narratives of acceptance or reinforce virulently phobic framings of trans as inauthentic and threatening.
In Side Affects, Malatino opens a new conversation about trans experience that acknowledges the reality of feeling fatigue, envy, burnout, numbness, and rage amid the ongoing onslaught of casual and structural transphobia in order to map the intricate emotional terrain of trans survival. Trans structures of feeling are frequently coded as negative on both sides of transition. Before transition, narratives are framed in terms of childhood trauma and being in the “wrong body.” Posttransition, trans individuals–especially trans people of color–are subject to unrelenting transantagonism. Yet trans individuals are discouraged from displaying or admitting to despondency or despair.
By moving these unloved feelings to the center of trans experience, Side Affects proposes an affective trans commons that exists outside political debates about inclusion. Acknowledging such powerful and elided feelings as anger and exhaustion, Malatino contends, is critical to motivating justice-oriented advocacy and organizing–and recalibrating new possibilities for survival and well-being.