NWSA: Trans Joy

deadline for submissions: 
March 10, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
J. River Vooris
contact email: 

Panel for National Women's Studies Association, held in November 2023 

In June of 2022, Esquire magazine published a cover story on actor Elliot Page, entitled “The Euphoria of Elliot Page.” Responding to the question of what he has learned from transitioning, Page remarks: “I can’t overstate the biggest joy, which is really seeing yourself….[T]he greatest joy is just being able to feel present, literally, just to be present. To go out in a group of new people and be able to engage in a way where I didn’t feel this constant sensation to flee from my body, this never-ending sensation of anxiety and nervousness and wanting out. When I say I couldn’t have ever imagined feeling that way, I mean that with every sense of me.” Page’s “euphoria” has been the primary subject of his widely followed instagram account in which, since December 2020, he has posted numerous photographs exposing and celebrating his body. Although Page regularly speaks out about the everpresent anti-trans violence and legislation, Page’s palpable elation illuminates a turn in US mainstream trans narratives towards joy. The Esquire interview highlights for mainstream audiences the trans joy that has long been evident in transcultural spaces, like Ballroom, which have also gained more mainstream attention through shows like Pose.  

Though trans identities, like other marginalized subject positions, have often been associated with trauma, suffering, and/or oppression, many social justice activists advocate for a greater focus on positive affect as a kind of activism. Borrowing from racial justice activists’ concept of #BlackJoy (credited to writer/ activist Kleaver Cruz), trans joy decenters narratives of trans suffering in favor of stories of trans achievement, reclamation, and ecstasy. Trans joy, or what Ace Lehner terms “trans failure,” playfully transgresses “cultural representational norms.” 

This panel explores the ways in which trans narratives offer a politics of joy as a form of radical being and resistance. Please submit an abstract of up to 250 words by 3/10 to j.haywardjansen@english.umass.edu & jrvooris@wells.edu.