dean spade


Sylvia Rivera, Dean Spade & Tim Eubanks talk about queer assimilation, capitalism & resistance strategies needing to center queer & trans people of color and low income queer & trans people.

from the film Market This, a Paper Tiger Television Production and made by Kate Huh, Sarit Michaeli & Tara Mateik. Market This! documents the 1999 Queeruption gathering in NYC in response to increasing assimilation of queer people in capitalist culture as well as the shows the growing edges of organizing done without centering low income people, trans people, and people of color.

Thanks to Kate Huh for sending MARKET THIS my way.


#SPN 10 countdown challenge  |  day 19 - episode 19, season 4
Dad didn’t have a choice with us, okay? But with Adam, he did.

Trans people are told by the law, state agencies, private discriminators, and our families that we are impossible people who cannot exist, cannot be seen, cannot be classified, and cannot fit anywhere. We are told by the better-funded lesbian and gay rights groups, as they continually leave us aside, that we are not politically viable our lives are not a political possibility that can be conceived. Inside this impossibility, I argue, lies our specific political potential—a potential to formulate demands and strategies to meet those demands that exceed the containment of neoliberal politics. A critical trans politics is emerging that refuses empty promises of “equal opportunity” and “safety” underwritten by settler colonialism, racist, sexist, classist, ableist, and xenophobic imprisonment, and ever-growing wealth disparity. This politics aims to center the concerns and leadership of the most vulnerable to build transformative change through mobilization. It is reconceptualizing the role of law reform in social movements, acknowledging that legal equality demands are a feature of systemic injustice, not a remedy. It is confronting the harms that come to trans people at the hands of violent systems structured through law itself—not by demanding recognition and inclusion in those systems, but by working to dismantle them while simultaneously supporting those most exposed to their harms.

Dean Spade, Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law, p 41

I mean, basically, yeah.

The fundamental message of hate crime legislation is that if we lock more bad people up, we will be safer. Everything about our current law enforcement systems indicates that this is a false promise, and it’s a false promise that targets people of colour and poor people for caging and death while delivering large profits to white elites. Many might hope that queer and trans people would be unlikely to fall for this trick, since we have deep community histories and contemporary realities of experiencing police violence and violence in prisons and jails, and we know something about not trusting the cops. However, this is same ongoing experience of marginalisation makes some of us deeply crave recognition from systems and people we see as powerful or important.

Dean Spade - Their Laws Will Never Make Us Safer: an introduction to AGAINST EQUALITY: Prisons Will Not Protect You edited by Ryan Conrad

available in Spanish here.

The simplistic formula that claims “you’re either pro-marriage or against equality” makes us forget that all forms of marriage perpetuate gender, racial and economic inequality. It mistakenly assumes that support for marriage is the only good measure of support for LGBT communities. This political moment calls for anti-homophobic politics that centralize anti-racism and anti-poverty. Marriage is a coercive state structure that perpetuates racism and sexism through forced gender and family norms. Right wing pro-marriage rhetoric has targeted families of color and poor families, supported a violent welfare and child protection system, vilified single parents and women, and marginalized queer families of all kinds. Expanding marriage to include a narrow band of same-sex couples only strengthens that system of marginalization and supports the idea that the state should pick which types of families to reward and recognize and which to punish

no to state regulation of families!


(re: people freakin about Obama)

Sometimes while I ride the subway I try to look at each person and imagine what they look like to someone who is totally in love with them. I think everyone has had someone look at them that way, whether it was a lover, or a parent, or a friend, whether they know it or not. It’s a wonderful thing, to look at someone to whom I would never be attracted and think about what looking at them feels like to someone who is devouring every part of their image, who has invisible strings that are connected to this person tied to every part of their body. I think this fun pastime is a way of cultivating compassion. It feels good to think about people that way, and to use that part of my mind that I think is traditionally reserved for a tiny portion of people I’ll meet in my life to appreciate the general public. I wish I thought about people like this more often. I think it’s the opposite of what our culture teaches us to do. We prefer to pick people apart to find their flaws. Cultivating these feelings of love or appreciation for random people, and even for people I don’t like, makes me a more forgiving and appreciative person toward myself and people I love. Also, it’s just a really excellent pastime.

Dean Spade, “For Lovers and Fighters” (see here)

I myself don’t tend to lean towards the poly side of things, but this section of the essay was just too gorgeous a sentiment not to quote.

Capitalism is fundamentally invested in notions of scarcity, encouraging people to feel that we never have enough so that we will act out of greed and hording and focus on accumulation. Indeed, the romance myth is focused on scarcity: There is only one person out there for you!!! You need to find someone to marry before you get too old!!!! The sexual exclusivity rule is focused on scarcity, too: Each person only has a certain amount of attention or attraction or love or interest, and if any of it goes to someone besides their partner their partner must lose out. We don’t generally apply this rule to other relationships—we don’t assume that having two kids means loving the first one less or not at all, or having more than one friend means being a bad or fake or less interested friend to our other friends. We apply this particular understanding of scarcity to romance and love, and most of us internalize that feeling of scarcity pretty deeply…
We are interested in resisting the heteronormative family structure in which people are expected to form a dyad, marry, have kids, and get all their needs met within that family structure. A lot of us see that as unhealthy, as a new technology of post-industrial late capitalism that is connected to alienating people from community and training them to think in terms of individuality, to value the smaller unit of the nuclear family rather than the extended family.

Dean Spade,  For Lovers and Fighters

How perfect is this ugh, I love him.

Could the veterans of the Stonewall and Compton’s Cafeteria uprising against police violence have guessed that a few decades later LGBT law reformers would be supporting the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a law that provides millions of dollars to enhance police and prosecutorial resources? Could they have imagined the police would be claimed as protectors of queer and trans people against violence, while imprisonment and police brutality were skyrocketing?
—  Dean Spade, Normal Life, p. 89
This makes me think about how some men’s jackets are really beautiful on the inside with colorful linings in less traditionally masculine hues than what the outside of the jacket suggests. I like the idea of secret pleasures inside clothes, especially for when we’re going under cover at our jobs or in other hostile environments. It also makes me think about people wearing undergarments that are differently gendered than what their external clothing indicates they might be wearing. I like to think about people cultivating their own secret expressive pleasures in those ways. It seems like a healing response to coercion.
Because I spend so much time now in a very professional, gender normative work environment, I have to remind myself that I love weird people, I am weird, I want to be weird, and being normal is truly horrifying. I’m thinking of that experience of seeing someone on the street or on the bus who is working some kind of weird, non-normative look and feeling some delight and relief, like the person’s existence is making space for you.

Dean Spade in q&a with Queer Couture 

aaaaaaaaaaaah yes! this this this this!


CeCe McDonald, Reina Gossett, and Dean Spade: Prisons Aren’t Safe for Anybody

In 2011, CeCe McDonald and her friends were attacked by a group of white people shouting racist and transphobic slurs. When CeCe stabbed one of their attackers in self defense, she was arrested and imprisoned for 19 months. During that time, CeCe’s evocative and thoughtful writing inspired an international community of activists to support the campaign to Free CeCe and to advance the broader movement for prison abolition. In February 2014, one month after her release from prison, CeCe joined prison abolition activists Reina Gossett and Dean Spade in a conversation about her own experiences surviving trauma and impossible situations, and the importance of love and collective organizing for people facing systems of violence.

This video is part of the series No One is Disposable, which features conversations on trans activism and prison abolition with BCRW activist fellow Reina Gossett.

The term “administrative violence” draws attention to the ways in which systems that organize our lives in seemingly ordinary ways – determining what ID we carry, what government records exist about us, how roads or schools or garbage pick-up are organized – produce and distribute life chances based on violent forms of categorization. The entire framework of US administrative law is that we have agencies – whether it’s the Department of Homeland Security or the Food and Drug Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency or the Bureau of Indian Affairs – run by experts. These experts invent and deploy categories that manage and sort people, substances, buildings, curricula, human capacities, diseases, financial instruments, streets, soils, vehicles, and more. These administrators need not be elected; the basis of their authority, and thus the authority of the administrative system, is neutral expertise. Critical movements have questioned the neutrality of those ways of knowing and the categories they produce, identifying white supremacist, ableist, colonial, and patriarchal norms.

I’ve been disturbed to see dynamics emerge where people create the new poly norm and then hate themselves if they cannot live up to it. If they are not perfect at being non-jealous, non-threatened, and totally delighted by their partners’ exploits immediately then they have somehow failed. I have felt this way myself. Frustrated at how my intellect can embrace this approach to sex and yet my emotional reaction is sometimes enormous and undeniably negative. At times, this has become a new unachievable perfection I use to torture myself, embarrassed even to admit to friends how awful I feel when overcome by jealousy, and becoming increasingly distant from partners as I try to hide these shameful and overwhelming feelings.

This doesn’t seem like the radical and revolutionary practice I had hoped for. In fact, it feels all too familiar, like the other traumas of growing up under capitalism—alienation from myself and others, constant insecurity and distrust and fear, self-hatred and doubt and inadequacy. I do not have a resolution for this dilemma. I only have hopes, for myself and others, and lots of questions. How do I recognize the inadequacy of the romance myth while acknowledging its deep roots in my emotional life? How do I balance my intellectual understandings with my deep-seated emotional habits/expectations? It seems like the best answer to all of this is to move forward as we do in the rest of our activism, carefully and slowly, based on our clearest principles, with trust and a willingness to make mistakes. The difficulty of having open relationships should not be a reason not to try it, but it should be a reason not to create new punishing norms in our communities or in our own minds. We’ve done difficult things before. We struggle with internalized oppressions, we chose to live our lives in ways that our families often tell us are impossible, idealistic or dangerous, and we get joy from creatively resisting the limits of our culture and political system that are both external and part of our own minds.


Dean Spade  

“For Lovers and Fighters”

OP #11 - The Hero Issue - Featuring Lou Sullivan available April 30th. Pre-order available.

Honoring a number of trailblazers who set a precedent for what trans communities are built upon and those who continue to create change today, this issue of Original Plumbing includes a special section celebrating the life of Lou Sullivan and his FTM International newsletter. 

This 90-page issue also includes an artist portfolio on Del LaGrace Volcano, words of wisdom from Auntie Kate Bornstein, writing by Dean Spade and features on Kylar BroadusJamison GreenImani HenryGunner ScottChristopher Lee, Janet Mock, Tyler FongJed BellRupert Raj. With contributors Sean DorseyCatherine OpieStephen IraAlexander RoseJames DarlingShawna ViragoOliver BendorfJosh Klipp andJason Cromwell.

(Cover photo of Lou courtesy of the SF GLBT Historical Society)

One of my goals in thinking about redefining the way we view relationships is to try to treat the people I date more like I treat my friends—try to be respectful and thoughtful and hav boundaries and reasonable expectations—and to try to treat my friends more like my dates—to give them special attention, honor my commitments to them, be consistent, and invest deeply in our futures together. In the queer communities I’m in valuing friendship is a really big deal, often coming out of the fact that lots of us don’t have family support, and build deep supportive structures with other queers. We are interested in resisting the heteronormative family structure in which people are expected to form a dyad, marry, have kids, and get all their needs met within that family structure.

Dean Spade - For Lovers and Fighters

There are so many great thoughts in this piece. You should check it out if you’ve got a few minutes to spare.

We don't need no trans cops rolling down the worlds blocks

Lets Make the Violence Stop!

I usually don’t read comments on buzzfeed but my friend Dean’s interview was on it and I wanted to check out the brilliant insights he’s interview inspired.  Here’s some of my thoughts about the push back the interview got.

When a handful of white trans women with access to billions of dollars try to make trans ppl -who’ll be POC & poor- weapons of war I realize anything possible.

Except for these white trans women to realize that actually the most pressing needs for our community is getting *out* of deadly institutions like prisons, police, jail, detention centers, bad homeless shelters, forced hospitalizations, as well as access to healthcare, meaningful employment, homes.

Trans people, and I’m talking about my sisters and siblings, are already in extremely dangerous job situations why on earth would we need another one? Why on earth would we want to join the forces of colonialism and conquest at home and abroad?

As Kenyon said in his 2011 huffpost piece  A Military Job Is Not Economic Justice

Yes, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a victory – of sorts – significant when it comes to moving towards eliminating discrimination and advancing equality for LGBT individuals. But military service is not economic justice, and it is immoral that the military is the nation’s de facto jobs program for young, poor, Black and working-class people.

Even while we may applaud the repeal of a discriminatory policy, we have to be clear: militarism and war profiteering do not serve the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people, or poor people, or people of color…

Furthermore there are poor people as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people beyond U.S. shores, who have been killed, traumatized, or disabled as a direct result of recent US-led wars or who have become vulnerable targets to backlashes to US policies and actions.

Yes “our gays” should have the “right” to serve openly in the military rather than labor under discriminatory rules – but we stand in solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the globe. We do not condone violence against them or their home countries. We support real economic justice.

I don’t want to be a force of military violence against other poor people of color who are trans, I want liberation. So I say no to this outrageous campaign and I hope you’ll join me in the movement for a trans liberation that is inextricably linked to ending all other forms of oppression!


Dean Spade: History of Queers Against Police

Dean Spade talks about the dramatic shifts in queer and trans movements over the last 50 years with the emergence in the 1990s of a highly visible and well-funded gay rights movement whose demand for inclusion in hate crime legislation and police protection goes against queer and trans community-based grassroots organizing to end police and state violence since the 1960s.

BCRW and The Engaging Tradition Project co-convened a conference called Queer Dreams and Non-Profit Blues to examine the critiques emerging from queer and feminist activists and scholars about the impact of funding on social movement agendas and formations. During the conference, Hope Dector from BCRW and Dean Spade from The Engaging Tradition Project conducted interviews with many of the speakers about their analysis and strategies related to the conference themes. These interviews were edited into 30 short videos that aim to bring these critical perspectives into an accessible format for use in activist spaces and classrooms. These videos highlight the type of knowledge production that is possible when the boundaries between activism and the academy are actively traversed.