Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law (Revised & Expanded)

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    Dean Spade

    Publisher: Duke University Press

    Year: 2015

    Format: Paperback

    Size: 240 pages

    ISBN: 9780822360407

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Wait—what's wrong with rights? It is usually assumed that trans and gender nonconforming people should follow the civil rights and "equality" strategies of lesbian and gay rights organizations by agitating for legal reforms that would ostensibly guarantee nondiscrimination and equal protection under the law. This approach assumes that the best way to address the poverty and criminalization that plague trans populations is to gain legal recognition and inclusion in the state's institutions. But is this strategy effective?

Normal Life Dean Spade presents revelatory critiques of the legal equality framework for social change, and points to examples of transformative grassroots trans activism that is raising demands that go beyond traditional civil rights reforms. Spade explodes assumptions about what legal rights can do for marginalized populations, and describes transformative resistance processes and formations that address the root causes of harm and violence.

In the new afterword to this revised and expanded edition, Spade notes the rapid mainstreaming of trans politics and finds that his predictions that gaining legal recognition will fail to benefit trans populations are coming to fruition. Spade examines recent efforts by the Obama administration and trans equality advocates to "pinkwash" state violence by articulating the US military and prison systems as sites for trans inclusion reforms. In the context of recent increased mainstream visibility of trans people and trans politics, Spade continues to advocate for the dismantling of systems of state violence that shorten the lives of trans people. Now more than ever,
Normal Life is an urgent call for justice and trans liberation, and the radical transformations it will require.


What People Are Saying


"With Normal Life, Spade has succeeded in reframing the terms of LGBT politics by building a far-reaching vision for queer and trans politics that is rooted in community work that has already begun. . . . [It] lay[s] out a road map for queer and trans activists that leads neither to the altar nor to war, but guides us to resist state power by building community and returning to our radical roots." Wendy Elisheva Somerson, Bitch

"Dean Spade’s much-anticipated book is a rich tapestry of critical inquiry, interventions into legal and transgender studies, and strategies for transformative resistance. . . . The strength of
Normal Life lies in Spade’s commitment to accessibility as a matter of political and ethical principle. This principle is evident in the way Spade skillfully articulates theoretical concepts in common parlance, enabling critical trans politics to inform political struggles beyond the academy. Moreover, his concrete discussions of administrative governance and transformative political interventions position radical change within our reach rather than demarcate it to the realm of speculative futures." Dan Irving, GLQ

Normal Life] makes an important contribution to a new and emerging critical trans politic. It is provocative, comprehensive, and engaging. It should be widely discussed as an important strategic framework for work within the LGBTQ movement." Jennifer Levi and Giovanna Shay, Women's Review of Books

"Spade's book is personal, practical, and theoretical. It lays out a framework for a critical trans politics, and gives fresh analyses of immigration, legal reform, wealth distribution, and lesbian and gay politics—all buoyantly and optimistically aimed at a repaired world." 
Kate Clinton, Progressive

"[Spade] provides an eminently teachable text for courses on power in society, social movements, and community organizing—in the university, and outside. . . .We will have to take Spade's proposals very seriously to build a movement centered on those most affected by administrative violence." 
Marcia Ochoa, Social Justice
"This street-smart and theoretically sophisticated little book should be required reading for all would-be radicals looking for practical ways to build a better future." Susan Stryker author of Transgender History
About the Author
Dean Spade is an Assistant Professor at the Seattle University School of Law. In 2002, Spade founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a nonprofit law collective that provides free legal services to transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming people who are low-income and/or people of color. For more writing by Dean Spade, see

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