On the Limitations of Legal Reform

Spade asks that we rethink equality. As the Assistant Professor of Law at Seattle University, he’s the first openly trans tenure-track law professor in the U.S. (or at least the first that he knows of), but he envisions a movement that de-emphasizes lawsuits, the go-to weapon of American political struggles. Legislation, Spade says, can bring change, but it usually just invites more people into the privileged circle within an unjust system. Violence continues for those, like gender nonconformists, not fully accepted as citizens. Likewise, Spade interrogates the current nonprofit model, one that he argues often adopts and maintains capitalist rules, values and hierarchies.

It’s a book that tries to describe what a critical trans politics looks like. We’re in this moment where there’s this gay and lesbian politics that’s really lacking in its racial and economic justice analysis and overly relies on legal reform for its strategy and doesn’t really look at people in dire need today. So this book says, okay, we have the option to focus on hate crime laws and other legal reforms or we can reframe what trans politics is and center economic and racial justice. We can realize that changing the law doesn’t change people’s lives and have an understanding of the limitations of the nonprofit form, the ways in which concentrating leadership in professionals and having nondemocratic models for organizations and movements harms and undermines the transformative change we are seeking. The book lays out those frameworks that I call a critical trans politics.

Trans-formative Change.

Something I feel my thesis might be thought of as susceptible to, but that attempts to solve.


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