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dean spade talk

On January 22, I attended the Dean Spade talk sponsored by the GWSS department in the Monday afternoon time slot. This particular colloquium, titled “Consolidating the Gendered Citizen: Trans Survival, Bureaucratic Power, and the War on Terror�, addressed the issues of transrights and transidentity in the United States for transgender individuals and stressed the role that administrative law plays as a specific tool for oppression. The three most prominent components of the fight are identity classification and documentation, sex segregation, and medical care.

Identity documentation presents the greatest obstacle for normalization in the transgender community as identity is nationalizing. Social security and birth certificates have crept in gradually as an accepted part of our lives where they have become important, even essential over time. There are 52 different birth certificates for 50 states, Washington DC, and New York City, which makes it difficult for individuals who wish to change their sex on their records to navigate doing so in the current system of identification. Complicating the matter even further, there are discrepancies within the legal system regarding the rules and qualifications for the alteration of necessary documents. Some people just cross out gender on ID cards, others simply have new documents made. These inconsistencies of the rules mean unfair results for various individuals. The current laws generally require proof of sexual surgery, a surgery that most individuals don’t have. This requirement is based on the stereotype of a sex change The ideal situation would be to have a special certificate with no gender marker, however, an easier way to better the situation would be to reduce the emphasis on medial change. There are great difficulties in achieving equal rights and proper identification and this is demonstrated as the War on Terror instigates further problems in the struggle for identification. Homeland Security looks for people with mismatches or discrepancies regarding IDs and transgender individuals usefully fit under this category if their sexes are different on different forms of identification. If this is the case, then these people are unfairly arrested and mistreated, even beaten and sent to jail, because of the obstacles in gender classification. These arrests can lead to problems too with where to put them in a jail facility where they are often abused for their differences. The unjust treatment of these individuals eagerly compels the US towards the standardization of licenses. Transactivism focuses on hate crimes and preventing deaths.
I received an email with word of this talk, and even before the event was posted on the course blog, I had already decided that I wanted to go, without making the connection to the requirement that attending would fulfill, because I didn’t really know very much about transgender individuals. Coming from white suburbia, I was never faced with anyone who classified his or herself in this way and I was really drawn to understanding the concept and the community that identified with it.
I remember going home and telling my good friend that I had found her calling in life. She likes to work with the elderly and she is active in the LGBT community, so I proposed that she open a transgender assisted living home. An individual in the audience was very vocal about the negative issues surrounding the transgender community, especially in this area, and the uncomfortable situations that arise in an environment that is weary or ignorant to their needs.
Spade teaches law at the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School, and in 2002, Dean founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which is a non profit collective that provides free legal assistance to individuals within the transgender, intersex community that are confronted with poverty and racism.


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