I really wanted to be able to give this book five stars, because this is an extremely important subject that receives far to little attention. I'm giv...moreI really wanted to be able to give this book five stars, because this is an extremely important subject that receives far to little attention. I'm giving it three stars, because I believe it doesn't competently handle the systematic criminalization of trans women.
The books analysis of the "T" in the criminalization of LGBT people was sadly disappointing. A significant source of the problem with how the criminalization of trans women is handled relates to the "queer" analytical lens that erases differences between queer sexuality, gender nonconformity and trans issues by treating all LGBT people the same. Trans people's lived experiences tend to get erased and marginalized by queer analysis, which relates to sexuality as opposed to being trans. What the book ends up doing is systematically confusing being trans with being gay.
This is further made problematic by using "gender nonconforming" as a synonym for trans. Unfortunately, the gender nonconformity of gay men and (butch) lesbians is discussed without making clear distinctions between trans and gender nonconforming people. In fact, the two are simply conflated with the authors easily going between them as if they are the same thing. What this ends up doing is inappropriately framing trans women as really gender nonconforming gay men. (Also, by referring to cis women as simply "women" and trans women as "transgender women" the book also normalized cis women while othering trans women.)
Thus the book reinforces a sort of flat, one dimensional line of trans people as uber-gays at the extreme fringes of homosexuality and gender nonconformity. But the issues trans women experience are not reducable to the simplistic "transgression" of heteronormative gender stereotypes. For instance, it's absurd to use gender nonconformity or transgression as the basis of the argument against housing trans women in male prisons. Similarly, trans women aren't denied access to women's shelters, which would provide alternatives to living on the street and reduce our chances of being picked up by the police for "quality of life" offenses, because we are somehow gender nonconforming. These issues, like other trans specific issues, have to do with the systematic assigning and regulation of "sex" designations by the state, which is uniquely an issue concerning the oppressive dominance of cis people (and not simply the gender binary) as the standard by which trans people's lives are controlled. That is, systematic cis supremacy and institutional cissexism means cis people can and will refuse to recognize us as women.
This is exactly why one can't discuss trans oppression (including criminalization) without discussing cissexism, cis privilege and cis supremacy. As long as cis authors, and it doesn't matter how queer they are, refuse to interrogate their own cisness they shouldn't attempt to speak as authorities on trans women's experiences. (less)