OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Susan Stryker

Portrait of Susan Stryker

Susan Stryker is an award-winning scholar and filmmaker whose historical research, theoretical writing, and creative works have helped shape the cultural conversation on transgender topics since the early 1990s. She is the author, coauthor, editor, or coeditor of numerous books and anthologies, including Gay by the Bay: A History of Queer Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area (1996), Queer Pulp: Perverse Passions in the Golden Age of the Paperback (2000), The Transgender Studies Reader, volumes 1 and 2 (2006 and 2013), and Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution (2nd ed., 2017). She won an Emmy Award for her documentary film, Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria (2005), and she has also received a Lambda Literary Award, the Ruth Benedict Book Prize, the Monette-Horowitz Prize for LGBTQ activism, the Transgender Law Center’s Community Vanguard Award, and two career achievement awards in LGBTQ studies: the David Kessler Award from the City University of New York’s Center for LGBT Studies in 2008 and Yale University’s Brudner Memorial Prize in 2015. She served as executive director of the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco from 1999 to 2003 and as director of the Institute for LGBT Studies at the University of Arizona from 2011 to 2016, where she is currently an associate professor of gender and women’s studies and the coordinator of the university’s Transgender Studies Initiative. In addition to serving as founding coeditor of the academic journal TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, she is currently developing several media projects as well as a book project, "What Transpires Now," about the uses of transgender history for the present.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

History is a story we tell in the present that links what we know of the past to a future we envision. In this talk, drawn from her forthcoming book of the same title, gender theorist and historian Susan Stryker examines the trans-temporal dimensions of what gets labelled “transgender” today, but which can be thought of as a more general capacity for life to exceed whatever current configurations it might have. At stake, Stryker contends, in vexing contemporary conflicts over pronouns and public toilets, is a deeper ontological struggle over which fantasies of past and futurity have the ability to ground themselves in materiality and come to count as real.
This lecture, which can be accompanied by a screening of the documentary film Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria, explores the causes and consequences of a 1966 disturbance in San Francisco's impoverished Tenderloin neighborhood, in which transgender women and sex workers banded together to resist police violence--three years before the more famous uprising at New York's Stonewall Inn, popularly considered to be the birth of the modern LGBTQ movement.
This lecture dives deep into the visual archive of the most famous transsexual of the 20th century, Christine Jorgensen, who made headlines around the world when news of her "sex change" hit the press in 1952. The lecture uses the tension between Jorgensen's aspirations to be a filmmaker and the reality of her celebrity status to suggest how transsexuality can be considered a "technology of appearance" that, through a cinematic logic of image-making that makes use of surgery and hormones, allows its practitioners to reconfigure their relationship to the visual and social field. The lecture included clips from an experimental transmedia work-in-progress about Jorgensen's image-making practices.
This lecture traces the history of cross-gender performance at the Bohemian Grove, the annual summer encampment of San Francisco's elite, all-male Bohemian Club, from the 1870s to the 1920s. It suggests that the club performances were closely linked to how the men enacting and witnessing them imagined their roles in the US Pacific Empire, inculcating in them, on the one hand, a sense of comic distance from particular colonized others, while on the other hand producing a sense of white, heteronormative masculinity that entitled them to the lands they occupied.