Before We Were Trans: A New History of Gender (Hardcover)

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Before We Were Trans: A New History of Gender By Dr. Kit Heyam, Ph.D Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

Trans historian and activist Kit Heyam has written something beautiful, exploratory, and handles the history of transness with a brilliant expertise that reshapes how we think about the history of gender variance and the way we talk about it historically and contemporarily. From Nefertiti in Egypt, to Edo Japan, to two-spirit people of Turtle Island--Kit Heyam takes us through the historical spaces and applies our current lens of transness and gender variance. A very good read! And an excellent audiobook if you enjoy listening to your books. — From Alej's Picks - ☼ Essays / Nonfiction ☼


A groundbreaking global history of gender nonconformity  

Today’s narratives about trans people tend to feature individuals with stable gender identities that fit neatly into the categories of male or female. Those stories, while important, fail to account for the complex realities of many trans people’s lives.  
Before We Were Trans illuminates the stories of people across the globe, from antiquity to the present, whose experiences of gender have defied binary categories. Blending historical analysis with sharp cultural criticism, trans historian and activist Kit Heyam offers a new, radically inclusive trans history, chronicling expressions of trans experience that are often overlooked, like gender-nonconforming fashion and wartime stage performance. Before We Were Trans transports us from Renaissance Venice to seventeenth-century Angola, from Edo Japan to early America, and looks to the past to uncover new horizons for possible trans futures.  

About the Author

Kit Heyam is a university lecturer, a queer history activist, and a trans awareness trainer who has worked with organizations across the United Kingdom. They live in Leeds, UK, with their partner Alex.  

Praise For…

Before We Were Trans is a thoughtful, fun, and refreshingly readable romp through the history of gender variance before the invention of contemporary ‘transgender’ categories and concepts.—Susan Stryker, author of Transgender History

Before We Were Trans provides much needed context, nuance, and breadth to our understanding of human gender diversity throughout history and in different cultures. While people who we might now call transgender or LGBTQIA+ have always existed, Kit Heyam shows how both individuals' and societies' understanding of sex, gender, and sexuality are situational, multifaceted, and constantly evolving.—Julia Serano, author of Whipping Girl and Sexed Up

Before We Were Trans enlarges our understanding of trans histories and highlights the beauty, complexity, and contradictions of doing historical work - all in a voice that invites the reader in, and not only teaches us what to think about trans lives in the past, but how to think about them.—Hugh Ryan, author of The Women’s House of Detention

This is such a searing, reflexive read - in conversation with the likes of Shon Faye, Akwaeke Emezi and Leslie Feinberg - that needs to be in everyone's hands expeditiously.—Paula Akpan, journalist

Product Details
ISBN: 9781541603080
ISBN-10: 1541603087
Publisher: Seal Press
Publication Date: September 13th, 2022
Pages: 352
Language: English