The Surgery Issue

TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 
The Surgery Issue

Special Issue Editors:
Eric Plemons and Chris Straayer

This special issue of Transgender Studies Quarterly explores the vital and contested place of surgical intervention in the making of trans* bodies, theories, and practices.

Trans* surgery has been an object of fantasy, derision, refusal, and triumph. Surgery has been a specter and a savior, provoking both desire and disgust, and providing the grounds upon which intricate theoretical structures have been built. And yet, surgical procedures are also material practices carried out by individual practitioners on the bodies of individual surgical patients, located in time and space.

For decades after its establishment in the 1950s, clinicians considered a desire for reconstructive genital surgery to be the linchpin of the transsexual diagnosis. Drawing on earlier legacies of sexology and plastic surgery, and the emerging specialties of endocrinology and surgical transplant, early emphasis on genital surgery determined clinical legibility, shaped forms of identification, produced institutional capacities, and became the object of criticism by those for whom a desire for body alterations indicated profound pathologies on the parts of patients and their willing surgeons. Subsequent contestations of the medico-surgical framework troubled the place of surgical intervention and helped mark the emergence of “transgender” as an alternative, more inclusive term for gender nonconforming subjects who were sometimes less concerned with surgical intervention.

Beginning in the 1990s, new histories of trans* clinical practice challenged the institutional claim that transsexuals were uniform in their desire for genital surgery, and trans* authors began to advocate relationships to their surgically altered bodies as sites of power rather than capitulation. Still others refused a focus on surgery-centric conceptualizations of trans* on the grounds that it obscures the conditions of how and for whom surgery is available, values Euro-American histories of transsexualism, and obfuscates that trans* subjectivity might be as much about justice and rights as it is about physical transition. 

In this special issue we invite engagement with “the surgical” in its many forms. We contemplate a wide scope: physical, technical, and social aspects of the body; trans* and transition-related surgeries, broadly construed; local and international endeavors; the conceptual, the theoretical, and the practical; the historical and the speculative. We invite submissions of original research papers and art pieces that use social scientific and humanistic approaches to address a host of questions about the practice and politics of trans* surgeries. Questions may include but are not limited to the following:

How has trans* surgery been construed and presented across different discursive forms, including medicine, fantasy, cultural theory, popular media, the arts, trans- community contexts and more? How have these representations of trans* surgeries helped and/or limited our understanding of trans* identities and bodies and shaped the evolution of trans* politics?

How have and how do regulatory, economic, geographic and political constraints shape surgical desires, practices and accessibilities?

What historical, technical, conceptual and political links cohere between surgical interventions performed in the name of trans* medicine and those performed in the name of other bodily conditions or body projects?

How and to what ends do individuals and institutions produce and circulate information (images, narratives, descriptions, reports, and statistics) about surgical interventions?

What networks of meaning and value shape the way trans* surgeries are understood, received and practiced?

What would a medical ethics of trans* surgery look like? One that attends to tensions between patient desires, professional goals, the politics of medicalization, research and development, transparency of outcomes and follow-up studies, and the role of economic mediation?

What do trans* surgeries mean to trans* and non-binary people undergoing them? What are their reasons for pursuing surgery and their desired outcomes? How does surgery impact their lives?

What roles has the figure of surgery—as the material means of transformation and the body thereby transformed—played in the formation of gender/queer/trans* theories?

Can trans* surgery offer a framework for theorizing multiple border crossings or trans* migrations (national/geographical, political regime, gender/sex, socioeconomic class, and others)?

What role(s) have trans* people/communities played in shaping how trans* surgery is practiced (i.e., the evolution of its technical and institutional organization)?

Where is the future of trans* surgery headed? How will doctors and patients shape this trajectory? How might their differing conceptualizations of surgical goals, limits, and possibilities shape the surgical future?

Editors are willing to review potential contributors' abstracts early in the process to give feedback on fit for the special issue. The expected length for scholarly articles is 5,000 to 7,000 words, and 1,000 to 2,000 words for shorter works. All manuscripts should be prepared for anonymous peer review. For articles engaging in scholarly citation, the Chicago author-date citation style will be required for publication. Any questions should be addressed by e-mail to guest editors for the issue: Eric Plemons ( and Chris Straayer (

To submit a manuscript, please visit The deadline for submissions is April 1, 2017. Please note that TSQ does not accept simultaneous submissions. Manuscripts proposed for this issue cannot be submitted elsewhere until editors' decisions are sent out in April/May 2017. If this is your first time using Editorial Manager, please register first, then proceed with submitting your manuscript. Address any queries to All manuscripts must be double-spaced, including quotations and endnotes, and blinded throughout. You must also submit an abstract (150 words or less), keywords (3-5 for indexing), and a brief author's biographical note (50 words or less) at the time of initial submission. Please visit for a detailed style guide.

TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly is co-edited by Paisley Currah and Susan Stryker, and published by Duke University Press, with editorial offices at the University of Arizona’s Institute for LGBT Studies. TSQ aims to be the journal of record for the interdisciplinary field of transgender studies and to promote the widest possible range of perspectives on transgender phenomena broadly defined. Every issue of TSQ is a specially themed issue that also contains regularly recurring features such as reviews, interviews, and opinion pieces. To learn more about the journal and see calls for papers for other issues, visit our site.  For info about subscriptions, visit