So this week we started reading in Nobody Passes edited by Mattilda. The concept behind this project for Mattilda was to really expose, undermine and/or dissect the idea of passing in whatever capacity that took place in. Within this text the first essay I read was this one (Undermining Gender Regulation) by Dean Spade who I discovered this semester as much of his work, for me, is tangible not to mention relevant to the term I have been tracking, punishment. Spade works quite specifically in trans-politics on the many different levels that is required of him (i.e. advocate, policy making, legal-aid, consciousness raising). In reference to my term his essays speak of the violence committed against gender transgressive people and who are placed in vulnerable positions because of the government's transphobic policies, only to be exposed to more potential violence in the system. In this essay specifically Spades writes about his own experiences and challenges surrounding passing that arise simply as someone who is a representative within the transgender community. He transitions this into a discussion about the government's regulations of gender and authenticity of gender. The rest of the essay reads kind of like a "what to know" cautionary tail to dealing with state policies that attempt to coerce people into assimilation. As someone who is a lawyer fighting against these policies Spade highlights that the overwhelming commonality between the cases he battles is that the state feels it is there job to determine peoples gender identity using binary gender as the model. Here are just a couple of highlights:
* Shelters often use what's called a "bigot's veto" when denying a trans women a space on the basis that it would make the other women uncomfortable.
* Prisons, foster cares, and shelters all place people based on legal documents, meaning trans women in men's facilities, trans men in women's facilities and gender nonconforming individuals in whatever facility their birth certificate indicates.
* Healthcare is focused on gender confirming. It's highly regulated and often not included in plans even though the same prescription and procedures are included for other conditions. (Spade says this is against federal law)
* Tans youth (under 18) has little to know access to hormones or "gender confirming" care based on the systems notion that they cannot make those decisions for themselves.
This is just a couple of the ways the government regulates gender and spade says that almost always these laws and policies are "made by people who know nothing about trans healthcare, and you can see that in the inconsistencies" (pg. 69). He confirms this by pointing out how in some state policies gender confirming is based on what body parts you take away and others are focused on what body parts you add.
Here is a great quote at the end of the essay that articulates what it was about and how it applies to my term better than I could:
"They punish you for not having medical authorization to be yourself, but then refuse to see that medical authorization as legitimate when you need help paying for the care. Yes, being trans is real enough to get you falsely arrested and beaten, raped, or killed in prison, but not real enough to get you access to a domestic violence shelter, a drug treatment program that provides an alternative to incarceration, or a homeless shelter that recognizes your gender." (pg.70)
So one of the reasons I really like Dean Spade (and now probably Mattilda too) is because his work is like theory vs. practice. As someone who is admittedly new to theory, especially queer theory, I struggle with seeing the practical application to a lot of the points of analysis we study. So in my eyes, Dean understands theory thoroughly and then shows me how it is affecting real people in the most oppressive ways, and how understanding it can help create individual and collaborative points of rejection and activism. Aside from the fact that Spade has really focused in on who is most affected and who will suffer the most severe consequences of the government's gender regulation and sex segregation, he is really helping individuals and groups of people navigate through the rhetoric. I also feel personally invested in what he is trying to accomplish within a really messed up system as I myself grew up on welfare, was considerably poor growing up, (although I know it gets much worse) there were times we didn't know where we would live, where the next meal was coming from and so on. And when you are in that position you are incredibly vulnerable to being put in the system, my sister did spend time in juvenile centers and foster care homes and I came incredibly close as well. So it dictated how I conducted myself, that fear debilitates you into coercion. But if you can't or won't do that then the racist, elitist and transphobic culture/government we live in punishes you even more severely. So any one who wants to change that is good in my book.