Dean Spade delivers his talk, "Critical Trans Politics, Violence, and Law," to a huge crowd in Bodek Lounge

February 19, 2013

January 31st, Dean Spade gave a lecture to a standing-room only crowd of over 200 people in Bodek Lounge, Houston Hall on “Critical
Trans Politics, Violence, and Law”. 
Dean Spade is Associate Professor of Law at Seattle
University School of Law. Spade has taught classes on sexual orientation,
gender identity, poverty and law at the City University of New York (CUNY),
Seattle University, Columbia University, and Harvard University. In 2002 he
founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a collective that provides free legal
services and works to build trans resistance rooted in racial and economic
justice. Spade is the author of Normal
Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law

(South End Press, 2011). 

his presentation at Penn, Spade brought to light issues of using the legal
system as a catalyst for social change. 
While many people who have not been involved in grassroots activism
believe legal action is the best way to remedy social injustice, Spade argues
that we must be critical of formal state bodies and the legal system since they
in fact hinder social progress and
equality.  The very institutions that
claim to serve or liberate those who face the most injustice in reality only
perpetuate those injustices.  As Spade
claims, legal “reforms” are only “new window dressings” for the same broken and
ineffective systems.  People who are
rendered the most vulnerable through systematic and institutionalized
discrimination have been forced to become skeptical of those state bodies that
beat, kill, surveil, sexually assault, and incarcerate them in order to
"protect" and "serve" their communities.  Instead of legal action, Mr. Spade argues
that we must engage in grassroots activism to help the trans, gender-queer,
intersex, and gender non-conforming communities gain equality.  While it may be “easy” to compare the trans
political movement to the women’s movement, black civil rights movement, or
even the marriage equality movement, each are in fact unique and face their own
challenges.  However, all movements share
the commonality that judicial action alone will not bring about the change we
need.  We must take action to dismantle
the current ineffective system and build an alternative, horizontal (rather
than hierarchical) system in order to truly achieve justice and equality for
those who face discrimination.  At the
end of his presentation, Dean Spade shared an uplifting video he is in the
process of finalizing and this video showcases the alternative action that
people involved in critical trans politics are engaging in to combat oppression
and discrimination.

Written by: Sheila Shankar, GSWS Media Outreach Coordinator