Can discrimination ever be stopped?

I am not going to lie, after reading Dean Spade’s first chapter in Normal Life my brain was a little overwhelmed. Filled with statistics concerning various types of discrimination and injustice, Spade makes it a point to prove how flawed our country is. He begins by discussing imprisonment and how much of it is done to those who do not fall under the hetero-male white privilege umbrella. He notes how the War on Drugs and War on Terrorism provide a useful scapegoat when it comes to arresting minorities. He also points out the flaws in which we think we are attempting to better our society. For example, he says that, “Focus on gay marriage ignores how race, class, ability, indigenetity, and immigration status determine access to those benefits.” And when it comes to trans folk, the discrimination only gets worse. Homelessness, loss of jobs, and loss of benefits are major problems for a trans person. Though we have already read articles about these very things, I decided to do some research via social media to see if it had garnered recognition to this level. I found this twitter account: and read some of the posts concerning unjustice and crime done to trans folk. Though most posts were sad and disturbing, it was hopefully seeing just how many followers and activity the account had.

Getting further into the book, Spade focuses his next chapter on how the rights being fought for concerning trans equality. The two main law form interventions, anti-discrimination laws and hate crime laws, would not only prevent discrimination but it would also “increase positive trans ability”. In this chapter he mentions early forms of protest for trans rights. The Compton’s Cafeteria riot intrigued me so I decided to find the story and put it here for everyone to read if interested: But Spade brought about an interesting question when discussing these laws: will the discrimination even stop? Civil rights laws didn’t stop discrimination toward African Americans so why should these laws be any different? Will discrimination ever end? I liked when Spade said that hate crimes prove the failure in our legal system. He goes on to saying that the perpetrator perspective is wrong and that the conception of oppression is wrong. This is where I got a little lost because then he went on to saying that hate crimes enforce the criminal punishment system…but that is a bad thing because the overpopulated jails are a problem. But without punishment how will this discrimination end? Should there be alternative consequences to stop these actions, and if so how can they be enforced and effective? I understand his concern with how the law problematically treats these issues, but when trying to think of other ways to stop injustice and crime I couldn’t really think of an alternative solution. Ultimately, I think that the push towards both these laws can be achieved and better the lives of many trans folk, but the deeper issues that remain will be harder to conquer. 

– Colleen Griffin




Maybe I’ve heard the word before, but if so, it didn’t make much of an impression the first time around.  Happily for me, Dean Spade’s first chapter in Normal Life changed this for good: now I will forever after have a reaction- and a strong one!- to this word and the phenomenon it describes.  Not that I haven’t previously been made acquainted with the phenomenon; I’m sure each and every one of us in this generation has encountered the hallmarks of neoliberalism in some capacity what with the persistent myth of American meritocracy and post-9/11 governmental xenophobia in our lifetimes.  I must say that I am thankful to a have a word with which to articulate the incredibly complex and slippery socio-political climate I observe around me.  Conceiving of this climate as “a range of interlocking trends in domestic and international politics” (49) makes this slippery complexity significantly more intelligible, making neoliberalism an important analytic lense. 

            I am thankful for Spade’s explication of “neoliberalism” because, while reading, I found myself stumbling across very logical and intelligent explanations for the persistence of oppressions post-Civil Rights Era, for the apparent impotence of social reforms and programs, and for the public’s unproblematic acceptance of political victim-blaming.  As a self-proclaimed feminist and a gender studies major (who unfortunately bartends at a country club), I often find that I am expected to come up with some theory about why feminism is still necessary or how racism could possibly exist after Blacks won the right to vote.  Resisting the impulse to take the persons who pose these questions by both shoulders and shake the silliness (read: privilege) out of them, I usually try to keep my cool and reasonably explain the ways that women or Blacks or people of low-socioeconomic class get disenfranchised by our society.  This is nearly ALWAYS a highly frustrating activity.  I cite the persistent sexual wage gap or the disproportionately low population of Black students in higher education; they blame women’s avoidance of math and the lack of academic ambitions among African Americans.  While these arguments hopefully seem laughable to you and I, unfortunately laughter is not a legitimate response to the available statistics on career choices made by young women primarily outside of mathematical fields ( or the severe underrepresentation of African Americans in higher education (only 18.4% of the total African American population in 2013 had a bachelor’s degree or higher  Of course, I have previously sought recourse to arguments of gendered or racial socialization to account for social influences on “free” will, but unless I peddle back far enough to take my audience through the boys-in-blue/girls-in-pink narrative, I usually end up getting treated like a victim of paranoid delusions.  I’m not sure I will ever completely ensure my protection against this kind of treatment, but at least neoliberalism has given me a context for understanding why it’s so gorshdarn hard to explain the workings of oppression in our current climate! 

As Spade writes, “Systemic inequality has become increasingly unspeakable and the long-term myth of meritocracy in the United States, coupled with the renewed rhetoric of ‘personal responsibility,’ suggests that those benefiting from the upward distribution are doing so because of their moral fitness, and, respectively, that those on the losing end are blameworthy, lazy, and, of course, s dangerous.” (58). I conclude, neoliberalism creates a space in which institutionalized inequalities are denied and then argued out of existence by programs which claim to have already remedied them, despite the persistence of these inequalities in the lives of individuals.  Then, individuals who are privileged enough to know nothing first-hand about the lived experiences of disenfranchised peoples deny the reality or the severity of “so-called oppressions,” in society and instead blame the choices of individuals for the condition of marginalized communities.  Neoliberal politics are of the sneakiest variety, but once their structural patterns have been identified, as they have been by Spade, it is more possible to recognize and thwart their reiteration of oppressions.


By Rosalind Rini

Is Same Sex Marriage Actually Something We Want?

This week’s readings can be hard to comprehend for some. Why would homosexual, queer or transgendered people oppose gay marriage, hate crime laws or not for profit organizations that claim to be fighting for their rights? Many quickly assume that these not for profit organizations bring equality for people of non normative genders or sexualities. They fight for gay marriage which can help gay couples obtain health care for their partner through their occupation. However, it requires a deeper look. These organizations mainly privilege those closest to being acknowledged by normative society and are quick to forget non normative individuals “who experience homophobia simultaneously with transphobia, poverty, ableism, xenophobia, racism, sexism, criminalization, economic exploitation, or other forms of exploitation” (Spade pg. 66). For example, the health care obtained for a partner through one’s occupation requires that one has an occupation, further privileging those upper class individuals with an education. Dean Spade calls for a much more radical transformation; one that makes waves and not just ripples. Often time our go to tactics are to merely change laws rather than fundamentally change peoples perspectives or perceptions of the formation of our society. Spade gives a table of how traditional or official gay and lesbian organization groups would respond to a problematic issue and then an alternative response from a queer or trans political approach. Rather than working for same sex marriage queer and trans political groups suggest fighting for universal health care along with transgender health care.

Many of the rights these organizations claim to fight for may actually bring about no change. Working towards workplace discrimination legislation will just make it more underground as with racism or sexism. However, I do not think we should minimize the good these organizations could bring about. They are bringing light to typically invisible individual’s lives. With increased attention comes the possibility of a larger scale audience. A larger audience means more people to influence or to contribute to a radical reformation. The only articles that come up when googling information on trans* or queer rights are ones regarding the “huge steps” America has made in legalizing same sex marriage (in a few states). These are not huge steps, radically transforming systems that time and time again oppress not only trans* individuals but people of color, marginalized sexes and immigrants would be huge steps.


Kathleen Hennessy

Dean Spade and the Limits of the Law

Dean Spade addresses an issue that civil rights activists have grappled with since the 1960s. He critiques the activist approach of focusing on legal reform. He argues that anti-discrimination laws are very difficult to enforce, and that they really serve those with enough money and power to hire lawyers to challenge the system. Anti-discrimination laws do very little to challenge the social structures that exist to privilege certain groups of people over others. In a 2011 interview with Meaghan Winter, he notes that the law is often ignored in order to maintain existing power structures. “Law reforms declaring race and disability discrimination illegal haven’t solved concentrated joblessness, poverty, homelessness, or criminalization of people with disabilities and people of color. Often people who the law says should have equal chances at jobs still don’t have equal chances at jobs, and they’re still on the losing side of the severe wealth divide in the U.S.”

As he mentions, the issue of the limits of legal reform is not exclusive to the trans community. Racial minorities still face poverty and discrimination, despite the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act (as well as other legal acts) passed in the 1960s. The problem is that many seem to think that the passage of such laws means that true equality has been achieved. Policy often serves the privileged, and further marginalizes groups already on the periphery. Passing laws appeases the majority and gives them a free pass to dismiss the issues of minorities. This can be seen when looking at rhetoric around affirmative action. A very popular argument against affirmative action is that racial minorities are already protected by law against discrimination, so why do they need additional help? Isn’t affirmative action just giving handouts to people who haven’t earned them? This argument ignores the fact that anti-discrimination laws do not dismantle structural inequality and racism, and may in fact uphold white privilege rather than batter it.

-Zhaleh Breen
Spade argues that the trans community faces similar obstacles by focusing on the law instead of larger power systems which allow unjust laws to exist in the first place. Passing anti-discrimination laws does not change the fact that trans people are often targets of violence and are economically marginalized. The emphasis from economically privileged activists on the laws themselves rather than the larger systems which uphold them should not be the focus.

Spade & Southern Comfort

In “What’s Wrong with Rights?” Dean Spade demonstrates how U.S. anti-discrimination and hate crime laws do little to serve the citizens they claim to protect (Normal Life, 79-93). For example: hate crime law uses the threat of incarceration to thwart acts of discrimination, yet they enable transphobia by perpetuating a system where trans prisoners are often sexually assaulted and/or abused. Spade also reveals how anti discrimination law relies on a perpetrator perspective that “creates the false impression that the previously excluded or marginalized group is now equal, that fairness has been imposed, and the legitimacy of the distribution of life chances restored” (86). Since anti-discrimination law primarily targets individuals who continue to attack out of motivated bias or hatred they overlook the daily instances of discrimination shaped by various intersecting identities (85). And since the focus of hate crimes is placed on prosecution, which occurs after the violence has already been committed, hate crimes fail to prevent said motivated bias (82).

One example of trans discrimination at the institutional level can be found in the documentary Southern Comfort (2001)This film documents a year spent in a trans community in Georgia, and more specifically with Robert Eads, a FTM dying from ovarian cancer. Eads was denied medical care from two-dozen doctors on account of his trans status. When commenting on his treatment (or lack of treatment) from the medical community, Eads concludes: “to them, I’m expendable.” To see more visit the following link (go to 1:19:20):

In “Rethinking Transphobia and Power” Spade draws from Michel Foucault to provide an alternative model for interpreting power structures. Foucault challenges the assumption that power is mainly executed through deduction. When introducing the perpetrator/victim mode of power, Spade explains how Foucault views deduction as one of multiple components that works to inflict power. Spade uses this framework to demonstrate how “trans populations come into contact with administrative systems that distribute life chances and promote certain ways of life at the expense of others, all while operating under legal regimes that declare universal equality” (103-104). Since the perpetrator/victim mode operates at the individual level it keeps transphobic standards in place. The medical neglect of Robert Eads demonstrates this trans discrimination and the general favoring of cissexuality and conventional norms.

Disciplinary power, the following mode that Spade discusses, refers to the ways in which we are policed/ police ourselves to adhere to said conventional norms. When discussing this mode Spade touches on the invention of homosexual and heterosexual identity categories, and continues: “[t]he invention of various categories of proper and improper subjects is a key feature of disciplinary power that pervades society” (106). It is clear that Robert Eads was denied medical care on the basis of his ‘improper’ subjectivity, and likely that if he had continued life as a woman his eventual cancer would have been attended to without hesitation.

-Bianca Hasten

What’s Wrong With Rights?

Dean Spade in Normal Life: “Administrative Violence Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law” critiques the use of trans-inclusive laws such as anti-discrimination laws and hate crime laws by questioning whether these political devices actually work to dismantle the very institutions that strengthen and perpetuate transphobic ideas. Spade begins by describing the history of LGBT rights movements from one of a backlash against and a call for radical transformation of social institutions, to helping fund these very institutions by means of non-profit organizations typically led by highly educated privileged queer folks. These organizations sought recognition and assimilation into society, the “I’m just like you” approach instead of calling for a critical examination of the inequalities endorse by the very institutions they sought recognition from. “The thrust of the work of these organizations became the quest for inclusion in and recognition by dominant US institutions rather than questioning and challenging the fundamental inequalities promoted by those institutions” (80). Spade is critical of these inclusive laws because they often cater to those privileged queer folks who have access to good lawyers in cases of discrimination or hate crimes, or who have good employment that offers health care that they deserve access to. Similar to gay and lesbian rights, anti-discrimination and hate crime laws have become to define the idea of trans-rights in America according to Spade.

While I was reading, I kept thinking well what is wrong with using an equal rights mode of oppositional consciousness. It seemed like a logical first step, but when I read the “What’s Wrong with Rights?” chapter, reasons why equal rights and visibility politics are not the way to get trans-rights became clear. I think the most interesting point about Dean Spade’s argument is the discussion of the criminal punishment system in which many trans activists want equal rights within.  Spade argues that hate crime laws not only don’t deter people from committing these crimes but they also strengthen the very system that oppresses and commits violence against trans people. “Hate crime laws strengthen and legitimize the criminal punishment system, a system that targets the very people these laws are supposedly passed to protect” (87).  Also, anti-discrimination and hate crime laws rely on a belief that racism happens on an individual basis; a perpetrator of discrimination has a problem against a certain group of people. These laws also assume that everyone is on the same level of playing field, once marginalized groups are now equal under the law and have all the same rights and opportunities. It’s clear that not everyone has a fair chance and discrimination doesn’t just happen individually but happens systematically to trans people causing high levels of poverty, homelessness, crime, and sex work in order to survive. Trans people are disproportionately affected by police brutality, harassment, medical neglect and violence within the prison system mostly at the hands of the correctional staff themselves. Spade makes a great point about earlier LGBT reformers and how disappointed they would be to see that many LGBT organizations fight to pass laws to increase police and prosecutorial resources and they consider police to be protectors of marginalized groups all while the imprisonment and brutality of trans people continues to increase. These early resisters were trying to fight against the criminal punishment system and called for a larger scale reevaluation of these institutions and how they handled queer and gender nonconforming groups. Spade wants a trans politics that  re-conceptualizes how power and law work on a large scale and instead of focusing on individual acts of discrimination, focuses on the unequal conditions of entire populations which cant be blamed on individual intentions.

On there is an article about a trangender rapper, Evon Young, who had been murdered by five men and his body was dumped in a landfill. The police claim the murder had nothing to do with Evon’s trans status but his family claims otherwise. The police have called off any search of Evon’s body but claim to have enough evidence to prosecute the men who committed the murder. However, Evon’s murder was hardly discussed because he went missing around the same time as a white college student, when Evon’s case was finally publicized when the media learned of his trans status. Evon was repeatedly mis-gendered in articles. Family members and friends believe that the only reason this story got media attention was because Evon was trans and that made it more “entertaing.” This article reminded me of Spade’s argument, it doesn’t matter if there are hate crime laws, these don’t protect trans or queer people from the violence they experience on a daily basis.

Evon Young’s Story

–Casey Born

Dean Spade is My Soul Mate: Intersectional Impacts of Normative Appeals

            White, cis-normative, economically privileged, and professionally educated gay and lesbian communities stigmatize those who cannot fit into one or any of those normative categories via appeals to normativity in their politics.  My previous post discussed (yes, I’ll admit, ranted) how this appeal to normativity from trans-normative spaces alienates genderqueer expression from both trans and cis-gay circles, but I failed to mention any other intersectional identities, a crucial aspect to the ways in which neoliberalism operates within these normative gay communities. 

            Dean Spade opened my eyes to the ways in which intersectional identities fit within the dichotomous framework of “normative versus deviant” ways of being.  When mainstream society dictates what constitutes “normal” and “deviant,” every person who does not fit within categories of white, cis-male, heterosexual, upper middle class, able-bodied, English-speaking, middle-aged, American born, Christian-identified (and other categories I’m probably missing) within the United States gets thrown into this category of deviance with its own complicated and mainstream-dictated hierarchy. 

            Every deviant person, then, becomes placed in this category (and ultimately hierarchy) among all of those other deviantly-labeled people with whom they cannot all possibly identify or have similar experiences.  For instance, white and cis-normative upper middle class gay men are labeled “deviant” along with trans feminine economically disadvantaged identities of color.  The former group is only slightly deviant compared to the latter, and that shows through appeals to normativity that manifest themselves through “equality” legislation (Spade 59-66).  In these ways, this former group does not take into account the intersectional identities like those in the latter group despite the fact that both groups are labeled “deviant.”  So when slightly deviant groups get thrown into an umbrella of “deviance” with which to dichotomously compare to the normative category, the more deviant groups become even more oppressed as the slightly deviant groups push for inclusion into normative spaces (Spade 68). 

          This oppression of the more and more deviant groups manifests itself not only inadvertently in “equality” legislation, but also purposefully through blatant discrimination.  The former group of privileged gay men may not only overlook the ways in which to include intersectional oppression in their politics, but there may also exist racist, classist, misogynistic, transphobic, and/or even transmisogynistic undertones within their politics and everyday lives.  These privileged-but-deviantly-labeled individuals may become leaders of LGBT spaces on college campuses or faces of entire movements just to spew racist, sexist, and classist sentiment in their supposed call for “social justice.”

          These calls to normativity by slightly deviant categories lead to an even more unjust world.  For instance, cis-normative white upper middle class gays and lesbians have shifted their agenda to promote “the class and race privilege of a small number of elite gay and lesbian professionals while marginalizing or overtly excluding the needs and experiences of people of color, immigrants, people with disabilities, indigenous people, trans people, and poor people” (Spade 65).  This kind of shift is evident when comparing the unjust deaths of Matthew Shepard, a cis white gay male, and Tyra Hunter, an African American trans woman. 

          Nowhere else is there an outcry against mainstream practices than when a slightly deviant cis, white, and economically privileged male dies unjustly.  The brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, an out gay man in Laramie, Wyoming in October of 1998, gained so much publicity that not only were countless books written on his life and death, but hate crime legislation was written as a response to his murder, and it was signed into law eleven years later by Barack Obama.  The Matthew Shepard Foundation even claims that Matthew’s murder was “one of the most notorious anti-gay hate crimes in American history” (Matthew Shepard Foundation’s “Our Story” Page: see bottom for link). 

          Now take a look at the death of Tyra Hunter, an African-American trans woman in D.C. who died in August of 1995 of medical neglect from what could have been a non-fatal car crash.  Medical doctors and emergency personnel refused to treat her and let her die because of deep-seated anti-trans and racist sentiment, where emergency personnel laughed and pointed in disgust at her genitals, and medical doctors refused to treat her on the basis of a racial stereotype. 

          What books were written about Tyra?  If you count the Transgender Studies Reader, then there are two whole pages that discuss the discrimination involved in her death.  Wikipedia gives her about a paragraph (see bottom for link).  What legislation passed because of Tyra?  None.  The medical establishment was so intimately involved in her death that any legislation passed would point fingers at the system.  Unless you count a trans organization in Illinois named in her memory, nothing tangible came from this injustice except money during the trial to compensate for her death.  (Money… a fair exchange for life… thanks capitalism!)  Is Tyra’s murder (yes, I’m calling neglect to act on non-fatal injuries to the point of death murder) named one of the “most notorious” hate crimes in the US?  No.  It happened two years before Matthew Shepard died, and no one raised any outcry that gained media attention against the injustice of her death because she did not belong to the slightly deviant category that still demands inclusion in normative structures. 

          Tyra’s death was ignored, and the fact that Matthew’s death gained more media attention because he was the perfect slightly deviant representation of normativity the media could hold onto makes Tyra’s death and the countless other deaths of gender-deviant economically disadvantaged people of color invisible.  That’s right, invisible.  Appeals to normativity by slightly deviant gays and lesbians are appeals to the system that work to oppress those in the “more deviant” category of the deviance hierarchy.  Catering to a system that oppresses based on a “you versus us” dichotomy and ignoring the intersections of race, class, and sexual and gender identity disavow the lives of those deviantly-labeled individuals who fought representatives of the system (ie, police) to survive.  Seeking legislation to end “hate crimes” only appeals to those policemen who systematically ignore and perpetuate the violence against those who are furthest from inclusion in normative spaces.

          There is no real end to this kind of violence against racial, ability, economic, and gender minorities with the neoliberalist solutions of a normative gay and lesbian politic.  Mandy Carter, writer for a news site Color Lines, stresses the necessity of bridging the politics of the sexuality and gender movements with African-American movements.  The fact that intersecting identities challenge the implicitly degrading assumptions of each of these movements (LG movements as cis-white inclusive, African-American movements as cis-het inclusive, neither as trans-inclusive) indicate that a larger force of oppression is at work here. 

          When cis-white gays and lesbians are racist and transphobic, and when cis-African Americans are homophobic and transphobic, non-normative people of color in terms of gender and sexuality are left with no community with which to share stories and are left to their own devices to deal with violence from not only mainstream culture, but also from both less deviant communities to which they cannot belong.  This experience of being torn between two or more “less deviant” communities as a “more deviant” person applies to intersectional identities across the entire mainstream-dictated deviant spectrum.  On the simplest level of explanation via example, I experience dissonance between my lesbian and trans identities, Tyra between her trans and African American identities, and Dean Spade between his trans, queer (used in terms of sexuality because “gay” or “lesbian” cannot fit here), and working class identities. 

           In order to fight this “you versus us,” “deviant versus ‘normal’” dichotomy that mainstream culture sets up at the heart of its systematic and oppressive operations, we need to look at the differences dictating our deviance by mainstream culture instead of overlooking them.  We need to incorporate these differences into an intersectional politics that demands a complete restructuring of mainstream systems like law enforcement and wealth distribution to the point of self-determined governance that values collectivity (Spade 69).  Equality will never be achieved if we keep fighting for these slight equalities that continue to perpetuate injustice.


-Ash Kulak 


 Mandy Carter’s article about Tyra’s death and the intersections between white LGBT movements and Black movements:

Tyra Hunter’s sole paragraph from Wikipedia:

More details on Tyra’s murder:

Matthew Shepard Foundation’s “Our Story” page:

More information on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act: 

So Where Do We Start?

Reading Spade’s chapters this week left me with a feeling of helplessness.  From my reading of this week’s material, I got the feeling that Spade not only thought that a liberal, rights perspective was the right way to come at the issues of trans politics, but that if that was our only solution we might as well not even try. In Chapter 1, he says, “…the emotional or affective registers of neoliberalism are attuned to notions of ‘freedom’ and ‘choice’ that obscure systemic inequalities and turn social movements toward goals of inclusion and incorporation and away from demands for redistribution and structural transformation” (50).   I agree with this.  When what this country sees as freedom does not mean freedom for everyone on the same level and the most privileged, it would not make a great end goal.  Trans politics should not strive for equality by law reform and then call it a job well done when they get there.  I agree with Spade in that in order to have a true equality for any type of minority, there has to be major structural change within the institutional level of the understanding of gender.  As Spade points out, this is true not only for transphobia to be demolished but racism, homophobia, sexism, and classism as well.  However, I do not agree that trans politics should completely switch gears and start attacking institutions. 


By starting to gain equality in the institutions that are here now, as messed up as they are, I believe that it will help individual people begin to change their views.  All institutions are made up of people.  Just as with feminist politics, the first step is to gain access the institutions and then to start pointing out and criticizing the problems within those institutions.  However, I do not think that any change will be able to be made without first having access to the places that need to change in order for true equality to exist in this country.  Spade argues against this by using the lesbian and gay rights movement. He says, “…the lesbian and gay rights work moved towards the more conservative model of equality promoted in US law and culture through the myth of equal opportunity” (60).   However, I do not know how it is possible to begin by criticizing the institution you want to be able to be a part of.  If starting at the individual level is wrong, where do we start?  I am hoping that Spade answers this question for me within the rest of the book because so far all I have are reasons that the way people are trying now is wrong.  He spends most of these three chapters giving examples of how institutions need to change, but I think that people already know they need to change.  Everyone has to start somewhere.  Social movements never reach an end.  The movement to get rid of racism and sexism is still happening this many years later.  The road to trans equality will be just as hard and long, and I think that starting at an equality point of view is the best way to get a footing in the institutions that need and will be changed in the future.  Here is the website for the National Center for Transgender Equality in case anyone is interested in seeing what is being done today in one section of trans politics being discussed by Spade.  They have a great article called “52 Things You Can Do For Trans Equality.”

Medicine as Objective?

The assumed objectivity of medicine as not only a practice, science, and academy, but as a community cornerstone for health and happiness is quite troubling and a bit disconcerting. To think many cultures in North America and Western Europe engage in such practices of reliance on the medico-scientific community without much thought or protest is quite astonishing. And when I discuss “health and happiness” I mean the smallest of things: trusting your doctor to provide the correct daily regimine of vitamins, skincare, and cures for common (annoying, yet not life threatening) ailments.

Moving past this thought and into Dean Spades Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender, I can’t help but find his testimony regarding dependence of trans* individuals on, not only the medico-scientific field, but the law as well to be a sad, disheartening truth and in a sense, quite absurd.

To quote:

 “Try to get your birth certificate amended to change your sex designation, and you will be asked to show evidence of the surgical procedures you have undergone to change your sex. Try to change your name to a name typically associated with the “other gender,” and in many places you will be told to resubmit your petition with evidence of the medical procedures you have completed drivers’ license sex designation changed, and again you will be required to present medical evidence. If you are trans or gender transgressive, even your ability to use a gendered bathroom without getting harassed or arrested may be dependent on your ability to produce identification of your gender, which will only indicate your new gender if you have successfully submitted medical evidence to the right authorities” (Spade, 16-17).

Spade is not only declaring here how important the medico-scientific community is in some, if not most, trans* peoples embodied realities, but how seemingly pervasive medicine tends to be in the realm of the law concerning trans* people and their desired identities.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Doctors save lives everyday (blablabla). But it’s quite hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that any one individual has the right to declare the lived experiences of a another individual as lacking the “requirements” necessary for them to embody what ever body they choose. Or to require permission to make certain decisions based on one’s own, personal, bodily property.

However, completely dismissing the medico-scientific community’s importance in the trajectory of trans* peoples lives, historically and currently, would be to completely deny the necessity of that community. Without science and medicine, some trans* people would, not only, not be able to modify their bodies in the ways they choose but would be denied a form of embodied agency.

In my eyes there is a fine, and contested line, along which the medico-scientific community is and has been straddled. On the one hand, some of their services are necessary. On the other, their pervasiveness and ability to oversimplify, overgeneralize, and overpathologize trans* people seems backwards in a society with a seemingly liberal trajectory.

-Sally Stempler

The Disease: Psychopathia Transexualis

While I know full well just by reading this article that the world has come a long way in thinking about transgender issues, I cringed so often throughout this article. There are obvious things that are bothersome, like the stereotypical trans* narrative of Earl, the automatically assumed homosexuality justified as pseudo-heterosexuality because Earl is a psychological male but his “true sex” is biologically female, and the idea that being transgendered is a disease. However, I was really struck by how Cauldwell’s language frames “the psychological condition [that] is in reality the disease,” which includes non-normative gender and sexuality identifications. Cauldwell constantly reassures his audience that Earl is not a bad person, he’s just psychologically stunted. He (or as he kept reinforcing: she) would never seduce a woman to homosexual ways except for the fact that he is under the unfortunate misconception that he is a male. Silly woman, thinking that you’re a boy just because your parents dressed you up as one when you were little then proceeded to emotionally scar you into believing delusions. (In case it wasn’t obvious: that was sarcasm. Blatant, dripping sarcasm.)

So let’s offhandedly blame the parents, creating a victim, then proceed to treat that perceived victim as if they don’t know what’s best for themselves. Also, they’re inconsiderate (because they can’t realize that a doctor preforming surgery to “mutilate a pair of healthy breasts” should be considered an innocent party) and irresponsible (they’re a parasitic seductress and narcissist), but there’s still hope! “Progress is being made. Within a quarter of a century social education may serve as a preventive in all but a few cases and social organizations may be able to rehabilitate the few who fall by the wayside.” So, a child in a dysfunctional home doesn’t suffer significant damage just because they’re in an education system with children who are ‘normal.’

Not only will socialization with other children eradicate ‘transsexuals,’ but it will, by proxy eradicate homosexuality. With ‘girls’ like Earl, “She believed that she had a perfect right to go out just as any young male and court a female and, just as young males sometimes seduce young females, she thought that it was within her right to do the same thing.” With some care and early socialization with ‘normal’ peers, there might be a chance that the disease called ‘transsexualism’ might yet be eradicated.

Cauldwell feels it necessary to justify what he calls Earl’s “homosexual” activities with the claim that, in his mind, he was acting heterosexually, because he perceived himself to be male. The goal of this is to make Earl seem like a more credible source, but it is only the most offensive way to make a person credible. Maybe it’s my bias as a queer (in gender and sexuality) person, but first he says that having gender issues indicates a mental disease, then he uses that ‘disease’ to excuse away the legitimate feelings that Earl has for the women he comes in contact with. This approach takes Earl’s gender and sexual identities and marginalizes them, making them hetero- and cisnormative where they do not necessarily claim to be.

I have never felt more invalidated than when I read this article. It’s like Cauldwell took my life and slapped me across the face with it…. I really hope to change this mindset that non-normative people are problems. It just hurts everyone.

-Skyler Powell

speaking of non-normative:

# turkeydubstep

But, to be a little more serious, here’s a girl that I found on my search for information on transgender individuals via youtube (I know, not the best resources, but I had no clue why I was even interested at the time, so it was one of my only resources). She’s gotten a lot of coverage for her transtition, but not nearly enough for her songs, so here’s one. She’s not amazing, but that wasn’t what was important to me when I found the video. It just made me excited to see someone be happy and feel comfortable in their skin, even though they had to work to get there. In contrast to the article, she has been widely accepted in a lot of places, just as herself.

Kim Petras: