Gender Wars

Two scholars excavate the origins of today’s trans backlash

Paisley Currah
Judith Butler's Who's Afraid of Gender? and Jules Gill-Peterson's A Short History of Trans Misogyny trace the historical roots of today's anti-trans movement.

If kris kobach, attorney general of Kansas, has his way, the sex designated on driver’s licenses and birth certifi­cates issued by the state will have to accord with what an individ­ual was assigned at birth. Legislation passed in 2023 required all state agencies to identify people according to their biological sex, as Republican lawmakers defined it. In the interregnum between the law’s passage and its effective date, the number of people apply­ing to change their sex on their birth certificate or driver’s license quadrupled over the same period the year before. They were probably disappointed to learn that Kobach interprets the new policy as retroactive. If the legal challenges to the law fail, someone who changed the sex marker on a state identity document—whether right before the law was enacted or decades ago—will have it changed back to F if their “reproductive system is developed to pro­duce ova” or to M if it “is developed to fertilize the ova of a female.”

Kansas is not the only state in which a relatively recent window of inclusion is already closing for transgender people. Oklahoma had briefly allowed people to change the M or F on a birth certifi­cate, but in 2022 the state legislature reversed policy and, for good measure, explicitly prohibited the nonbinary designation of X. Twenty-three states now ban trans girls and women from playing women’s sports, and twenty-one of them limit or restrict gender-affirming medical care for youth. In a growing number of red states, laws now govern gender classification in bathrooms, pronoun use in schools, and the conditions under which queer and trans-related curricula and library books are permitted, issues which would not even have registered in public consciousness a few years ago.

While Republicans were busy enacting laws targeting multi­ple aspects of trans life, twenty-one states under Democratic con­trol changed policy to allow people to choose an X for the gender marker on their driver’s licenses. (Only one Republican-controlled state, Arkansas, also allows for this.) In those jurisdictions, state ID markers can usually be changed to X, F, or M just by filling out a form. In the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and the trans-care bans, eleven blue states have passed refuge or shield laws for medical professionals, often combining protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care.

The legislative assault on transgender people in the United States seems new, but governments have been regulating the lives of transgender people for decades. In the past, bureaucrats quietly defined sex as they saw fit. Whether you were classified as male or female depended more on which government agency you were dealing with than on the state you lived in. A single person could theoretically have F on their passport and M on their birth certifi­cate, be female for the purposes of marriage and male in the eyes of corrections officials. Access to gender-affirming care was regulated by medical institutions, not legislators. Outside of trans commu­nities, few were aware of the contradictions trans people faced and the tangles they found themselves in.

What had been a confusing but little-noticed bureaucratic patchwork of policies has now transformed into a high-volume, highly polarized partisan landscape. As Donald Trump pointed out last June, “I talk about cutting taxes, people go like that [mimick­ing polite applause]. I talk about transgender, everyone goes crazy. Who would have thought? Five years ago you didn’t know what the hell it was.”

Anti-gender thinkers speak as if transgender people had been summoned into existence by intellectuals conspiring to smash the gender binary.

Two new books attempt to explain how trans people became the ground on which a cluster of huge, seemingly diffuse ideological bat­tles are being fought. In Who’s Afraid of Gender?, Judith Butler takes on the international “anti-gender” movement, out of which has come the intellectual scaffolding for anti-trans policy in the United States. Butler’s book is most valuable for its mapping of the dispa­rate political uses for which “gender” has recently been mobilized. It has become a commonplace of right-wing rhetoric to declaim that sex is the purview of God and nature rather than politics—but this insistence has had the paradoxical effect of making disagreements about the meaning of sex and gender part of our democratic life. Jules Gill-Peterson’s A Short History of Trans Misogyny, also global in scope, employs a broad historical lens to show how trans femi­ninity emerged out of the violence of the colonial state and became an important tool for the consolidation of sovereignty through the criminalization of sex work and the policing of public space. By attending to the material histories through which gender assumed its current forms and to the ways in which it is now deployed, Gill-Peterson’s analysis enables us to think both more concretely and more ambitiously. In order to effectively counter the current surge of anti-trans legislation, we will need to follow her lead.

the anti-gender movement originated in the Vatican in the 1980s and has continued to spread to other regions and religions. The movement is polymorphous, casting “gender ideology” as a total­itarian imposition in some contexts and as a symptom of the excesses of capitalism in others, code-switching from theology to biology as needed. The stakes are existential: the putatively LGBT-friendly Pope Francis likened the effects of gender theory to those of nuclear war and environmental collapse and compared gender theorists to “the dictators of the last century…think of Hitler Youth.” For many of those battling gender ideology, a cascade of social ills is believed to flow from the violation of natural law that the idea of gender has come to represent. Releasing identity from the grip of the body leads to a “radically autonomous” conception of the individual as one “who can choose a gender not correspond­ing to his or her biological sex,” as the Vatican explained in its 2019 document “Male and Female He Created Them.”

The existence of transgender people is often invoked as the most extreme cultural consequence of separating gender from sex, but, in anti-gender thought, moving away from a biological foun­dation for sex difference also means disregarding what the Vatican calls the “physical, psychological and ontological complementarity” that should organize the division of labor between men and women in marriage and the family. The consequences of doing away with the mooring of the divine gift of sexual difference—regarded as the very thing that makes us human—are the abasements of contracep­tion, abortion, and same-sex marriage.

According to the anti-gender movement, radical feminism and gender studies, specifically gender theory, are to blame for the fal­sities of gender ideology. However, the first kernels of what is now known as anti-gender theory appeared before Butler, the person most associated with gender theory, published their landmark 1990 book, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. As the legal scholar Mary Anne Case has meticulously documented, Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) had been smelling a rat since the mid-1980s. He was a cardinal in Germany when he came across feminist scholarship on the social construction of gen­der and learned of policies allowing transsexual people to change their sex in government records. The Church identified the ideol­ogy of gender within the next decade, concurrent with the grow­ing use of gender instead of sex in international women’s rights advocacy, most especially in the platform for action presented by the United Nation’s Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. (To assuage conservative critics, the final Beijing report defined gender according to its “ordinary, generally accepted usage,” but alarms were set off in some quarters by statements like, “In many countries, the differences between women’s and men’s achievements and activities are still not recognized as the conse­quences of socially constructed gender roles rather than immutable biological differences.”)

Butler’s new book traces the anti-gender movement’s penetra­tion of every continent, from abolishing gender studies programs in Hungary and eradicating any mention of gender in education in Brazil to shutting down the Ministry of Gender Equality in Korea. An entire chapter is devoted to the close collaborations between trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) and right-wing anti-gender agitators in the United Kingdom. The United States is seen by many in the movement as a net exporter of gender ideology, which Pope Francis calls one of the “most dangerous ideological colonizations,” but it took longer here than in other countries for gender to be understood as a code word for radical feminism and LGBT rights. (This might be at least partly because for decades gender had been used almost synonymously with sex in public policy. Litigating discrimination cases in the 1970s, Ruth Bader Ginsberg preferred gender over sex, since the latter might “conjure up improper images” in the “impressionable minds” of judges.) Before there was a fully fleshed-out body of anti-gender rhetoric to draw on, anti-gender sentiments of state actors sometimes came into view. For example, in a 1999 decision about the legal sex of a woman whose marriage was being contested, one Texas appellate court asked, “Can a physician change the gender of a person with a scalpel, drugs and counseling, or is a person’s gender immuta­bly fixed by our Creator at birth?” Their answer was decisively the latter: “There are some things we cannot will into being. They just are.” But only in the last few years have elected officials in the United States started speaking of “woke gender ideology” and “the scourge of radical gender ideology.” This new brand of revanchism is the result of our peculiar native discourses of gender linking up with the international Vatican-driven one.

It should not come as a surprise that anti-gender thinkers speak as if transgender people had been summoned into existence by intellectuals conspiring to smash the gender binary. Butler’s writ­ings from the 1990s and a good deal of gender theory and activism that came after, in the academic humanities as well as in the pages of Teen Vogue, talk about transgender identities and practices in an uncannily similar way. The Pope would not have to keep up with university press catalogues to absorb the impression that trans people’s very purpose is to expose the artificiality of gender norms. From what is conveyed on social media and in the main­stream press, one can get the impression that gender theory would have had to invent transgender people if they did not already exist. Feminists, gender theorists, and some segments of the trans com­munity can even sound slightly disappointed that trans people are not doing as much to dismantle the binary as their antagonists fear.

Butler looms nearly as large in the anti-gender movement as they do within their own field. Who’s Afraid of Gender? recounts Butler being burned in effigy in Brazil, “figured as a devil, a witch, a trans person, a Jew with exorbitant features,” and having their name “transfigured into a nearly unrecognizable phantasm.” It is no surprise then that Butler, cast as the central villain of gender theory, would take on the responsibility of defending that theory in their new book. In part, they want to refute misunderstandings of the performative theory of gender first elaborated thirty years ago in Gender Trouble, which did much to popularize the ideas that gender is a choice and that sex is not real (neither of which Butler believes). Butler also seems eager to revise that theory in light of subsequent scholarship, especially recent efforts to think about transgender subjectivity in more materialist ways. But mostly they want to figure out how and why so many falsehoods about gender have congealed and come to be seen as the cause of all that ails us.

The urgency of Butler’s subject is evident at the level of tone and form. Largely free of specialized language or complicated syn­tax, it is the most accessible book they have published. The notes list many activists and journalists not likely to appear on the cur­ricula of graduate seminars. Butler foregoes conventions of schol­arly engagement and avoids detours into specialized debates for the sake of a clear, consistent appeal: to create a world in which everyone can live, breathe, move, and love without fear of discrim­ination and violence.

In Butler’s telling, anti-gender ideology has caught on across so much of the globe not simply because of widespread sexism and transphobia, but rather because of the flexible political work to which it can be put. The targeting of sexual and gender minori­ties “feeds a fascist frenzy and shores up forms of authoritarianism” that have much broader ambitions. The Right brandishes gender to deflect attention from actual forces of social corrosion, which Butler lists as: “climate destruction, war, capitalist exploitation and social and economic inequality, intensifying precarity and eco­nomic abandonment, global slums, homelessness, detention camps, systemic forms of racism, deregulation, neoliberalism, authoritar­ianism, and new forms of fascism.” But as Butler acknowledges, simply identifying the destructive forces arrayed against all of us cannot explain—much less counter—the scapegoating of gender.

Judith Butler looms large in the anti-gender movement. In Butler's new book Who's Afraid of Gender?, they recount being burned in effigy at protests in Brazil. Photo: TIAGO QUEIROZ/ESTADAO CONTEUDO (Agencia Estado via AP Images)

Most of the interpretive heavy lifting in the book is done through the use of the psychoanalytic concept of the phantasm (I said largely free of specialized language). Butler repeatedly proffers this concept to account for gender’s new role as a collection point for our fears about actual threats to our existence. When focused on and absorbed into gender, as Butler’s theory goes, these real fears disappear. Butler wants us to see anti-gender sentiment as a phenomenon that is both psychic and social, “where intimate fears and anxieties become socially organized to incite political passions.” According to Butler, anti-gender ideology is not only a backlash to feminism, but is also an expression of larger, more diffuse, and less articulated desires—for the restoration of status-based hierarchies, patriarchal power, compulsory heterosexuality, white supremacy, and Christian nationalism. Because it is a partially psychic phenom­enon, anti-gender ideology cannot be dismantled through logic or by clever readings of its many inconsistencies and contradictions. (Is gender ideology totalitarian or capitalist? A false challenge to God or to nature?) Contradictions are a feature of this phenomenon, not a bug: “The contradiction itself is what works, in effect ‘eman­cipating’ people from the task of developing a rational position,” Butler insists, underlining the fascist potential of this unreason.

Gender does not get its dangerous power only by distracting us from other threats. Butler notes that the idea that one can move away from the sex assigned at birth unsettles supposedly immutable truths of the self. Because trans and queer people are “living out a human possibility that redefines what counts as human,” they become “monsters, phantasms aimed at destroying the sexual order that tacitly reproduces the architecture of the transphobic ego.” It is precisely this redefinition—this psychic insecurity—which the “toxic tautologies” of anti-trans legislation attempt to ward off: “sex is sex, and no debates or changes allowed.”

Butler’s analysis of the construction of gender as an existential threat to patriarchy does help us understand what Kris Kobach and Ron DeSantis are up to. But notice what has happened here. For the Right, transgender is the bogeyman that justifies legislative attempts to fix sex once and for all. For Butler, transgender remains the device for exposing the contingency of sex assignment. We are back in the closed hermeneutical universe inhabited by Vatican teachings and gender theory readers.

large numbers of people we call transgender are not so much gen­der revolutionaries as unwilling conscripts in these battles. Many would prefer to stay out of disputes over dangerous phantasms and dismantling the gender binary. Fortunately, within academic trans studies, the hegemony of the idea that transgender is the solvent that will make gender come apart has begun to weaken a bit. Maybe it is time, some scholars suggest, to focus not on the open-endedness of trans or its ability to disassemble, but on the experiences and needs—from abysmal to joyful, from mundane to divine—of actual people.

Gill-Peterson is among those moving the field in a more concrete direction. She would have us extricate ourselves from this appar­ently endless trans versus anti-trans wrestling match. Regardless of whether one is on the Right or the queer/trans Left, Gill-Peterson argues, the categories themselves are artifacts of colonialism and capital. Certainly, transgender is a relatively recent piece of linguis­tic currency, one that circulates globally through funding agencies, international human rights venues, and LGBT advocacy organiza­tions of the Global North. But this increasingly universal distinc­tion between trans-and cisgender people depends on a series of older, more tenacious taxonomies that separate male from female and gender identity from sexual orientation. The idea of sexual difference was forged alongside the European invention of racial science around the beginning of the early modern era. What we take to be universal, scientific descriptions of sexual dimorphism were nestled within the hierarchy of the great chain of being: the more clearly sex and gender appeared to be binary among a given population, the higher up that population was on the civilizational ladder. (Bourgeois white men and women were installed at the top, of course.)

The distinctions organizing so much of queer and trans poli­tics have not always existed everywhere and in the form they do today. Their diffusion has followed the spread of Western empires. In the twentieth century, another distinction took hold: the idea that gender and sexuality describe very different aspects of per­sonhood. Some version of the mantra, “Sexual orientation is who you go to bed with, and gender identity is who you go to bed as,” is repeated endlessly by LGBT advocates. But as George Chauncey has shown, in the United States, those neat definitional boxes are artifacts of a twentieth-century class antagonism between feminine “fairies” and masculine “queers.” Across the intervening decades, trans-feminine street queens remained visible gender out­laws, often supporting themselves with sex work, as masculine gay men retreated into more private lives of quasi-respectability. This history is obscured by the contemporary policing of categories and the incentives of identity politics, which tries to contain the messi­ness of desire and gender by permanently assigning everyone their own letter in the LGBT acronym.

A Short History of Trans Misogyny makes “a materialist case for leaving such losing games behind.” Gill-Peterson’s historical per­spective equips her to answer questions which Butler largely leaves unasked. Despite frequent mentions of patriarchy, feminism, and reproductive rights, Who’s Afraid of Gender? does not analyze in any depth the asymmetrical relations between men and women, or the veneration of masculinity and the devaluation of femininity. For Butler, gender is mainly an abstract tool with which to interrogate the construction of sexual difference (no one is cited more than the poststructuralist theorist Joan W. Scott). But misogyny—specifi­cally trans misogyny, defined as “the targeted devaluation of both trans femininity and people perceived to be trans feminine”—is the historical formation that powers Gill-Peterson’s analysis. It allows her to present a plausible origin story for trans panic that sets the stage for centuries of trans misogyny, leading up to the current moment, in which many see drag queens reading books to children in libraries as a much bigger threat to children than hunger, homelessness, or lead in the water.

Gill-Peterson finds the psychological approach, which Butler exemplifies, useful but partial. It might explain violence against individual trans women, but it cannot account for why trans misogyny initially arose as a violent instrument of governing. Trans panic began with an assault in colonial and settler states on what was perceived as sexualized femininity in male-bodied people. The psychological phenomenon that motivates individual violence did not precede state violence but followed it. Gill-Peterson’s book is a departure from the usual provinces of trans studies scholarship, which has directed most of its attention to social movements, the history of medical discourses, and particular sites of gender non­conformity. The four case studies Gill-Peterson presents —hijras under British colonialism in India, Black sex workers in antebel­lum New York, twentieth-century queens in “gay” New York, and emerging trans feminisms in Latin America—cumulatively account for the contingent logics of trans misogyny in particular times and places. This is a history not of trans people’s radical self-definition but of how they have navigated the definitions imposed upon them. Trans misogyny, in Gill-Peterson’s formulation, “trans fem­inizes its targets without their assent, usually by sexualizing their presumptive femininity as if it were an expression of male aggres­sion.” While all her subjects may have been trans-feminized, “only some considered themselves to be trans women in response.”

As scholars have demonstrated from a variety of angles, it has been politically and economically expedient throughout history to deem certain populations improperly gendered and sexually corrupt. These designations provided chattel slavery and vulner­able mobile labor for capital and granted states the opportunity to consolidate their sovereignty by unleashing immense violence on these groups. Sylvia Federici’s work, for example, recounts the social, political, and economic losses women experienced with the emergence of early capitalism, which relegated women to unpaid domestic labor. In a similar fashion, Gill-Peterson outlines how the dispossession wrought by slavery and colonialism shunted trans-feminized people of color into cities, where they monetized trans femininity through the service economy and sex work.

Trans misogyny is an “infrastructure of the shared world,” not only for the Right but for liberals and the queer Left as well. There may be no monograph in trans studies that comes down harder on identity politics than Gill-Peterson’s, and deservedly so. Encomiums about the potential of transgender to bring about a queer utopia, she argues, depend on the disavowal of a “backward” trans womanhood. When gender theorists and some LGBT advocates romanticize trans-ness as transgressive or anti-normative, they do so at the expense of trans feminine people who are less urgently in need of abstract affirmation than of stable employ­ment and protection from violence. Gill-Peterson has not forgiven Butler for their 1993 critique of Venus Xtranvaganza, a trans Latina woman active in ball culture who was featured in the 1990 doc­umentary Paris is Burning but was murdered before its release. Butler’s reading of the film appeared to fault Xtravaganza for, as Gill-Peterson puts it, “her unqueer desire for something normal”—conventional femininity, financial security, the love of a man—and her refusal to be a model of queer radicalism.

These days, trans-feminized people of color have become the hypervisible talismans of progressive queer and trans politics. (If you know the names Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, you’ll know what I mean.) But the visibility of a trans woman of color does her no good if she can only be “a figure for other people.” Gill-Peterson is refreshingly blunt on this:

When movements claim to act in our name, or use our image as their rallying cry, it is often to imagine a world where trans womanhood is implicitly obsolete, no longer needed in gen­der’s abolition or an infinite taxonomy of individual identities beyond the binary. The use and abuse of trans womanhood secures otherwise-contrary versions of gender-based politics, from intersectional and queer feminism to white women’s fas­cism and Christian fundamentalism. The cavalry in the global gender wars line up on their opposing sides, cannons ablaze, but each agrees not to admit the premise they share: trans fem­ininity is not integral to the future they are fighting for.

Because of the entrenchment of facile versions of identity politics and intersectionality in gender studies and on the queer Left, it is possible that Gill-Peterson, who is a woman of color, will soon be heroized in turn. The reception of this book might become an instance of precisely what she critiques: an invocation of trans women of color that remains firmly within the deracinated framework of abstract categories and imagined gender utopias, where trans femininity is not venerated but disavowed. Gill-Peterson asks for something else. She wants us to recognize the colonial violence that created trans-feminized people, who may or may not fall into the categories dictated by a politics of recogni­tion. Doing so would require us to instead practice a politics that reveres their knowledge and attends to the harms they continue to experience.

Understanding how gender offers ideological resources to the Right is important work, as is providing counterarguments.

Trans-feminized people are targeted precisely because of what is taken to be an excessive femininity. Rather than repudiating that femininity or shrinking it to fit the contours of “lean-in” or “trans-inclusive” feminism, Gill-Peterson calls for a trans feminism that rejects assimilation and celebrates mujerísima, “a fierce commit­ment to being unabashedly the most feminine, or the womanliest of all.” For a viable alternative to liberal identity politics, Gill-Peterson looks to trans-feminized people in Argentina, which was lauded for passing, in 2012, the first national gender-identity law based on self-definition. But the travestis, policed as public health threats, rejected the idea that the state can confer legitimacy on them. As one activist said, “We travestis are not men or women; we are constructions of personal substance, our own absolutely and highly personal body of laws.”

the anti-gender movement leans hard on the notion of sex dif­ference, insisting that it is real and ineluctable, that there are only adult human females and adult human males, and that gender is fixed at birth (or even at conception, according to some Republican Party platforms). Meanwhile, scholarship in gender studies and transgender studies has usually responded with explanations about the mutability of gender, the secondary status of sex in determin­ing social roles, and the nonbinary nature of characteristics gener­ally associated with sex difference. Pro-and anti-trans movements appear to be litigating, seemingly endlessly, the etiology of sex and gender, the relation between the material and the social, the biolog­ical body and the psychological self. Even as Butler tries to sidestep this trap, Who’s Afraid of Gender? cannot help but get sucked into it. Although the book highlights how incoherence serves rather than hinders the anti-gender ideology movement, quite a bit of space is devoted to poking around in the inconsistencies. (One chap­ter rebuts what seems like every major point of “gender critical” dogma. For example, if J.K. Rowling and Kathleen Stock believe trans women are men and men are predisposed to rape women, especially in women’s spaces, why don’t they call for a ban on male guards at women’s prisons?)

Understanding how gender offers ideological resources to the Right is important work, as is providing counterarguments. But perhaps it is not necessary to have come to an agreement on a the­ory of gender before we can begin to make the world a place free of violence and discrimination against women and trans, intersex, and queer people. Instead of figuring out, once and for all, what gender really is, we might draw on the wisdom of the Texas appel­late court mentioned above—not the Creator part or the scalpel part, but the inscrutable-givenness-of-existence part: “There are some things we cannot will into being. They just are.”

Trans, queer, and intersex people exist; a world without them cannot be willed into being. What are the concrete obstacles to their flourishing? As Gill-Peterson insists, the gender binary is but one facet of the history of empire and capital. Squaring off over an abstract distinction between male and female risks further conceal­ing the forms of violence embedded within this history. Instead, A Short History of Trans Misogyny exposes the contingent relationship between gender discipline and colonial statecraft and contains les­sons for how we might think about gender and misogyny across a vast range of contexts. Gill-Peterson urges us to consider that notions of sexual difference and gender complementarity—those avowed articles of faith of the anti-gender movement—might simply be tools, rather than fundamental precepts, of conservative or neoliberal governing.

Anti-gender thought provides many states with a rationale for their recent bans on gender-affirming care for trans youth, but the certitudes of that ideology are easily dismissed when convenient. Over and over throughout history—through the machinery of enslavement, welfare, social security, labor, and tax policy—cap­ital’s need for labor has prevailed over abstract commitments to an immutable gender binary. In the colonies and new American Republic, for instance, despite the prevalence of the language of marriage, family, and the benefits of domesticity, theories of gen­der difference were not applied to enslaved people. There were no protections for their marriages, which could be sundered at will through the sale of one spouse. In the words of historian Tera W. Hunter, “The ideology of race trumped the ideology of domesticity.”

Or consider a more recent example. During the height of the Covid pandemic, the federal government expanded the child tax credit, raising the amount of tax credits and making them refund­able. No other single policy has done so much to alleviate child pov­erty: between three and four million children were lifted out of it. This would seem to be a win for the anti-gender movement, as the policy might enable more families to follow the romantic, patriar­chal model of a male wage earner and a woman caring for children at home. But in 2022, Senator Joe Manchin and the Republicans let it lapse. Why? The University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute (as in Gary Becker and Milton Friedman, architects of deregulation) had warned ominously that the expanded credit, by incentivizing parents to stay home, would shrink the labor force and drive up wages. Gender roles can be redefined if the economy demands it. It is likely that these same policymakers would also mandate that everyone carry a driver’s license listing their birth sex. That is not a contradiction, because gender as we know it does not beget itself; it is the daughter of misogyny, capital, and sovereignty.

Paisley Currah is the author of the book Sex Is as Sex Does: Governing Transgender Identity and the founding editor of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. He teaches at the City University of New York.
Originally published:
March 4, 2024


Louise Glück’s Late Style

The fabular turn in the poet’s last three books
Teju Cole

The Critic as Friend

The challenge of reading generously
Merve Emre

Rachel Cusk

The novelist on the “feminine non-state of non-being”
Merve Emre

You Might Also Like


Renaissance Women

A new book celebrates—and sells short—Shakespeare’s sisters
Catherine Nicholson

Whose Trans Realism?

Nevada and the fiction of fucking up
Kay Gabriel

The Screen is a Mirror

On gender transition in the Zoom era
S. Brook Corfman


Sign up for The Yale Review newsletter and keep up with news, events, and more.