There is something strange that happens when nonce concepts like t4t, ones that organize our intimate lives, enter academic discourse, when what feels personal is circulated, critiqued, turned into theory, rendered in unfamiliar terms. “There is nothing more alienating,” per Lauren Berlant, “than having one’s pleasures disputed by someone with a theory” (Berlant 2012, 5). It’s true. However, as academics who write about the bad feelings and intramural conflicts that attend life in the non-idealizable trans mundane, we obviously think this strangeness and risk of alienation might be worth it, though we are open to being wrong.
In this particular case, and as we say at more length in the introduction to the print issue, it is clear that t4t as a concept and practice organizes some of the most salient features of trans life and cultural/knowledge production but that, at the same, it is largely underthought and untheorized within the interdisciplinary spaces of trans studies. Posing t4t as an object for thought might, therefore, help to refocus trans study in the humanities and social sciences on what happens between trans people rather than always and only on the relation between trans and cis worlds of sense. Further, posing t4t as a problem for thought rather than a given can help us to understand the work that it does within trans worlds, what it enables and obscures.
And yet, because of our commitment to thinking from and about trans worlds, we do not want to strip t4t of what feels, what is, intimate about it. Even though most (though not all) of the essays in the print issue theorize t4t at a slant from its most common definition as erotic relations between trans people, we insist that the erotic (sex, love, sensuality, deep reservoirs of feeling…) are central to the term. And so, we have collected this folio of first-person, hybrid-genre, or otherwise creative pieces that were submitted alongside the more standard academic essays in the print issue. It should be said that we received many more dispatches from the intimate life of t4t than we could reasonably include here, so we chose these submissions for the way that they extended and/or supplemented the work in the print issue. Put another way, we selected these pieces because each offers theorizing, particular language and form, and vivid portraits that contribute to the project of thinking the vexed, anti-utopian (but nonetheless life-giving) version of t4t at work, differently, across the issue.
Petero Kalulé (petals) and AM Kanngieser’s “An Enclave: Hidden to All But Us” offers an opaque but vibrant ecological portrait of t4t love and trans becoming. We think you might read their piece alongside Nicholas Reich’s essay in the issue — although affectively quite distinct, both offer formulations of t4t that are as much about intimacies with environments as they are intimacies with human others. C. Bain’s lyric essay, “Wings for the Ship,” also offers an intense meditation on a particular t4t romance; Bain’s essay might be read alongside Amy Marvin’s “Short-Circuited Trans Care” as both pieces, differently, theorize the co-presence of love and violence in scenes of t4t.
X9B5’s “Entering the Drone Hive” is unlike the other pieces here: if we are to call it an intimate dispatch, then it is a dispatch from a resolutely speculative scene. But we are interested in its dystopian register, its rewriting of Stryker’s solitary rageful monster negotiating the symbolic as the affectless trans Borg, assimilating everything. Perhaps surprisingly, we think you might read X9B5 alongside Adair and Aizura’s essay, which also mines phobic tropes in order to concern itself with how transness is reproduced. Adair and Aizura’s is also a good companion essay for Hazel Jane Plante’s “t4t triptych,” a ranging mediation on t4t as a concept, an erotic practice, and a technique. But Plante might also be read alongside Amira Lundy-Harris’s “Necessary Bonding,” as both essays take seriously reading and writing as vital scenes of t4t. Finally, Sam Ace’s two poems capture a wary, tender feeling that saturates the issue, perhaps especially Vox Jo Hsu’s account of the loving work of Monica Roberts. T4t, in these poems and throughout, registers as a precarious sense of sure-footedness in dangerous terrain, an ongoing labor of togetherness in the midst of “breaking”— injurious and still-unfolding—“news.”
We admit that some of these are difficult texts because they say too much or not enough or in an unsettling way, but that is, after all, our point. Writing for and to each other is hard. T4t is hard. But it is, we hope, worth the risk.
Cameron Awkward-Rich is Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the author of Dispatch and Sympathetic Little Monster.
Hil Malatino is Assistant Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and of Philosophy at Pennsylvania State University and the author of Trans Care and Queer Embodiment: Monstrosity, Medical Violence, and Intersex Experience.