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Transfermentation


by SEAN NASH

   Transfermentation is an ongoing project that explores trans* identities through food fermentation experiments and personal dialogues. This text for Viral Ecologies doubles as a call for participation in Transfermentation. It is a call to invoke intra-action1 for trans* identified, two-spirit, and gender expansive people to reflect on fermentation practice as a mode of self-discovery and revelation with the nonhuman.  In the realm of trans*fermentation, we are channeling and speculating trans*ecological communication pathways within and outside of familiar speech and language.

    The format of Transfermentation is based on having interpersonal dialogues between myself and another transgender fermenter, with multiple exchanges happening at once among three or four participants at a time. I structured it this way to commit to intentional relationships, individually tailored dialogues, and to share storytelling and ways of exploring trans* identity with each participant. As it is a work in progress, the result of the documentation of Transfermentation is as yet unknown and may become a video artwork, a book, a website, or myriad other possibilities.



    At its simplest explanation, the ferment connects us, and gives us something to do with our hands together. In a time of ongoing pandemic and separation, I am feeling the ferment in Transfermentation as a conduit for touch and proximity, for meeting and playing in company. Proximity through tactility is an embodiment practice I want to continue to explore and lean into as a methodology for our time together as transfermenters. Though we may share physical space when possible, most of the interactions for Transfermentation will happen virtually. The ferment in Transfermentation becomes the surrogate for other types of sensory actions and emanations we would experience and perform together in physical space. 

    Seeing the changes that occur in a ferment over time while connecting them to exchanges with another trans* identified person is, I believe, a gratifying way to locate oneself in a multi-spatial and co-constituted environment. The slow process of fermentation relates to the slow processes of transition, whether medical, social, or internal knowing. In terms of my own medical transition, I am thinking of how slow my facial hair growth has been, and how I regularly inspect for new hairs around my jawline and chin. This is not dissimilar to the daily maintenance and inspection of minute changes in a ferment. A recent conversation with trans*fermenter Jesse Katz led to a discussion imagining an internal anatomy of cellular changes, and in that discussion my mind went on a journey overlaying a time-lapse of changing internal structures with microscopic images of our ferments.



Sean shaking pomegranate & chopping cabbage with Jersey Cosantino for Transfermentation

What follows are interactions between myself and Jersey Cosantino (they/them/theirs) for Transfermentation.



Jersey and I fermented one of the most delicious beet sauerkrauts I have ever had. Jersey’s ingredient list that we adhered to included --->
--> Local, organic green cabbage

--> Local, organic red beets

--> Organic peppercorns

--> Organic whole garlic cloves (I usually add a lot of garlic, so       about 2 heads of garlic with the cloves kept whole)

--> Organic raw ginger

--> Organic salt


Sean’s fermentation questions for Transfermentation with Jersey Cosantino. 
Jersey Cosantino’s kraut questions. Photo by Jess Cherofsky. Used with permission.


Jersey and I decided to write questions from our conversation to ferment with the kraut over the week before our “big reveal” fermentation tasting. Through our correspondence, we shared our questions and labeled our own jars with the questions for our ferments.







Sampling the beet kraut

Here you are watching Jersey take infinite bites of our delicious kraut, which we imagined tasted very similar between Rochester, NY and Overland Park, KS. Jersey’s bite loop is an ouroboros symbol of trans*ecology, a reminder of the intimacy of survival and thriving bound in one fuscia colored multispecies bite.





“The asterisk, a diminutive astral symbol miming a starfish’s limby reach,

follows trans and attaches to it, attaches it to something else, a spiky allergenic

pollen soliciting immunological mobilizations, a viral latching-on to membraneous

surfaces of words. Trans* is meant, in part, to break open the category

of transgender, transwoman, or transman.”


Eva Hayward & Jami Weinstein, Introdution: Tranimalities in the Age of Trans* Life



  1  Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham and London: Duke University Press.