Jackie Kay’s Trumpet: Transnational and Transracial Adoption, Transgender Identity, and Fictions of Transformation

Margaret Homans, Yale University
Vol. 39, No. 1 (Spring 2020), 123-150

This essay addresses the harms produced by essentialisms of race and gender by probing the insights of Jackie Kay’s 1998 Trumpet, a novel centered on a character—the biracial adopted son of a trans man and the grandson of a transracial and transnational adoptee—who is anguished by uncertainty about both his familial and racial origins and his father’s and his own gender. Before turning to the novel, the essay discusses the suffering that race and gender essentialisms can inflict on adoptees and positions the problems of transracial and transnational adoption in relation to queer, transgender, and diasporic thought. In solving her imagined character’s problems, Kay demonstrates the transformative power of combining the hard-won lessons of these intersecting experiences of border-crossing. The solution Kay imagines is realized in an exemplary way in the self-writing of a transracial/transnational, transgender adoptee writing in the decade after Trumpet’s publication.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]