Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law
Dean Spade is an Assistant Professor at the Seattle University School of Law. In 2002, Spade founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a nonprofit law collective that provides free legal services to transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming people who are low-income and/or people of color. For more writing by Dean Spade, see http://www.deanspade.net.
This chapter shows how by applying a more complex and accurate understanding of power, our attention is turned from winning legal recognition through civil rights reforms to understanding how the gender binary is enforced in administrative systems. The chapter focuses on three key administrative barriers to trans survival: access to ID, placement in sex-segregated facilities such as shelters and prisons, and access to health care. In each of these realms, binary gender categorization is rigidly enforced on everyone and endangers those whose lives and identities defy the rules and norms of that binary. The chapter argues that this administrative violence is the most widespread harm facing trans people, but is not addressed by a civil rights strategy. This generates a different way to think about the relationship between law reform and social movement demands for relief from conditions of subjection.