Whipping Girl 3rd Edition to Be Released in March 2024!
My first book, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, came out in 2007, back when conversations about trans people were mostly relegated to feminist and LGBTQIA+ circles and a few academic subfields. This is why, in addition to analyzing and critiquing cissexism, transmisogyny, and anti-feminine prejudice, I spent much of the book dissecting and refuting past feminist, academic, and scientific stereotypes of trans female/feminine people.
In 2014, during the so-called “Transgender Tipping Point,” my publisher Seal Press reached out to me about releasing a second edition. They thought it would be pertinent given the increased mainstream attention and interest that trans people were garnering at the time. For that edition, I wrote a new Preface that contextualized the environment in which the book was originally written, while also pointing out how many of the same cissexist, transmisogynistic, and anti-feminine double standards I described continued to persist, despite the modicum of awareness and acceptance trans people had achieved.
Then a year ago, Seal Press reached out to me about a potential third edition of the book. Trans people were once again the focus of increased mainstream attention, albeit this time almost wholly negative. Rather than the optimistic “tipping point” of 2014, we are now the target of an all-out moral panic, full of baseless accusations that we are “sexualizing” and “grooming” children, incidents of anti-trans/LGBTQIA+ terrorism, and an onslaught of anti-trans legislation. So I welcomed the opportunity to formally respond to these horrific developments.
And now, the third edition is finally available for pre-order! Links to numerous online book sellers can be found on the Seal Press Whipping Girl webpage. [SPECIAL BONUS OFFER: from 3/5/24 through 3/31/24 you can order a copy of the 3rd edition for a 20% discount via that Seal Press link using this promo code: SERANO20] You should also be able to pre-order it from your local bookstore.
The text of the original book has not been significantly changed, other than a few small clarifying edits. I’ve added a few extra paragraphs to the Preface contextualizing the trans-related language I used in the book and how it’s since changed. But the main addition to the book is a brand-new Afterword about trans youth and moral panics — it is my most comprehensive take yet on the anti-trans backlash that has emerged since 2015.
Here is a list of subheadings from the Afterword, to give you an idea of the ground that it covers:
- A Brief History of Gender-Affirming Care for Trans Youth
- Anatomy of an Anti-Trans Backlash
- “Just Asking Questions” and the “Cisgender People Turned Transgender” Trope
- “Sexual Predator” Stereotypes and the Stigma-Contamination Mindset
- Understanding and Ending Moral Panics
In addition to countering anti-trans talking points and disinformation, I briefly summarize research I’ve carried out on the anti-trans parent movement and how it invented the pseudoscientific concept of “transgender social contagion.”
The only other major change to the book is the cover. This is standard for new editions, as it gives publishers the opportunity to update the style to be more contemporary. While I really liked the second edition cover (which was text-only), Seal wanted something more visually compelling for this edition. Furthermore, since the book is already well known within trans communities, they thought that highlighting “the scapegoating of femininity” aspect of the book might draw in new readers (e.g., cis feminine people). We discussed the difficulties inherent in depicting femininity without it coming across as too artificial or conventional — tropes I discuss at great length in the book. We decided to strive for something along the theme of “girl stuff is dangerous,” which is the refrain from Chapter 18, “Barrette Manifesto.”
Seal’s cover designers created several potential covers and the one we chose is shown above on the right (for a close-up, see here). I like how the black-and-white photo has a gritty feel and the angle of the shot makes it look intimidating, almost as if she’s about to kick or step on the camera. It struck me as riot grrrl-esque. Or more specifically, it reminded me of the band Babes in Toyland and their lead singer Kat Bjelland, who dressed quite femininely on stage but whose vocals and guitar work were harsh, in your face, and sometimes downright venomous — a seeming contradiction for those who buy into patriarchal assumptions that femininity is (or should be) inherently soft, fragile, passive, receptive, conventional, vulnerable, ornamental, sexual, and/or that it exists solely to appease men.
So that’s my take on the cover. But of course, when it comes to femininity, people will inevitably project their own assumptions onto it (such as the laundry list of adjectives I listed in the previous paragraph). And trans female/feminine people in particular are like Rorschach tests: No matter what the reality of our bodies, gender expressions, and lived experiences is, other people will relentlessly misinterpret us and project imagined motives onto our every movement. This is why I chose to open Whipping Girl with this Audre Lorde quote: “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
Anyone who’s taken the time to read Whipping Girl (rather than judging its cover or reflexively panning it because it’s written by a trans woman) knows that three things can simultaneously be true: 1) the presumption that feminine gender expression is inherently artificial, or conventional, or sexual, etc., is blatantly sexist, 2) these sexist meanings are often projected onto trans female/feminine people no matter how we dress or behave, and 3) we can (and should) challenge the inferior meanings that people project onto femininity rather than deriding or dismissing feminine individuals. This is precisely what I meant when I argued that we should empower femininity — a phrase that femmephobic and transphobic pundits continue to purposely misinterpret.
Anyway, that’s a brief summary of the third edition, so please pre-order it now if you can! In the coming months, I have a series of essays and videos related to Whipping Girl planned — including a transmisogyny explainer and spoken word performances of some of the chapters — so be sure to follow me here and on YouTube if you’re interested in those. If you have press inquiries about the third edition, feel free to contact me and I will pass those along my publisher.