This essay reads the condition of trans life at the moment of our ambiguous social recognition. It treats the 2016 wave of antitrans bathroom bills as an occasion to consider trans people's vexed relations to social recognition and differential vulnerabilities to state and interpersonal violence. The police have long targeted black and Latinx trans people in and around public restrooms; recent antitrans bathroom bills aim to intensify and generalize such policing of trans bodies. The essay opens with a phenomenological inquiry into the moment of such policing, in which an officer presumes to read the gender history of a person they take to be trans. This scene, when unraveled, can help show how social recognition and state violence are coimplicated, at least insofar as these conditions are visited upon trans people of color. Unfortunately, in the debates associated with antitrans bathroom bills, such scenes of policing have been discursively eclipsed by alternative scenes of encounter, which tend to be organized around the imagined perspective of a nontrans woman who comes into contact with a trans person—either a trans woman or a trans man—in the women's bathroom. The essay critically works through and beyond such encounters—both spectral and embodied—in an attempt to open speculatively onto possible revisions of contemporary debates in feminism and onto shifts in the ground of left coalitional politics.
Research Article|July 01 2017
Amanda Armstrong; Certificates of Live Birth and Dead Names: On the Subject of Recent Anti-Trans Legislation. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 July 2017; 116 (3): 621–631. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-3961743
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