Trans Space As Cultural Landscape--Transgender Women of Color in Washington, D.C.

Thumbnail Image


Publication or External Link





Transgender civil rights and public displays of trans visibility have come to the fore of the American imagination. To date, however, little work has thoroughly examined Black and Latinx trans women’s central role as experts in LGBT community-caregiving practices. As a result, scholarship and popular culture concerned with “the transgender tipping point” (Time May 29, 2014) generally endorse a narrative that characterizes transgender women of color primarily as celebrities, victims of transphobic violence, or historic figures of the LGBT liberation movement, if they are mentioned at all, making their everyday lives marginal or non-existent at a time when their presence in popular culture is exploding. Without an adequate fieldwork model, we undervalue the everyday lives and landscapes of transgender women of color in the United States, ultimately leading to a two-dimensional conceptualization of identity categories such as race, gender, and sexuality. Trans Space as Cultural Landscape—Transgender Women of Color in Washington, D.C, remedies this gap by creating and applying Bodies in spaces—the trans cultural landscape analysis fieldwork model. The trans model extends the work of Americanist Jeremey Korr (2002) to reimagine the study of trans space, place, and gender transition. It is divided into the following components: detailed site description, aesthetics, language and material culture, and community research. At the heart of Trans Space is an ethnographic study of Casa Ruby, a bilingual social service nonprofit in Washington, D.C. ( The trans model allows me to addresses the queer and trans problematics of my particular site: addiction, prostitution, and homelessness. The model then expands to examine the work of trans celebrities such as Laverne Cox in order to trace the circuitous paths of daily transition and sisterhood. The evolution of the following inquiry guides my commitment to cross-discipline methodologies and community involvement. Space stages the expansive possibilities of gender transition. In extending gender transition narratives to functions that do not apply to space, how do we know a trans space when we see it? And what do these spatial transitions and pop culture representations tell us about an American investment in identity and its tipping points?