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Transgendered rights - the War on Terror by Dean Spade

In late January, I attended a transgendered colloquium on campus held by the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies department in Ford Hall. The talk was lead by Dean Spade, a law teacher at the University of Calfornia – Los Angeles Law School. Before I went, I researched Dean's background to be sure that he was a credible source and would be a valid event to attend. I found that Dean graduated summa cum laude from Barnard College and was awarded the Jane S. Gould Prize for Best Women's Studies Senior Thesis. In 2002, he founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a law collective which provides free legal help to low-income people and people of color facing gender identity or expression discrimination. I was very impressed with a few of his articles and decided it would be an interesting event to attend.

Dean's main focus of the talk was his current research article about the War on Terror on transgendered rights. For the paper, he researched how trans gendered people do things to prevent hate crimes and how they can create laws in accordance with this. The main point was that mostly all laws aimed towards the trans gendered population or unjust and improper. He brought up so many points while reading and explaining this article that I would never even have thought about.
One such topic was birth certificates for transgendered people. The law states that once you change genders, you must obtain a new birth certificate. He spoke about how stereotypes of transgender people are that they must have a sex change surgery so in order to get a new birth certificate, you must PROVE that you have had genital surgery, but this is not fair because some people consider themselves the opposite gender even though they have not undergone a specific surgery. He argues that there should be a proper use of gender check or classification because there are so many inconsistencies within the government.
Within the War on Terror, governments have been very strict on identification cards and status in general. The Government is looking for people with mismatched id's and it is no surprise that transsexuals are targeted. If their genders are not matched or anything else conflicts with the law, their bosses will be sent letters, outing them of their employee's sexuality. When sheltered or imprisoned, they are most likely placed according to their birth gender, which goes against their own moral and personal self. Dean mentioned in his speech numerous of times how transpeople are just very vulnerable in society in general.
What I noticed about Dean was that, even though he was transgendered (having had surgery as a female to become a male), he still had some feminine characteristics. After attending the event, I remained interested in many of the topics brought up in the session and also Dean's physical presence. I decided to research some more of his articles and maybe get a bit more insight into the transgender realm. I read an excerpt from a letter Dean wrote to his brother about his surgery. He explains to his brother that often times when people think about sex changes, they feel that they are trapped in the wrong gendered body and they change their body in order to live as the other gender and try to pass as that new gender. But this is very different from how he views gender and sexuality. He notes, “The basic thing is that I don’t believe people fall into two neat gender categories-male and female. The world divides people into these categories, and gives them lots of meaning...I believe that people don’t just exist at the extremes of gender, but in fact fall in all kinds of places in between.? He thinks that it is exciting to live in a world where she can experiment with expressing her gender and just find what is right for him. He is glad to have been born a female but feels most comfortable somewhere in between male and female.
Learning all of this, I feel that I have a much more open mind about transgender identity, rights, and conflicts than I ever would. If I did not attend this talk, I may not ever have understood the problems facing the trans population in America and all the crap they have to deal with. I feel empathy and compassion with them and strongly support Dean Spade and all his efforts to dominate over transgender discrimination.


If you are interested in Dean's work or want to read the letter to his brother or any other personal, informal pieces, check out : http://www.makezine.org/events.html