Using an interdisciplinary framework, Mia Fischer connects media coverage with state regulation of transgender people to show how, despite their increased visibility in national discourse, dominant representations of trans people as deceptive, deviant, and threatening are used to justify, even normalize, state-sanctioned violence against transgender communities.
The increased visibility of transgender people in mainstream media, exemplified by Time magazine’s declaration that 2014 marked a “transgender tipping point,” was widely believed to signal a civil rights breakthrough for trans communities in the United States. In Terrorizing Gender Mia Fischer challenges this narrative of progress, bringing together transgender, queer, critical race, legal, surveillance, and media studies to analyze the cases of Chelsea Manning, CeCe McDonald, and Monica Jones. Tracing how media and state actors collude in the violent disciplining of these trans women, Fischer exposes the traps of visibility by illustrating that dominant representations of trans people as deceptive, deviant, and threatening are integral to justifying, normalizing, and reinforcing the state-sanctioned violence enacted against them.
The heightened visibility of transgender people, Fischer argues, has actually occasioned a conservative backlash characterized by the increased surveillance of trans people by the security state, evident in debates over bathroom access laws, the trans military ban, and the rescission of federal protections for transgender students and workers. Terrorizing Gender concludes that the current moment of trans visibility constitutes a contingent cultural and national belonging, given the gendered and racialized violence that the state continues to enact against trans communities, particularly those of color.