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Critique Essay History Law/Legal Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

The Politics of Transgender Asylum and Detention

By Debanuj DasGupta, 2019

Immigration procedures related to asylum and detention are based on sex/gender binaries. Such binaries frame the bodies of undocumented transgender asylum seekers as unintelligible to immigration law and subject them to intense trauma. The experiences of trauma and death of transgender detainees within detention centers is a spatialized experience. The assignment of detention cells based on birth gender, denial of hormones and live saving treatments constitute a racialized and gendered torture upon the body of the transgender detainee. The article attends to the narratives of transgender detainees within detention cell by analyzing the script of “Tara’s Crossing,” a play based on the narratives of transgender detainees and asylum seekers. The play was produced by LGBTQ immigrant right activists soon after the attacks on 9/11 and the intensification of detention and deportation as a part of national security procedures. Drawing upon the script of Tara’s Crossing, along with activist archives such as flyers, newsletter articles, and radio interviews of Balmitra Vimal Prasad, the protagonist of the play, the article analyzes the ways in which the sex/gender binary is reiterated within the detention cell, as well as asylum procedures. I turn to the activism around Tara’s Crossing and the present-day activism of transgender immigrants in order to show how trauma experienced by transgender detainees holds potential for creating coalitional oppositional politics. Keywords transgender, asylum, detention, sex/ gender binary, trauma, national security, coalitional activism

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