Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law by Dean Spade was first published in 2011 by South End Press. A second edition with new material was published in 2015 by Duke University Press.
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?
In 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.
Reviews of Normal Life
- Deliberate Breaks: Evoking Trans Imagination for Just Futures Now, by Dan Irving, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Volume 19, Number 4, 2013.
- Review, by Rachel Levitt, QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, Inaugural Issue, Fall 2013.
- Impossible People, Queer Futures: Dean Spade and Critical Trans Politics, by Charles J. Gordon, Postmodern Culture, 22: 3, 2012.
- Queering the Carceral: Intersecting Queer/Trans Studies and Critical Prison Studies, by Elias Walker Vitulli, GLQ, 19;1, 2012.
- Active Duty: Two Books New Books Explore Activism and Anti-Assimilation, by Wendy Elisheva Somerson, Bitch Magazine, Summer 2012.
- What’s Wrong with Rights? Dean Spade Addresses the Problem in Normal Life, by Emerson Whitney, Huffington Post, March 28, 2012.
- Normal Life: A Review, Stephen Ira, Original Plumbing, January 2012.
- Review by Z. Nicolazzo, InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, 8(1), 2012.
- The Dangers of Reform, Jennifer Levi and Giovanna Shay, Women’s Review of Books, July/August 2012.
- Review by Marcia Ochoa, Social Justice, Vol. 37, No. 4.
- Review, Lies: A Journal of Materialist Feminism, Volume 1, 2012, (page 247).
- Review by Martin Quinones, Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law and Justice, June 2012.
- Review by Alexandra St. Pierre, Harvard Journal of Law and Gender, Summer 2012.
- Favorite Books of 2012, Kate Clinton, The Progressive, December 2012/January 2013.
- Review by Ro Velasquez Guzman, Shameless, Issue 22, 2013.