In the four years since I wrote Normal Life, the mainstreaming of trans
politics has proceeded more rapidly than I could have imagined. A very
par tic u lar image of transgender people and what we care about is surfac-
ing within contemporary US politics, an image that is seamlessly aligned
with the promilitary, probusiness, and procriminalization values that
currently dominate media and policy discourse. In the first edition of
Normal Life, I argued that a trans rights politics focused on inclusion
in and recognition by the controlling interests and institutions of US law
and culture— the military, the criminal punishment system, the legally
sanctioned family structure, the corporate media, and business— would
actually be bad for trans people’s well- being. The past few years have seen
this mainstreamable trans politics emerge.
The concerns about inclusion I described in the first edition can be
difficult to digest. The belief that marginalized and hated populations
can find freedom by being recognized by law, allowed to serve in the
military, allowed to marry, and protected by anti-discrimination law and
hate crime statutes is a central narrative of the United States. Politicians,
primary school textbooks, and the corporate media tell the story that the
United States left ugly histories of white supremacy behind through a
civil rights movement that changed hearts, minds, and especially laws
to eradicate racism and bring freedom to all. This simplified narrative is
relentlessly reiterated in US culture and has played a starring role in the
past four de cades of lesbian and gay rights advocacy where the analogy
to the Black civil rights movement has been a consistent rhetorical tool.1
I argue that social movements must abandon the widely held belief that
oppressed people can be freed by legal recognition and inclusion if we
are to truly address and transform the conditions of premature death fac-
ing impoverished and criminalized populations in this period.
Previous Page Next Page