Architecture, transfeminism & queer theorySimona Castricum 26 June 2023
Simona Castricum generously shares her recommended texts on transfeminism and queer theory – books that challenge systemic inequality, educate about the power of lived experience, and inspire us to dream of a better future for all.
Transfeminism is an important strand of feminist and queer theory that extends upon bodily autonomy, abolition and how the cisgender heteronormative patriarchy affects us all. It’s provided me with a language and discourse to understand my trans lens, to write about architecture, space and politics, and how to convey ideas through creative practice. The following books are my go-to readings.
Abolition. Feminism. Now.
Angela Y. Davis, Gina Dent, Erica R. Meiners and Beth E. Richie (Penguin Books, 2023)
What I find so exciting about abolition is that it requires the imagination of utopias and futures in the context of radical social and personal change. These virtues are the centre of feminism, queering and transing – the imagination of the future is our potential. It’s also our critical purpose as designers. An abolitionist standpoint not only imagines the worlds we want to live in but also the design process that we need in order to achieve it. The inspiring words of Octavia Butler evoke such belief that anything is possible: “We will dream our way out. We must imagine beyond the given.”
Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity
José Esteban Muñoz (NYU Press. 2019)
In Cruising Utopia, José Esteban Muñoz explores queer futurity creating the very conditions that give rise to infinite possibilities of gender and sexuality in our relationships, communities and creative practices. Queer speculation is the antidote for what can otherwise be the reality of trauma and exclusion. Muñoz affirms how queerness flourishes despite its proximity to hostile conditions of heteronormativity – “a rejection of the here and now and an insistence on potentiality or concrete possibility for another world”. That is what it is to be queer and trans – resistance, speculation and imagination. It is tiring to be bogged down with the trauma of the dystopia. It’s difficult. Meanwhile, it’s the cognitive maps we accrue over our lives and intergenerationally that create the very conditions for queerness to thrive.
Going Stealth:Transgender Politics and US surveillance practices
Toby Beauchamp (Duke University Press, 2019)
This is my go-to text to talk about how architecture is complicit in systemic inequality. Administrative violence is a term given to the systems of population control that have legally adverse effects on the lives and chances of those on the margins of power and opportunity. Administrative violence often misclassifies those who do not conform to the standards of whiteness, binary gender, and heterosexuality. As these standards administer the worlds we live in, they determine the very spaces we design – and how we design. Legislation, data and governance all have implications on the built environment through design briefs – all of which are implemented by designers and architects. That filters down into surveillance and policing, as space is produced to replicate the very requirements administration determines our world to be. Beauchamp unpacks how administration creates the systems that produce, regulate and contest gendered spaces – public bathroom amenities and airport security checkpoints.
The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice
Shon Faye (Penguin Press, 2022)
Many people think of trans issues, and they immediately think of bathrooms. Bathrooms are not a ‘transgender issue’; they are a cisgender issue. Transgender people have a lot more to contribute to society than arguing for a better bathroom experience, and our needs and rights extend to far bigger life concerns. The bathroom issue is a political ploy to keep trans people on a particular subject, preventing us from advocating for much larger issues we need to be talking about. Faye’s book deals with those more important concerns – bodily autonomy, our precarious rights as a debate over trans legitimacy erode our livelihoods, sex workers, class struggles, and the increasingly uncomfortable relationship trans people find themselves in in LGBT and feminist movements as we fight for our rights.
Design Justice: Community-led practices to build the worlds we need
Sasha Costanza Chock (The MIT Press, 2020)
At Melbourne Design Week a couple of years ago, I put a whole lot of trans and gender-diverse people on the panel, because I wanted the architects to sit in the audience and listen. I felt that they needed to. But I also wanted the trans and gender-diverse people on that panel to understand that as non-designers they are actually brilliant designers of their worlds. They know their lived experience better than ‘architects’. Chock uses the framework of design justice to analyse “how design distributes benefits and burdens between various groups of people”. What we can learn from this text is how design runs the risk of designing static worlds that reproduce social inequality and enact administrative violence.
Beyond the Binary
Simona Castricum and A.L. Hu
Film and video recording from the Transformations: Action on equity symposium (Parlour, 2019)
In October 2019, I travelled to New York City in a pre-covid world to record a conversation with architect, facilitator and organiser A.L. Hu. The opportunity to exchange ideas and learn about A.L.’s practice in architecture was a life-changing experience for me. It’s not often I get to chat with other trans designers. Our peers are few and far between in a profession that renders us invisible and is overwhelmingly dominated by cisgender people. The conversation premiered the following month for the Transformations: Action on Equity symposium at the Melbourne School of Design at the University of Melbourne.
Mackenzie Wark (Duke University Press, 2023)
Queering Safer Spaces: Being Brave Beyond Binaries
Son Vivienne (Rowman & Littlefield 2023)
Atmospheres of Violence: Structuring Antagonism and the Trans/Queer Ungovernable
Eric A. Stanley (Duke University Press, 2021)
Simona Castricum is a multidisciplinary creative and academic working in music and architecture on Wurundjeri land of Kulin Nation. Her work explores queer and trans intersections in architecture, music, the public realm and civic life. She is also a Parlour Associate.