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  5. 2012

Putting Southeast Asian Transgenderism into the Transnational History of Sexuality

Publié le 3 décembre 2012 Mis à jour le 29 septembre 2023

3 décembre

Peter Jackson
(Australian National University)
Salle Henri Baugniet (rez-de-chaussée)

Many accounts of the history of sexuality mark transgenderism as “premodern” while interpreting gay and lesbian identities as breaking out of “traditional” gender-defined modes of same-sex identity. In these accounts contemporary Southeast Asian transgender/transsexual identities – e.g., Thai kathoey, Indonesian waria, Filipino bakla – are seen as continuing premodern forms of ritualised transgenderism described for a number of regional societies. Recent anthropological research (e.g. Tom Boellstorff, Peter Jackson) challenges this model, pointing to major breaks between premodern transgender roles and all contemporary same-sex and transgender/transsexual identities in the Southeast Asian region. In this paper I consider the implications of this Southeast Asian research for transnational queer theory. I argue that the central question for the transnational history of sexuality is not the emergence of “modern” gay and lesbian homosexualities out of “premodern” transgenderism, but rather how equally modern transgender/transsexual and gay/lesbian identities have emerged in parallel in Southeast Asia, and elsewhere.

Peter A. Jackson is Professor of Thai history and cultural studies in the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific. He has written extensively on modern Thai cultural history with special interests in religion and sexuality. He was editor-in-chief of the Asian Studies Review, flagship journal of the Asian Studies Association of Australia, from 2009 to 2012 and founded the Thai Rainbow Archives Project, which has collected and digitised Thai gay, lesbian, and transgender magazines and community organization newsletters (see http://thairainbowarchive.anu.edu.au/index.html).

His most recent books are The Ambiguous Allure of the West: Traces of the Colonial in Thailand (with Rachel Harrison) and Queer Bangkok: Twenty-First-Century Markets, Media and Rights, and Thai Sex Talk: The Language of Sex and Sexuality in Thailand (with Pimpawun Boonmongkon).