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Critique Humanities Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

Stepping back, looking outward: Situating transgender activism and transgender studies — Kris Hayashi, Matt Richardson, and Susan Stryker frame the movement

By Paisley Currah, 2008

The objective of Sexuality Research & Social Policy’s two special issues titled The State We’re In: Locations of Coercion and Resistance in Trans Policy is to highlight research that is of immediate, practical value to transgen- der rights advocates and policy reformers. Dean Spade and I, the guest editors of these special issues, believe that the articles we have included accomplish that goal very well. As a whole, these pieces examine a wide range of laws, rules, and practices that constitute the state’s efforts to maintain and reinforce gender norms, as well as the effects of those efforts and the particular strategies advocates have deployed for resisting them. For the most part, these arti- cles are very much located in the urgency of the present moment, when the consequences for many of those whose gender identity or gender expression do not fit with the con- ventions of the gender binary can be severe. With this roundtable, however, we step back and consider the broader outlines of the activism — usually branded in LGBT communities and, increasingly, in the popular press as the transgender rights movement—that has challenged not only the state’s enforcement of the gender binary but also its power to do so. My coeditor and I were interested in eliciting a dialogue that contemplated this movement relationally: How does this movement articulate with other movements for social justice, such as antiracist work? Can it be framed in relation to analo- gous struggles for gender self-determination in locations outside the United States without merely exporting the Western notion of transgender? Have the notions that gender is also racialized, that racial categories are also enforced through gender norms, influenced the policy goals of the movement and, if so, how? How might the relationship between the movement’s past, its present, and its future be understood?

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