Trans as Method: The Sociality of Gender and Shakespeare


  • Alexa Alice Joubin George Washington University



This special issue on contemporary performance proposes “trans” as method and as a social practice rather than as an immutable identity category that stands in opposition to more established ones such as cisgender men or cisgender women. We ask new questions about Shakespearean performance: How might the meanings of the plays change if we consider them as transgender performances rather than cis-centric stories requiring suspension of disbelief about cross-gender roles? What if the body of the female character and the actor’s somatic presence exist on a continuum rather than in contrary fixations? The enactment of gender practices is not predicated upon “substitutions” (as in substituting the boy actor for Desdemona) or entail diagnostic recognition (as in being reminded of the “real” body beneath the illusion of Desdemona). This introduction outlines key issues with today’s terminology, suggests a more effective and inclusive vocabulary, elucidates trans as method, and demonstrates trans studies’ relevance to Shakespeare studies. Research articles in this issue deal primarily with tacit representations of transness in film and performance, such as the case of an actor who came out as trans posthumously, and interviews highlight practitioners’ voices by rerouting the epistemological circuits that have predetermined who can produce knowledge about gender.

Author Biography

Alexa Alice Joubin, George Washington University

Alexa Alice Joubin (, she/her/hers) is the inaugural recipient of the bell hooks Legacy Award (Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association) and recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award. She writes about race, gender, cultural globalization, Shakespeare, and film and theatre. She is Professor of English; Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Theatre; International Affairs; and East Asian Languages and Literatures at George Washington University in Washington, DC, where she cofounded and codirects the Digital Humanities Institute. Her recent books include Shakespeare and East Asia (Oxford University Press, 2021), Race (with Martin Orkin, Routledge, 2018), Onscreen Allusions to Shakespeare: International Films, Television, and Theatre (coedited, 2022), Sinophone Adaptations of Shakespeare: An Anthology, 1987–2007 (edited, 2022), Local and Global Myths in Shakespearean Performance (coedited, 2018), and Shakespeare and the Ethics of Appropriation (coedited, 2014). She is editor-in-chief of The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Global Shakespeare and, starting 2023, the general editor of The Shakespearean International Yearbook.