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  • Changing Transgender Politics
  • Amy L. Stone, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology
Transgender Rights Paisley Currah, Richard M. Juang, and Shannon Price Minter, eds. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006. xxiv + 368 pp.

Transgender rights have made considerable progress in the last decade, a progress reflected in the carefully edited anthology Transgender Rights, which both documents these changes and suggests strategies for further success. The editors' selection of articles reflects their understanding of the complexity of transgender issues through their combined long history of involvement in the transgender community. Paisley Currah, Richard M. Juang, and Shannon Price Minter intentionally include articles from academics and activists, creating a synthesis that is simultaneously intellectual and practical. In the introduction, the editors describe transgender as an "expansive and complicated social category" (xv), acknowledging the complexities within the transgender community throughout the anthology. Their understanding of the necessity and limitations of legal transgender rights is reflected both in their introduction and in the organization of articles into three sections, the first on law, the next on history, and the last on politics of transgender rights.

The first and largest section is written primarily by lawyers with extensive experience in transgender law and litigation. This section focuses on questions about how to pursue legal transgender coverage most effectively and the potential legal intersections between transgender and intersex issues. As a contrast to the celebration of transgender employment protections by Kylar W. Broadus, a chapter by Taylor Flynn criticizes the impact of current legal decisions on the disruption of transgender families. Flynn documents how judges use a "body-parts checklist" (37) to determine what sex transsexuals are, using these decisions to invalidate marriages and make transgender parents "legal strangers" to their own children (32). Chapters by Currah and coauthors Jennifer L. Levi and Bennett H. Klein suggest new legal strategies to obtain transgender rights. Currah reaffirms the complexity of transgender expression by arguing against the legislation of immutable [End Page 592] identities and characteristics. Instead, Currah advocates for the legislation of activities and expression in order to obtain best coverage of existing gender pluralisms. Levi and Klein suggest a dramatically different strategy, the controversial use of existing disability legislation to pursue transgender rights. Additional chapters within this extensive law section interrogate the consequences of legislation such as the Defense of Marriage Act and recent international judicial decisions on intersex rights. Although the editors' introduction contextualizes the ambiguous and debatable intersections between intersex and transgender rights, these three chapters are the least integrated within the anthology.

The second section explores the history of the transgender community and its connections with the larger GLBT community. Dallas Denny's brief historical account of the transgender community provides a background for the more detailed and analytic chapters by Minter and Willy Wilkinson. Minter's chapter on the intersection of transgender and lesbian/gay politics is a much-needed empirical contribution to the study of GLBT politics that surpasses previous personal accounts. Within this historical account is a plan for political action, as "clinging to a narrow and exclusive conception of gay identity has not only marginalized transgender and gender-variant gay people, it also has exacerbated divisions based on race and class" (159). Wilkinson proposes a model of political action in correspondence with Minter's vision in his account of grassroots public health research and services targeting the transgender community in San Francisco. Wilkinson's account of successful and collaborative public health work within the transgender community will be of interest to public health scholars and transgender activists alike.

The final section is the most theoretical portion of this anthology, as it interrogates questions of citizenship, autonomy, and recognition for transgender rights. Chapters by Dean Spade on gendered compliance and Juang on the politics of transgender recognition are noteworthy in their articulation of the political intersections between race, class, and gender. Spade argues that the transgender movement must have at its foundation anticapitalist ideologies, noting the capitalist regimes that regulate the impoverished and restrict access to social services for transgenders. This chapter is a much-needed theoretical contribution to the existing literature on both capitalism and transgender rights. Judith Butler's lucid piece on autonomy and transgender rights examines the...


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pp. 592-594
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