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New journal a place to publish about the material realities of trans life

The Bulletin of Applied Transgender Studies is published by Northwestern University Libraries and the Center for Applied Transgender Studies

The Bulletin of Applied Transgender Studies (BATS), the first journal with an entirely trans editorial board, published its first open-access double issue today (June 13). The board’s members cover seven countries, from four continents and range from Harvard University professors to members of community nonprofits.

There are just three journals focusing on trans scholarship today, typically filled with either literary studies or papers written by “cis doctors debating hormone dosages,” said TJ Billard, editor of BATS and executive director of the Center for Applied Transgender Studies (CATS).

“There’s nowhere to publish about the material realities of trans life, especially not open access,” Billard said. “We have an important opportunity to change what the trans studies landscape looks like and set the publishing standard for other universities.”

This marks the first journal to be published by Northwestern University Libraries (NUL). According to Sarah Pritchard, the dean of libraries at Northwestern, it’s a trend among university libraries to begin to offer open-access digital publishing as a faculty-library collaborative initiative.

“This is our first fully peer-reviewed and faculty-led journal as far as publishing via the libraries’ digital platforms,” Pritchard said. “We have in the past done some journal publishing for students, and we have also done some stand-alone publishing of faculty work.”

According to Digital Publishing Librarian Chris Diaz — who built the journal’s website, set up the peer-review system and established indexing — “publishing BATS has been one of the highlights of my career. As a library-based publisher of open-access scholarship, we provide faculty with a mission-driven alternative to the market-driven academic publishing industry.”

It’s very unusual for an assistant professor to edit and launch a new journal. But as the founder of CATS, School of Communication Assistant Professor Billard has made a name for themselves in applied trans studies and helped establish it as a field. Also, they acknowledge, it was important to have a faculty member at Northwestern to manage work at the journal.

“There aren’t departments of trans studies,” Billard said. “But there’s an increasing investment in gender and sex at Northwestern, and we want to build that up further.”

Publishing the journal became a natural fit for the University.

In the first issue, researchers seek to answer: What can applied trans studies do, and why do we need it? It includes papers about trans activism in India, children’s experience navigating gender clinics, fertility concerns and trans identity and autism. Each article includes a deliberate structure that offers analysis and proposed solutions to trans issues. In this way, the journal seeks to offer considerations more directly for policy change.

“The kind of work we’re doing is part of increasing trans representation in the academy and being available as a resource to the scholars doing this work,” Billard said. “It’s also about the importance of rigorous and verified trans knowledge that can inform public policy right now. As anti-transgender advocates peddling misinformation are trying to shape policy, it’s our responsibility as academics to shape it in helpful ways.” 

BATS currently holds a three-year contract with NUL with an opportunity for renewal. After publishing two double issues this year, BATS will publish quarterly issues.