Susan Stryker is a professor of LGBT and gender studies, author, documentarian and historian whose book Transgender History has focused on preserving the legacies of transgender people in the so-called United States. The book opens with a history of Magnus Hirschfield, the infamous German sexologist and physician and one of the first people to study the experiences and medical needs of transgender people during the early 1900’s. However, during the Nazi occupation of WWII most of the groundbreaking studies of Hirschfield and his colleagues were burned in a massive book burning and erased from our history.
Susan Stryker’s work as a transgender historian is helping rebuild the wealth of knowledge of/from our trans ancestors. Her remarkable books and essays on our collective pasts are a brutal punch in the jaw to the nazis who couldn’t (and will never) erase us. By recording the legacy of transgender people in the United States and beyond, Susan Stryker further humanizes transgender experience, showing people that trans folks have always been here from times where we described by Hirschfield as transvestites, when folks referred to themselves as transsexuals and cross-dressers, to today where we now have a wealth of vocabulary to explain infinitely possible gendered and nongendered identities.
During this LGBTQ+ history month I’d like to thank and honor Susan Stryker, a transgender hero to the likes of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. In a society which glorifies the histories written by cisgender men, Susan Stryker is the radical wrench thrown into the cis-dominant cogs of recorded history. Her work on the past will forever mold the future.
*This is not taking into account the myriad of cultures outside of the colonized West who have had dynamic and complex systems of gender for centuries before and after the rise of European colonialism and the colonialist gender binary.
[Beck Bennedetta is a nonbinary organizer who grew up throughout the south and currently considers Asheville, North Carolina home. Their heart burns for queer southern resilience and community. They help organize a yearly queer arts and diy music festival, Pansy Fest, with the Pansy Collective. When they’re not organizing, they enjoy painting, learning to play new instruments, and spending time among the flowers. They have a BA in sociology and gender studies, a passion for disability justice, and a penchant for fizzy water drinks.]