Live Blog: Symposium

On Friday, March 30, 2012, the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender will present a symposium at Harvard Law School.  "Transcending Barriers: Strategies for Change in Transgender Rights" will run from noon to 5:30 PM and feature four panels.  For more information on the schedule, click here.  Below, JLG will live blog the event.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 5:42:07pm

Thanks everyone for coming! This was an excellent day. Just to clarify, unless a phrase is in quotes it is the blogger's own interpretation, thoughts, and reflections on the panelists. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 5:41:09pm

Other strategies for change:

Read "Name Calling" by Elizabeth Glazer.

Also, look to what other law schools are doing and form a coalition for change!

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 5:39:09pm

Why are trans people so threatening?

Some choose to opt out of gender, and then cannot be fit into the sexual discrimination framework. Also have to contend with the marriage movement. It is hard to get funding for economic and social justice within the trans movement.

Women's colleges: Providing a safe space for women. Do we need to change the conversation that takes place within women's colleges?

Smith College's Dean talking about the leadership opportunity for women. If the value of this education: Produce women leaders in the absence of patriarchy. What does that mean for embracing and inviting transgender people? Why wouldn't we want to admit transwomen and provide them with these same opportunities? 

How to make HLS a more welcoming place?

Collaborate with more students, reach out to groups and work together. Reach out to the alumni network – pushing them to work for change. Form alliances with other progressives and advocates.


Fri, March 30, 2012 - 5:22:53pm

I am: Transpeople Speak: Looking for people to make videos and tell stories about the real lives of transpeople.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 5:20:11pm

Video of a parent of a 15 year old transgender youth. Transgender son came out to parents by writing a letter to his parents. Mother was surprised to learn that he was transgender and immeditate response: I love my kid and I want my kid to be happy, will do whatever it takes to support him. Secondary response: Full of fear for what this might mean for my child and his chances for happiness in life. Main fear – for him to be accepted and supported in the world. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 5:16:44pm

Being an ally to Transgender people:

Focus on "need to know" versus "want to know." Remember that every transgender person is different.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 5:13:44pm


From R-to-L: Diane Rosenfeld, Stevie Tran, Elizabeth Glazer, Katherine Kraschel, Gunner Scott

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 5:11:54pm

Gunner Scott: Mass Transgender Political Coalition – have been around for 10 years – focus exclusively on trans issues. It took 5 years to pass a transgender rights bill. Also tell stories of discrimination in our community. Start a group of parents of trans children. These parents helped make policy changes because policy makers could identify with them.

Wants to note that being trans is a healthy way to be.


Transgender Youth K-12 settings rates of harassment (79%), physical assault (31%) and sexual assault (11%).

Harassment was so severe for transgender and gender non-conforming students caused them to leave school (11%).

In higher education, transgender students are denied access to gender-apporpriate housing (19%), lost campus housing (5%), lost or could not get financial aid or scholarship (11%).

[Statistics from 2009 National Transgender Discrimination Survey]


Fri, March 30, 2012 - 5:05:41pm

Once admitted, women's colleges would only be in violation of Title IX if they didn't spend the money to make accomodations. This is an untenable position. Title IX is a crutch to deflect a difficult institutional decision. 


Fri, March 30, 2012 - 5:03:55pm

Katherine Kraschel: Student note on Title IX and women's only colleges. Historically women's only colleges are refusing to admit transgender individuals. Title IX is the rationale behind this policy. Title IX is used perversely to allow for continued discrimination. Colleges argue that if they were to admit transgendered individuals they would have to provide reasonable accommodations, and these are expensive. 

Transgendered individuals face high levels of harassment while in school. Title IX should protect gender nonconforming and transgender individuals. Some district courts have found that Title IX protects victims of discrimination due to not conforming to gender stereotypes.

One argument has been raised that the affirmative action provision in Title IX allows single sex education to flourish. Katie argues that  women's institutions goals are not compromised by admitting transgendered students, while still excluding the privileged gender (straight cisgender men).


Fri, March 30, 2012 - 4:53:05pm

What about trans people that makes them so different? That should be the reason they experience discrimination? Then we can get a handle on how to fix it.

The types of people who get protected are people who have the ability to prove that they have a medical disorder. This is not about destabalizing gender. We are seeing a big disparity between the purpose of the trans movement (destabilization) and the outcomes of litigation (opposite of destabilization). Gender nonconformists are still wedded to gender – because accept that they are only two genders.

We are couching trans rights in a sex discrimination model. In order to win a sex discrimination claim you have to prove that if you were the other sex you wouldn't have been discriminated against. If you can't prove that, then you haven't proved that the reason for your discrimination is your sex.

The problem is that this doesn't do much for Marlo/Marla.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 4:46:32pm

Professor Glazer: Missing narratives of people who exist in transitional spaces who may not identify in traditional ways. That middle space is exactly what we are supposed to be trying to protect in the transgender rights movement. It is really important to focus on that middle space. Thesis of the paper: We should get away from sex. Think about what the problem is: Why is it so bad that we don't have that middle space.

20 years ago famous symposium (1993): Debate between Mary Ann Case with Janet Halley and Pat Cain. Cain writes history of litigating for LGBT rights: How do we make the right argument to hold that sodomy bans are unconstitutional (pre-Lawrence). Cain – shift from a gay rights movement that was about liberation that has become about being like straight people (homo-kinship model).  

What about gay people that was so bad that caused them to be discriminated against? Sodomy is illegal, so if you're gay, you are presumed to have engaged in sodomy. Cain argues that we should ask gay people on the stand about their sexual histories, so it is not about what we presumed you did, but conduct you actually engaged in.

Halley: If we say that people are different on the basis of sodomy, then straight people who also engage in sodomy, will be grouped together with gay people.

Case: If you highlight sodomy, you will seperate out "good" gay people (those who don't engage in sodomy) from the "bad" gay people. This isn't very helpful.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 4:38:18pm

Panel 4: Education and Schools

Moderator: Diane Rosenfeld

Panelists: Stevie Tran & Elizabeth Glazer (Hofstra School of Law); Katherine Kraschel (Harvard Law School); Gunner Scott (Mass Transgender Political Coalition)

Stevie Tran: Professor Glazer and Stevie tried to shed light on a story that is rarely heard. Came from a conversation based around my own transition. When Stevie tried to obtain hormones, was told was too ambivalent about it. Concerned with the medical approach necessary to obtain hormones – knowing what will happen 5 years down the line. 

Read the book "The Transgendered Child" which told the story of Marlo. Marlo always preferred feminine forms of expression. He was allowed more feminine forms of clothing and others were starting to perceive him as a girl. Throughout this whole process, he never felt liek a girl. He had a strong male identity but he like to express as a girl. He would correct people when they thought he was a girl, but when faced with recoil and negative reaction he stopped correcting them. At age 7 he started to present as a more stereotypical boy with short hair. He became depressed and suicidal. Marlo became Marla and now says that he always felt like a girl.

Why did Marlo/a have to choose? Why did she have to choose in the first grade to be a particular gender? Where is the transitional space for people who just want to be who they are?


Fri, March 30, 2012 - 4:16:59pm

Earlier this year, USCIS issued guidance for adjudicating LGBTI asylum claims. This is significant because it demonstrates that LGBTI are as serious as other asylum cases. There is some guidance that are transgender specific (language to use and examples of one year exceptions – if someone has recently began to transition).


Fri, March 30, 2012 - 4:14:51pm

Will a transgendered person go to a men's or a women's prison?

Sadly placements are placed based on birth sex or what an officer determines is their birth sex. Often that person will be placed based on a genital search. Then when a person doesn't feel safe, they are placed in 23 hour lockdown. Trans women are placed in general population in male prisons. Victoria has never seen a transwoman placed in general population in a female prison.

There is no one sized fits all solution, which makes it difficult to do "global advocacy work." Some people feel more comfortable in general population, some feel more comfortable in segregation.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 4:06:19pm

Question: Should we focus on individual advocacy or on systemic change?

Bottom line: We need both. Must use multiple strategies to break down this system. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 4:03:44pm

Victoria: There is no way to house transgendered people safely in a detention setting. They should be released, for example with ankle monitoring bracelets. It is so much harder for trans people to win their cases once detained. Once detained, with no counsel, but very hard to proove an asylum case.

Good news and bad news: Most of the cases we bring on behalf of transgendered people we do win. However, this is because they are facing persecution in their country and it is generally not hard to proove the horrific human rights abuses that face trans people around the world.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 3:57:08pm

Victoria Neilson: Post 9/11 – enormous rise of policing – police and immigration working hand in hand to detain people. THere have been more deportations under the Obama administration than under the Bush administration. Day to day problems in immigration detention: About 15-20% of her asylum practice is for transgendered clients. Yet 75% of detained clients are transgendered because trans people are much more likely to come in contact with the criminal justice system.

The theory of immigration detention is not punitive. The reality however, is that detention centers are run like jails, often as for-profit-prisons. Big problems include access to medical care while in immigration detention. Now, new guidelines that say that if someone was receiving hormones before they were detained, they should continue to get hormones. Even with these moderate standards that are largely unenforceable, there has been backlash (Republican hearings using rhetoric that compares detention to a holiday).


Fri, March 30, 2012 - 3:52:14pm

VIctoria Neilson: Film about a transwoman immigrant from Mexico, who faced violence in her childhood home and left Mexico for the United States partly to escape the violence. She has been incarcerated and placed in a center for men. She was then transferred to Louisiana, where she was locked up in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. She doesn't speak English and therefore couldn't access any kind of legal support or justice through the courts. She was deported to Mexico in 2006.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 3:46:46pm

Post 9/11 laws pit deserving immigrants against non-deserving immigrants puts the most vulnerable immigrants at risk: Transgender, poor immigrants of color.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 3:44:39pm

Pooja Gehi: Post 9/11 legislation have affected the poor trans community. Any time a trans person interacts with the criminal justice system, increased likelihood of deportation. This has created a profiling to deportation cycle. One way to break this cycle is to pay bail at an arraignment hearing. However, even 0 bail may be too high for low income trans people of color.


Fri, March 30, 2012 - 3:41:01pm

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 3:38:10pm

Immigration Panel

Moderator: Sabrineh Ardalan

Speakers: Pooja Gehi (Sylvia Rivera Law Project [SRLP]) & Victoria Neilson (New York University Law School)

Pooja Gehi: SRLP – Free legal services to transgendered, gender non-conforming, intersex, intersecting with poverty, low income and especially to people of color. Having a membership base made up of the clients, and operating as a collective: Very important. Making strategic choices around whether to focus on immigration equality, educational advocacy work, etc.

3 areas of focus that intersect: 

1. immigrant access program

2. Prison justice program

3. Access to healthcare

Gender identity policed in the community. This has lead to the term coined by clients: "Walking while trans." For example, transwoman holding a purse stopped and searched, upheld as a legitimate search based on "suspicious activity." 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 3:16:50pm

Dreger responds to a great comment about gender policing and social norm reinforcement in non-trans contexts (such as labiaplasty) and connections to trans medicalization and says that should be the responsibility of feminists, not the trans community, which is already a community with a lot of burdens. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 3:12:01pm

Crincoli says that answer to the recreation sports question is no sex-segregation in sports at all. Bona fide gender identity should be the governing ethic across the board. He would say only the very, very elite (Olympic, for example) levels would have gender policing – everywhere else (including NCAA sports) would not. At the youth level we force segregation often for Title IX implications – instead we should ramp up all participation. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 3:06:40pm

Dreger says physicians are finally looking at outcomes, which really matters. "Safety is one of the things finally being measured – which is the biggest issue for people who aren't privileged." Passability is all about safety for some populations.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 3:05:50pm

Crincoli also points out that treatments being "available" is not necessarily universal because we lack universal care. Dreger says she uses the term "medical refugees" (not tourists) for individuals who go outside the United States to get care. Dreger says she does worry about whether changing availability will increase coercion. Palazzolo says one 7th Circuit case by Posner (who Crincoli clerked for) discussing the cost of treatment. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 3:02:16pm

Gunner Scott in the audience argues that we should push for no genital surgery requirements for SSA and other issues. Liz Glazer in the audience points out that there is an equality question and a liberty question embedded. "Sometimes we essentialize who gets in the club." Professor Cohen takes Palazzo's case where they're trying to say surgery shouldn't be recreated. What if someone feels trans but doesn't want hormone therapy, surgery, or even wants to have gender discordant dress? 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:57:11pm

Moderator Professor Cohen asks about interventions and developments thought of progressive becoming coercive – where if you don't do them you won't get access to something. Examples include marriage and insurance, cochlear implants for the death, and surgery for trans-identifying individuals. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:54:39pm

Palazzolo says a lot of it is about connecting with individuals in the field and having them know your name. Engage with events like this in your area. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:53:46pm

Dreger: it's an overblown fear that drives the medical establishment in multiple contexts. "it's a combination of beneficence and homophobia." Some providers have an attitude that no sane person would transition medically. Dreger points out that medicine could look at levels of regret with heart surgery – the regret might be higher. This could inform how we think about regret in other contexts. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:51:58pm

Questions from the audience. Journal member Evelyn asks about the connection between narratives of medical regret in the trans community and narrative of regret related to abortion. Symposium co-chair Joanne asks Kyle how you can get access to these great cases while working at firm. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:50:43pm

A picture of the crowd here in Austin North, enjoying the event. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:49:53pm

DSC_3754 Smaller

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:48:04pm

Palazzolo discusses some of the cases he's worked on. One in Illinois involves a custody dispute where a trans parent who hadn't had gender surgery. The court decided that without surgery, the marriage was actually a same-sex marriage, and thus the custody dispute was null. Palazzolo and Jenner & Block brought a suit with the ACLU. A new law in the state instead of just requiring genital surgery specified which surgeries. They got new birth certificates for all the plaintiffs, and a state court judge let the case proceed as a class action.  

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:44:51pm

A picture of our second panel for those who couldn't make it today. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:43:56pm


Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:43:12pm

Last we have Kyle Palazzolo of Jenner & Block, one of our sponsors today. Kyle says that even from a firm you can still engage with LGBT communities. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:42:34pm

When we tell an essentialist story of who is what we limit approaches and options. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:41:27pm

Dreger reiterates her discomfort with immutable characteristics. In the history of medicine the narrative requirement has been really strict and impacts access to care. Dreger says Crincoli's discussion of recreational sports is important. In Canada, gender segregation in childhood sports is not present – "there are other models". 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:38:59pm

The real focus should be: is the patient well? When people are allowed to choose interventions for themselves, they are. Dreger says that the trans population is studied in terms of regret and held to an incredibly high standard of non-regret regarding surgery and hormone intervention. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:36:34pm

Another approach is called the accommodation approach, where you identify a transgender child early and intervene early (pre-puberty) with hormones. Dreger says this looks progressive but is actually rather conservative – it might take kids who are queer and send them down a channel to "smash them into the male-female system."

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:33:36pm

Dreger specializes in treatment of children. She is very concerned with the treatment of children who are sex atypical and gender atypical. "It's a history of coercion, frankly – of requiring those children and adults to adhere to those concepts of what it means to be a man or woman."

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:32:15pm

Some biological distinctions are widely accepted (such as age or human/non-human). However, "adherence to anatomy is getting old-fashioned" and maybe we're approaching a new question: "What does democracy look like after anatomy?"

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:29:40pm

Dreger discusses the founding era in America and analogies to anatomy – there were appeals to an anatomical commonality ("all men are created equal") and 20th-century civil rights movements pushed a similar approach. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:27:43pm

Alice Dreger, Professor of Clinical Ethics at Northwestern University's school of medicine. She's a historian of anatomy and works in history of science. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:26:01pm

What can we do? What role do attorneys and advocates have? Understand that other actors don't speak the language we do – we should reach out to make sure there's communication between law and medicine to make sure we're pushing for inclusion. It's common for us to punt to medical experts, and for them to punt to us on legal questions – it's important we educate ourselves to speak with others. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:24:03pm

Being an athlete is part of your identity – having access to sport is an important part of a person's life. In marriage, there's a relational aspect to identity. Sport and marriage/relationships can be viewed as health care – access makes people better off. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:21:24pm

Discussing the impact of medical providers. In elite performance sport we see competition-oriented treatment. In recreational sport, however, you have varied access to care or treatment, and it is usually uninvolved with athletic participation. The medical community has a gatekeeper role for the trans community, and often they view family support as key to opening that gate. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:19:16pm

Crincoli analogizes to family law and marriage – you see a similarly non-standardized system, reactive approach (waiting for a problem to happen), no clear choice of language and terminology (the opposite of the 'boiler plate' problem we see in recreational sports), and implementation by a decentralized system. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:17:42pm

Crincoli says we see a lot of "cut and paste" where the first actor creating language and terminology in a policy gets copied. Those first actors are often "experts" discussing the high-level elite. Then, in terms of implementation, you have a diffuse array of actors implementing the policies (such as volunteer coaches).  

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:16:09pm

Crincoli will focus on the impact of documentation on recreational sports (versus elite performance sports, which gets more of the media attention). How do policies get set in sports. There's no "lex sportiva" governing sports – no one system. At the same time there's a reactive vs. prospective approach to this – often we wait until someone is excluded to react. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:13:46pm

Shawn Crincoli, Professor at Touro College Fuchsberg Law Center, is up first to discuss law and medicine. He begins with looking at passports and gender reassignment on official government documents. There is a variety of treatment in this area, and language doesn't specify what should happen. Language used by lawyers and physicians and "It's the luck of the draw" regarding who you get to see. Of course, this favors sophisticated clients. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:11:38pm

Thanks for live blogging the first panel Amy (incoming co-EIC for Volume 36) – this is Kristi back again to blog our second panel, "Marriage and Health," moderated by our own faculty advisor Professor I. Glenn Cohen.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 2:02:30pm

Q: raises concerns essentialist approach and narrative of sex or sexual orientation as an immutable characteristic. Ex: changing sex on birth certification — changing it might indiciate that there is something "wrong" with someone. 

A: Jennifer Levi: courts already be moving away from requiring immutable characteristics; can still be deep and central to identity without being immutable. Activists face difficult question: "who to help first, how to help most marginalized members of community?" 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:57:42pm

Q: raises example of trans man not being allowed to answer phones on DV hotline. "It all goes back to the bathroom." Losing the voices of survivors of violence; keeping these voices out of community. But is restorative justice feasible; does it really hold people accountable?

Quince Hopkins: restorative justice may protect victims better than court process and enable them to speak; may ensure that DV is not a secret. Feels "hopeful, but with some caution" toward move toward RJ.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:54:25pm

Answer from Quince Hopkins: few people would take on social stigma of being transgendered by merely pretending to be so.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:52:12pm

Question from audience: how to respond to claim that "gender identity" category will be abused, ie: by the non-trans guy who wants to hang out in women's bathrooms?

Jennifer Levi: court's don't step into complex question of what someone's claimed religious beliefs and obligations are. In education and employment settings, it's not so difficult to assess the legitimacy of one's asserted identity — people have day-to-day contact with the person making such claim. And most employers want to avoid litigation.  

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:46:38pm

Constitutional law so far silent on what freedom of expression means within the context of gender expression — but possibilities in this realm. We are just beginning a legal revolution.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:45:47pm

When we ask "should transgender people be included in antidiscrimination laws," what broader issues are we overlooking?  

Ex: health care. Client "Beth" (pseudnym). Even though state has robust antidiscrimination law, Beth covered by ERISA and insurance that doesn't pay for sex reassignment.  Developed breasts and needed mammogram; insurance refused to cover cost because claim related to change of sex and she was in insurer's system as "male." What if her mammogram had been positive: could insurance company claim that cancer was related to change in sex?

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:42:00pm

Ultimate question: "Is El'Jai "male enough" for this job?

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:41:15pm

El'Jai's case: filed suit under NJ antidiscrim. law. Employer claimed BFOQ defense. TLDEF didn't dispute this claim.

If El'Jai can be terminated based on BFOQ defense, what does the NJ law accomplish? Is an entire class of jobs going to be unavailable to any trans person, and to an individual with few job opportunities in general?

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:38:27pm

Michael Silverman (Trans Legal Defense & Educ. Fund): Starts off with a quote: "Nothing in life is true but the rent." 

Wants to focus on a few cases to get to practical effects on law and legal chance on individiudal:

El'Jai Devoreau: current client. Is African-American, poor, transexual. Lives in NJ, which includes gender identity/expression in antidiscrimination law. Applied for work at drug treatment center, which included watching men urinate into specimen jar. After he showed up for training, managers learned of his trans status; fired him for not meeting qualifications of job. 

Case raises question: how much good can these anti-discrimination laws do? What happens once the words are on paper, and when an agency is left to interpret the language?

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:33:22pm

Community conferencing: all the "stakeholders" in the community broad in to address the problems. Empowering for victims, gives voice and control, reaches offender in more meaningful way than criminal penalties. More broadly: builds community bonds. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:31:24pm

Restorative justice as an answer? Collectively identifiying and responding to harms. Within tight-knit communities (ex: indigeonous and first nations), restorative justice has worked well — might extend to trans community. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:29:43pm

3. Violence against transgender people: relationship and acquaintance violence, including members of LGBTQI community committing violence against each other. Most violence against trans people is relationship violence, and often is violence of sexual character. Massive underreporting, among many other law enforcement problems. Fear of law enforcement and widespread discrimination within law enforcement. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:27:26pm

2. "Unreadable bodies confuse the 'orthodox.'" Confusion caused by unreadable bodies leads to exclusion: MI women's music festival. Ex: Same-sex sports. Jennifer Miller: excluded from lesbian bars because she has a beard. ENDA and question of whether to include transgender as protected category. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:24:25pm

1. Laqueur: gender pre-defines sex.  Anatomical studies show that in 1500s and 1600s, there was conception of "one" human body, not a male/female binary. One body has variations along a "heat axis." Female bodies seen as upside-down or inside-out male bodies (vaginal canal = inverted penis). [Shows early anatomic drawings.] Where people fall along heat axis is socially and politically determined: those who have power aligned with male sex. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:20:17pm

C. Quince Hopkins (Florida Coastal School of Law):  Focusing on "hidden violence." Data shows most of the violence against LGBTQ persons occurs within their own homes/families. 

Theorizing from T. Laqueur and J. Butler.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:18:27pm

Addresses problems in law and legal frameworks:

Highlights problems with statutory language. For example, definition of sexual orientation in MA: homosexuality, heterosexuality, and bisexuality, but excludes sexual attraction to children. (Message of this?)

IMportance of public statements: Cynthia Nixon ("I choose to be a lesbian") — does law need to recognize sexuality as an "immutable characteristic; Chas Bono's desire to have "genital surgery."  Jennifer: We can't pay too much attention to this — we are not a monolithic community, but need to form a strong community across the identities that we share (and those we don't share).

"Can't let legal frameworks determine of definitions of who we are."

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:11:25pm

Passage of anti-discrimination law doesn't eradicate discrimination, but does signal growth of a movement and creation of a community — making it possible to say "I am a transgendered person."

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:10:45pm

MA law defines "gender identity" as "a person's gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not [it] is  different from that traditionally associated with the person's psyiology or assigned sex at birth." 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:09:06pm

Jennifer Levi (GLAD):  Reponding to a selection from Prof. Spade's book: "we must stop understanding that what the law says is true." She would combine Spade's broader advocacy efforts with working within the law – are not in diametric opposition – can actually work together.  Can work to ensure inclusion within nondiscrimination laws while also questioning the language they use to define people and phenomena.  Notes that federal gov't (country's largest employer), and 16 states plus DC defines "sex," "gender," and "gender identity/expression" — evidence of progress. But these definitions are problematic. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 1:02:51pm

Next panel: "Evolution of Laws" with C. Quince Hopkins, Jennifer Levi, Michael Silverman, Libby Adler.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:59:11pm

Second question concerns prison reform. Prison abolitionists, Spade says, look to only system-wide reforms, and do the rest as individual advocacy to get trans people and all people out of prison. Spade recommends Angela Davis's "Are Prisons Obsolete?" – you can find it here:

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:51:32pm

We need to also re-think the time frame of social justice projects – it's not an eighteen-month (ie funding cycle) change we're looking for. The funding structure also forces everyone to say any effort is a win, not letting us really think about severe losses and learn from them. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:49:10pm

Now we move to Q&A. First question: wondering about funding for the public sector and visions for change there. Spade recommends the book "The Revolution will not be Funded" (you can find more about it here which critiques funding streams and how they shape and shift what organizations can do. It makes the focus on what's fund-able. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:47:13pm

Broader social justice politics, not equality politics is the goal. "Law reform is not the goal – we're not going to meet our needs by passing a law." 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:46:19pm

Spade isn't arguing against law reform or legal efforts – these efforts involve legislative tactics. The question is whether we can shift the efforts against "equality law" (window dressing). 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:45:31pm

Change must come from masses of people coordinating with each other. Work should be focused on building horizontal, community-driven (not funder-driven) communities, not with getting the right op-ed in the The New York Times. We should look for ways that communities are driven into harmful systems. Efforts include advocacy against building new prisons. "We also need to build the systems we want – building alternatives." How can we be safe? How do we meet each other's needs? We should look at community responses to violence which are not tied to police and prison. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:42:34pm

When we think about legal reform, "we need to ask: who are we leaving out? Will this provide actual relief or is it just window dressing to make the state look better? Will it build or expand harmful systems?" 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:41:35pm

Spade raises interesting questions for the legal services model. Now, in the mainstream legal services model, we have extremely privileged people decide which poor people should get legal support. It's very individualized. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:39:38pm

What does it look like on the ground? Vulnerable people should be first – start with people in immigration facilities, who are homeless, who are in the criminal punishment system experience rape and violence. "It's actually the reverse of what the gay and lesbian rights groups have done, which is demand access for those closest to inclusion." Now we know that trickle down idea doesn't work. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:38:04pm

Anti-immigration enforcement, demand for wealth equality and an end to poverty, and the dismantling of the criminal punishment system are some of the demands we're talking about here. "These are demands that are not winnable in American law – it's established and based in slavery, genocide and colonization, and that's what it continues to preserve, protect and promote." 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:35:23pm

Spade's book seeks to provide critical trans politics. There are two tracks here. The first focuses on marriage, military, anti-discrimination, and hate crime laws. Another path, which is strong and robust but without the same corporate funding and support  has a different framework. It says, "let's help people survive and dismantle the systems that harm us and build alternatives" instead of "asking the systems to claim us as constituents." 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:33:13pm

These laws are often embraced by those with a vested interest in the status quo.

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:32:16pm

Hate crime laws are similarly flawed – they mostly enhance penalties and surveillance systems, with the idea that prisons and police officers will protect the rights of marginalized people. Spade argues that these laws are from the perpetrator's perspective. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:30:37pm

The story that changing law will change our lives is told to all marginalized communities. Trans communities are told to follow the path of gay and lesbian rights – changing law will change people's lives. Spade's book asks if changing laws will actually meaningfully affect the lives of those facing assault, homelessness, and other issues. Yet anti-discrimination law hasn't eliminated racism. Spade argues that anti-discrimination law misunderstands how racism works – "it misses the reality that most of this racialized issues happen on the population level" – for example, the entire way that schools are funded, environmental harm is focused on certain neighborhoods. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:26:08pm

According to this narrative, supposedly there law is race-neutral, gender-neutral, and disability-neutral. "That entire story that U.S. is neutral can't say what's deep and underlying – that it's based on genocide of indigenous people." In an apparently post-civil rights era, "we're told that the government is our protector through the legal system." 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:23:51pm

Systems of criminalization are organized to enforce racialized gender norms – "what it is to comply in these systems is to comply with gender norms," often enforced by violence. This is particularly prominent in the criminal punishment system. "The story in the US is if you face marginlization is: you should seek to change the law. That's a huge narrative in the U.S." Spade argues that this is a particularly anti-black narrative when the narrative says racism is over now that equality is declared by law. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:21:44pm

When SRLP meets clients, often they've been denied legal services elsewhere – services that are nominally available to low-income people are not meaningfully accessible to trans and gender non-conforming individuals, either by lawyer uncomfortability or other factors. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:18:56pm

Dean founded Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which serves low-income trans, intersex, and gender non-conforming people of color. To learn more about it, you can click here:

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:18:08pm

Ryan Blodgett, my co-EIC, introduces Professor Spade, who just published a book called Normal Life (reviewed on JLG's website by Alex St. Pierre). 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:09:34pm

This is Kristi Jobson, the co-editor-in-chief of Volume 35 of the Journal of Law & Gender. I will be live blogging our keynote by Dean Spade just as soon as everyone is settled and having lunch. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 12:08:49pm

We're awaiting the start of the symposium and everyone is getting lunch. Approximately eighty people are here in Austin North. 

Fri, March 30, 2012 - 10:59:46am



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