dean spade

vimeo

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.

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!

CLICK THIS LINK FOR LOTS OF RESOURCES ON WHY “MARRIAGE EQUALITY” IS THE WRONG GOAL

(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.

What I hope that love is—whether platonic, romantic, familial, or communal—is the sincere wish that another person have what they need to be whole and develop themselves to their best capacity for joy or whatever fulfillment they’re seeking.
— 

Dean Spade

via Make zine

Civil marriage is a tool of social control used by governments to regulate sexuality and family formation by establishing a favored form and rewarding it (in the U.S., for example, with over one thousand benefits). While marriage is being rewarded, other ways of organizing family, relationships and sexual behavior do not receive these benefits and are stigmatized and criminalized. In short, people are punished or rewarded based on whether or not they marry. The idea that same-sex marriage advocacy is a fight for the “freedom to marry” or “equality” is absurd since the existence of legal marriage is a form of coercive regulation in which achieving or not achieving marital status is linked to accessing vital life resources like health care and paths to legalized immigration. There is nothing freeing nor equalizing about such a system.
—  Dean Spade & Craig Willse, “Marriage Will Never Set Us Free”
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!

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.
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.

I do not have a prescription for successful relationships, and I don’t think anyone should. The goal of most of my work is to remove coercive mechanisms that force people to comply with heteronormative gender and family norms. People often get confused and think that me and other trans activists are trying to erase gender and make everyone be androgynous. In fact, that sounds a little boring to me. What want to see is a world in which people do not have to be criminalized, or cast out of their family, or cut off welfare, or sexually harassed at school, or subjected to involuntary mental health care, or prevented from getting housing because they organize their gender, desire, or family structure in a way that offends a norm. I hope we can build that vision by practicing it in our own queer and activist communities and in our approaches to ourselves. Let’s be gentle with ourselves and each other and fierce as we fight oppression.
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!

vimeo

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.

Scholars and activists have critiqued […] the assumption that law is a neutral set of universal principles analogous to scientific laws. The alternative account points out that the founding of the United States and the establishment of a system of participatory democracy raised great anxieties among the wealthy colonial elite authoring its legal structure. They identified a need to prevent the potential redistribution of wealth that might be demanded by less wealthy white men who were newly entitled to political representation. For this reason, the key rights protected by the new legal system were property rights (Mensch 1982). Important critiques of this system emerged in the 1920s when a group of theorists known as the legal realists suggested that an awareness of social conditions should inform purportedly neutral legal reasoning. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes argued that the legal system used the pretense of neutral principles to promote laissez-faire economic theory for the benefit of those groups with the most economic and social power. He noted that judicial decisions striking down laws passed to protect workers in the name of enforcing the liberty of contract in theory, as in the famous case Lochner v. New York (198 U.S. 45 (1905)), ignored the reality of the contexts in which workers contract with employers and cast as neutral conditions that actual benefited wealthy people and perpetuated the exploitation of everyone else (G. White 1986).

The realists were neither the first nor the last to argue that U.S. law was founded to protect and preserve the concentration of wealthy and property. The critical legal studies movement that emerged in the 1970s, the critical race theory movement of the 1980s, and the various social movements that engage with the law (including indigenous mobilizations, antiracist movements, and various strains of feminism) all have contributed to an analysis of the U.S. system of property law as securing racialized and gendered property statuses from the start. The legal rules governing indigenous and enslaved peoples articulated their subjection through the imposition of violent gender norms, such as the enforcement of natal alienation among slaves and European binary gender categories and gendered legal statuses among Indigenous people (C. Harris 1993; Andrea Smith 2005; Roberts 1993). The statuses and norms established by these systems were (and are) racializing and gendering at the same time. They do not create rules for all women or all men or all white people or all native people or all black people; instead, they reproduce intersectional social hierarchies by inscribing within the law specific subject positions that are simultaneously racialized and gendered.

Dean Spade, “Law,” Keywords for American Cultural Studies, Second Edition (ed. Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler), pg.150