Invisible Lives is the first scholarly study of transgendered people—cross-dressers, drag queens and transsexuals—and their everyday lives.
Through combined theoretical and empirical study, Viviane K. Namaste argues that transgendered people are not so much produced by medicine or psychiatry as they are erased, or made invisible, in a variety of institutional and cultural settings. Namaste begins her work by analyzing two theoretical perspectives on transgendered people—queer theory and the social sciences—displaying how neither of these has adequately addressed the issues most relevant to sex change: everything from employment to health care to identity papers. Namaste then examines some of the rhetorical and semiotic inscriptions of transgendered figures in culture, including studies of early punk and glam rock subcultures, to illustrate how the effacement of transgendered people is organized in different cultural sites. Invisible Lives concludes with new research on some of the day-to-day concerns of transgendered people, offering case studies in violence, health care, gender identity clinics, and the law.
The perfect book to wrench an undergraduate Gender Studies student's head out of masturbatory gender theory clouds. I admire Namaste's illustration of the material realities of trans/gendered experiences. This is a necessary counterpoint - and complement - to those poststructuralists who would have us believe that "gender doesn't matter," "everyone is trans" or "gender isn't real".
I loved the shit out of this book when I first read it. I was entrenched in social sciences literature and at the time it was refreshing to read a trans academic with so much shit to talk. I read it with my partner at the time and we never really could figure out how visibility and invisibility worked for her, what it meant to "erase" trans people, really. She urges literature on trans people to actually be about their everyday lives, but how "erasure" operates on a day-to-day level isn't clear in this text.
This profound book inspired me to write a paper on trans health care. I began thinking about what changes are needed in our culture in order to support the kind of care and attention specific to trans individuals in regards to health and wellness. My studies eventually led me to complete contract at Evergreen in 2004 on FTM transsexuals.