Representations of trans people have begun to circulate more frequently in mainstream visual culture and as these representations continue to proliferate it becomes crucial to reflect on their impact. While the increased appearance of visually marginalized communities can signal shifts in the political landscape and are often hailed as progress, their presence in popular culture is vastly more complex than it may seem at first glance and warrants serious consideration. As a growing field, trans visual culture exists in both mainstream and alternative venues. Across dominant and alternative cultures there are currents that present trans identities within the binary gender system as well as many trans representations that disrupt the gender binary, proposing alternative understandings and often radical embodiments. This panel unpacks the cultural significance of contemporary trans visual culture and critically interrogates the significance of key examples of trans representations.
Over the last few years, there has been a proliferation of trans representations particularly in art and visual culture. However, there has been very little in the way of visual studies and art historical research attending to trans and non-binary artists and their self-representations. Since becoming a scholarly field in the 1990s, trans studies has done much to theorize trans identities via sociological, psychological, anthropological and autobiographically methods. But, it too has yet to thoroughly attend to trans visual culture. Building on methods established by both visual studies and trans studies, this panel begins to attend to these shortcomings.