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At some point during the past decade, trans stopped being fringe. In 2022 alone, we saw Vladimir Putin summon the specter of “sex change operations” on children in his justification of the invasion of Ukraine. [1] We saw the United Kingdom on the verge of a constitutional crisis over progressive trans legislation in Scotland. [2] In the United States, hundreds of laws were proposed to legislate trans people out of existence (up from 41 in 2018). [3] And, in Germany, Justice Minister Marco Buschmann recently justified delays in passing a long-overdue Selbstbestimmungsgesetz (self-identification law) by barely hiding his transmisogyny behind safety concerns for visitors of women-only saunas. [4] Yet these are in no way new developments. For many years, so-called anti-gender movements have functioned as the connective tissue of the global right – with trans people as one of the most visible and most contentious subjects of debate. [5] Between 2009 and 2018, the equivalent of over 700 million US dollars were spent on these “anti-gender” campaigns in Europe – and, arguably, numbers have gone up since. [6] That’s a lot of money! For comparison: campaigns around Brexit (both “leave” and “remain”) spent a combined total of 32.6 million pounds (45.7 million US dollars) in 2016. [7]

Simultaneously, the last decade has seen a proliferation of self-authored and non-stigmatizing representations of trans and nonbinary individuals. In 2014, for instance, actress and activist Laverne Cox graced the cover of Time while the magazine proclaimed a “transgender tipping point.” Pose, the fictionalized account of New York’s Ballroom Scene – coproduced by writer Janet Mock and starring the largest cast of Black and Latinx trans actresses in TV history – was met with critical acclaim and received numerous coveted award nominations. And this year, Kim Petras won a Grammy for her duo with the nonbinary singer Sam Smith. Yet at the same time as the visibility has increased, so has the violence. Homicides, especially of Black trans women, are continuously on the rise.

How do these larger social and political developments relate to the art world? Many galleries currently represent at least one non-cis artist, and the list of participants invited to the 2022 Venice Biennale to imagine a “magical world where life is constantly re-envisioned” and “where everyone can change, be transformed, become something or someone else” included many trans and nonbinary creators. [8] And major institutions, such as Gropius Bau in Berlin or the New Museum in New York, prominently display trans artists. The age of the trans freak show, apparently, is over. But what’s next? Was all this just a means to pinkwash major art-world institutions as they fail to change sites of structural discrimination into spaces that are hospitable to trans people? Does the framing of trans artists’ alleged transgressiveness reduce the complexities of their lived experience to romanticize them as brave epitomes of Queer Theory? Transness itself quickly becomes a reference to describe countless other things: lives give way to metaphors in the wake of an easily interchangeable affix; trans is curtailed to a state of superfluidity in which questions of structural inequality, unequal access to health care, and so on are too easily ignored.

Shifting the perspective, Texte zur Kunst deliberately foregrounds trans artists and writers, who reflect on, among other things, the prevalence of transmisogyny; the intersections of racism, anti-Semitism, and transphobia; the necessities and joys of (digital) spaces for trans people from all backgrounds; and a productive new language for trans aesthetics. Methodologically speaking, many texts envision a peculiar trans materialism: linking lived experience with, for instance, a critical engagement with the politics of visibility or institutional critique, the contributors explore how trans materializes on the art market, in museums, and beyond. This means expanding the canon, since access to the pantheon of alleged high art is often limited to the few who can satisfyingly handle the master’s tools. This is a claim that Farah Thompson exemplifies in her reading of Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley’s game designs. Because of her experience as a Black bisexual trans woman, Thompson reads these games as meditations on the peculiarity of Black trans aesthetics. Questions about unequal access and the necessity to create exclusive spaces also drives the conversation between artists Vidisha-Fadescha, Chris E. Vargas, Kübra Uzun, and philosopher Luce deLire: What does it mean to access institutions where the prerequisites for participation are based on cis white standards? And what roles can hospitality and kink play in creating post-authoritarian alternatives?

In a separate contribution, deLire offers a critique of what she characterizes as representational justice and its theoretical foundations in Judith Butler’s politics of subversion. The politics of visibility, she argues, often fails to sustainably alter violent, and especially transmisogynist, environments – with significant consequences for the artistic sector. Thinking about how to weather hostile environments, Hil Malatino describes a concept of endurance, with which trans artists and writers imagine what it means to subsist. Based on the work of Young Joon Kwak and Kiyan Williams, Lex Morgan Lancaster discusses the effects of histories and processes on the material behaviors and morphologies of trans and racialized bodies while expanding the idea of what has been termed queer abstraction. In a similar vein, in their interview, Williams, P. Staff, and Jeanne Vaccaro reject the current discourse of representation versus abstraction in writings about work by trans artists.

As many of the texts in our features section articulate the need to challenge the paradigm within hegemonic institutions, this issue of Texte zur Kunst continues its editorial theme to other sections of the magazine as well. The reviews, for instance, expand on these objectives by discussing artists ranging from Toni Ebel to Greer Lankton to Kim Petras to Wu Tsang. The image spread presents artworks commissioned from not just one but multiple artists: Andrea Illés, Ebun Sodipo, El Palomar, Katayoun Jalilipour, Pippa Garner, Raju Rage, and Nad MA. In addition, this issue includes literary forms of artistic research by artists and writers Aristilde Kirby, Maxi Wallenhorst, and Ginevra Shay. Kirby establishes a link between the Dutch Tulipmania and flowering markets of reproduction to launch a deeply personal critique based on stories of desire and of institutional encroachment under late capitalism. Wallenhorst delves into two aesthetic judgments often made about the social forms of trans relations, “too obvious!” and “too abstract!”, while Shay explores a mosaic made of poetry, cinema, myths, and music to establish a kind of intersex archive and offers a poetic guide for anyone interested in traversing paths rarely taken in trans discourse and beyond.

Texte zur Kunst’s cis team is extremely grateful for the trust and work our contributors invested in this issue – especially to Luce deLire, who put in much more labor than she initially signed up for due to the fact that the additional work, which trans people inevitably have to perform in cis structures to make up for existing inequalities, has not been adequately taken into account. [9] A history of structural discrimination against trans people prevents cooperation on a material level that distributes the workload equally, which, for instance, also manifests in the gallery or museum shows that they participate in. As the following pages underscore, trans artists have repeatedly been disregarded by art history, the art market, and the media (and Texte zur Kunst has been no exception). Yet narratives and institutions won’t be transformed by merely changing their perspective or by inviting a few trans artists and writers to shape an issue of any art journal. Institutional transformation is about engaging with the lived and material realities of transness, about making spaces more hospitable for trans people, and about (re)distributing resources equitably. We hope that this issue not only conveys the necessity for such a change but also contributes to the possibility of deep structural transformations in the future.

Luce deLire, Antonia Kölbl, Christian Liclair, and Anna Sinofzik


[1]See Vladimir Putin’s speech during the ceremony to “confirm” Russian annexation of eastern Ukrainian territories; Reuters, “Extracts from Putin’s Speech at Annexation Ceremony,” September 30, 2022.
[2]Vic Parsons, “Transphobia Is Tearing the United Kingdom Apart,” Them, January 20, 2023.
[3]Matt Lavietes and Elliott Ramos, “Nearly 240 Anti-LGBTQ Bills Filed in 2022 So Far, Most of Them Targeting Trans People,” NBC News, March 20, 2022; see also James Factora, “The Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills of 2022, Explained,” Them, February 11, 2022; and, to stay up to date: “Legislative Tracker: Anti-Transgender Legislation,” Freedom for All Americans.
[4]Marco Buschmann, “Wenn sich die Welt verändert, muss sich auch die Politik verändern,” by Hannah Bethke and Lisa Caspari, Die Zeit, January 6, 2023. Note that the argument that self-identification laws lead to more violence against women is false, as can be seen in the case of Argentina: see Enrique Anarte, “Do Trans Self-ID Laws Harm Women? Argentina Could Have Answers,” Openly News, June 1, 2022.
[5]See Serena Bassi and Greta LaFleur, eds., “Trans-Exclusionary Feminisms and the Global New Right,” special issue, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 9, no. 3 (August 2022) and Sabine Hark and Paula-Irene Villa, eds., Anti-Genderismus – Sexualität und Geschlecht als Schauplätze aktueller politischer Auseinandersetzungen (Berlin: Transcript, 2015); for a super-quick overview, see also: Lorena Sosa, “Beyond Gender Equality? Anti-Gender Campaigns and the Erosion of Human Rights and Democracy,” Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights 39, no. 1 (March 2021): 3–10.
[6]“Tip of the Iceberg: Religious-Extremist Funders against Human Rights for Sexuality and Reproductive Health in Europe,” EPF – European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, June 15, 2021.
[7]“Campaign Spending at the EU Referendum,” Electoral Commission, July 29, 2019.
[8]“Statement by Cecilia Alemani,” La Biennale di Venezia, 2022, see here.
[9]See Luce deLire, “Beyond Representational Justice,” in this issue.


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