Shelf life: Ciara Cremin

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS - Ciara, aka Colin, Cremin is se­nior lec­turer in so­ci­ol­ogy, Univer­sity of Auck­land and the au­thor of Man-Made Woman: The Dialec­tics of Cross-dress­ing (Pluto Press).

What sorts of books in­spired you as a child?

For lit­er­a­ture, my child­hood was a dusty road. In­stead of Alice in Won­der­land, the jour­ney was pep­pered by The Three Gol­li­wogs, The Magic Far­away Tree, the Mr Men books and The Beano. But by my late teens

I had found Or­well and then grav­i­tated to Kafka, Zola and Dos­to­evsky, among oth­ers. My so­ci­o­log­i­cal imag­i­na­tion was ig­nited by their vivid de­pic­tions of so­cial de­cay, alien­ation and ex­is­ten­tial crises. I found my voice in such au­thors. They taught me how to write.

Which ac­counts were most im­por­tant to you in de­scrib­ing your sense of your­self as a ‘cross-dresser’?

I was re­cently in­ter­viewed on TV about a drag artist in Welling­ton, New Zealand who reads sto­ries about gen­der di­ver­sity to chil­dren. I said that par­ents every­where should be de­mand­ing the same. It would cer­tainly have ben­e­fited me as a child. I had to make do with a cos­tume-mak­ing book that rec­om­mended bor­row­ing a pair of tights from your mother to wear as part of a su­per­hero cos­tume. My eight-year-old male friend and I had no in­ter­est in su­per­heroes, but the book gave us the ex­cuse to ask his mother for some tights and to wear them openly – in­stead of in secret as we had pre­vi­ously done.

Which do you see as the most in­ter­est­ing the­o­ret­i­cal dis­cus­sions of ‘transvestism’?

It tells us a lot about how em­bed­ded in the psy­che atti- tudes to­wards gen­der are that it is so un­usual for a man to dress daily in cloth­ing that so­ci­ety deems to be “for” women. What in­ter­ests me most are the­o­ries that of­fer ex­pla­na­tions for our de­sires and fix­a­tions, be­cause these help us to de­velop an un­der­stand­ing of transvestism. To that end, I turn to Jac­ques La­can. I used to be told to “man up”; through La­can, we find an ex­pla­na­tion for why we are never told to “woman up”. Bruce Fink’s The La­ca­nian Sub­ject is a good in­tro­duc­tion. Su­san Stryker and Stephen Whit­tle’s The Trans­gen­der Stud­ies Reader con­tains a wealth of in­ter­est­ing aca­demic pieces from dif­fer­ent au­thors on transvestism and such­like.

What would you rec­om­mend as ac­ces­si­ble broader ac­counts of con­tem­po­rary gen­der iden­ti­ties?

There are many books on gen­der iden­tity but few that I can rec­om­mend as be­ing both ac­ces­si­ble and crit­i­cal of pa­tri­archy and cap­i­tal­ism. That said, Nancy Fraser’s col­lec­tion of es­says, For­tunes of Fem­i­nism, achieves this. And Juliet Jac­ques’ Trans: A Mem­oir, os­ten­si­bly fo­cused on the ex­pe­ri­ences of tran­si­tion­ing be­tween gen­ders, is both en­gag­ing and in­for­ma­tive.

What is the last book you gave as a gift, and to whom?

Matthew Beau­mont’s Night­walk­ing: A Noc­tur­nal His­tory of Lon­don, to a friend in univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tion who, like me, is a Lon­doner. He also fan­cies him­self an ur­ban flâneur who is a bit of a duck out of wa­ter in Auck­land.

What books do you have on your desk wait­ing to be read?

Redefin­ing Real­ness by Janet Mock; An Amer­i­can Utopia by Fredric Jame­son; and a book by my for­mer PhD stu­dent Dy­lan Tay­lor, So­cial Move­ments and Democ­racy in the 21st Cen­tury.

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