This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.
This essay addresses the emergence of an expanding post 9/11 surveillance apparatus in the US, and analyzes its impact on transgendered citizens. In particular, I examine the "Real ID Act", a law that reconfigures standards for identification documents, establishes the collection and maintenance of a new national database used to scrutinize and limit travel both within and across US borders. These new measures not only unfairly and indiscriminately target transgender populations, but create new categories of suspicion that have little to do with "terrorism." Drawing on extensive fieldwork, literature and websites from transgender organizations, this paper documents and analyzes the strategies and tactics engaged in by mainstream Transgender advocacy organizations, against websites from organizations that explicitly address gender non-conformity within racial and class formations. My argument is three fold: I maintain that nationalism and citizenship have been silent organizing principles defining the mainstream transgender movement; Secondly, notions of nation and citizen assume a specific racialized and classed subject (that is, a transgendered subject that is both white and at least middle class); and finally, these principles and their assumptions constrain the range of transgender resistance, and protect only a very narrow, mainstream trans populations.
Against the backdrop of the threat of global terrorism or the global economic crisis, and the hysteria around both phenomena, it is easy to surmise that the problems of transgendered people are not a priority in relation to either national safety or economic security. Perhaps, in times such as these , scholars might be tempted to turn their attention away from what some consider "marginal" interests for the greater good. Yet it is times such as these that sex and gender as Gayle Rubin reminds us "acquire immense symbolic weightâ€¦become vehicles for displacing social anxieties, and discharging their attendant emotional intensity" (Rubin: 1984, 277). Rather than ignoring or delaying a careful analysis of sex and gender in times of social stress, these become central sites for understanding culture.
It may seem, at first glance that the emergence of global terrorism and gender non-conformity have little to do with one another. This presentation briefly lays out the emergence of expanding post 9/11 surveillance apparatus in the US, and analyzes its impact on transgendered citizens. In particular, I briefly examine the "Real ID Act", a law that reconfigures standards for identification documents, establishes the collection and maintenance of a new national database used to scrutinize and limit the movement of bodies both within and across US borders. It effectively inscribes which bodies are allowed to cross borders. The REAL ID Act is a U.S. federal law (passed in 2005) that requires the implementation of specific security, verification, and issuance procedures for most of the state documents, including driver's licenses and identification (ID) cards, in order for them to be deamed acceptable by the federal government for boarding commercially operated airline flights and entering federal buildings and nuclear power plants. These new measures have implications beyond travel and entrance into secure sites, including access to employment, as well as social services, and access to healthcare, depending on the direction that new healthcare reform measures take. The Real ID act not only creates new categories of suspicion, but unfairly target transgender populations that have little to do with "terrorism." Transgender people become ensnared in this surveillance apparatus when gender identification on state documents and ID cards do not match a person's gender presentation, or gender designations on different documents do not match each other. But my focus for the purposes of this chapter, is to compare two major websites of mainstream transgender advocacy organizations, specifically The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) with two websites from organizations that advocate for gender variant people of color, for example the Audre Lorde Project (ALP) and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), and their response to this new surveillance.
This work arises out of a cultural studies tradition that attempts to question the order of things, considering how and why the social world has come to be, and seen as natural and self-evident. How are gender non-conforming bodies embedded in complex economic, social and cultural relations, and how might these be changed? I attempt to locate gender non-conformity in a contemporary history and political economy of visibility. Visibility and concealment are not permanently attached to identities, and one of the central contentions of this chapter is that, because of shifts in economic conditions, movements of global capital as well as political and cultural ruptures, the relations of visibility in circulations around gender non-conformity have shifted significantly.
Roderick Ferguson's queer of color critique provides the analytic frame for this presentation. His mode of analysis is intersectional in that it explores the complexities of individual and group identities, but unveils the ways interconnected domains of power organize and structure inequality and oppression. His project is to articulate "how intersecting racial, gender, and sexual practices antagonize and/or conspire with the normative investments of nation-states and capital" (Ferguson, 2003, p. 4). In this chapter, I focus on the effects of normative demands and how they influence transgender political resistance. By normative demands, I refer to the ways that organizations appeal to mainstream or dominant values of patriotism, heteronormativety, whiteness, middle class values, keeping in mind the Foucaultian axiom to pay attention to the ways in which these normative discourses construct the transgender subject. I use Pierre Bourdeiu's notion of symbolic capital to understand normativity and how it works. For Bourdeiu, capital has four forms: economic, cultural, social and symbolic (Bourdeiu, 1984). Symbolic capital, like normativity is the embodiment of cultural values, and is used to describe resources available to people on the basis social status or recognition (Calhoun, 2002).
What I find most useful is the observation that critical social theory has come to settle on the salience of the notion of 'difference', but I might also add that the fragmentation of identity has become a hallmark of 'modern' industrialized, nation states. Within the political arena, difference is either 'accentuated, negotiated, bracketed or suppressed." (p. 40). Fairclough argues that through the workings of ideology, "particulars come to be represented as universals" (Ibid) or to rephrase, "particular identities, interests, and representations come under certain conditions to be claimed as universal." (Ibid). This dovetails elegantly with the ways in which I argue that "Transgender" functions in many ways as a "pseudo generic" - at once it stands for a 'generic' range of non-gender normative identities or practices, yet functions on another level to articulate a specific set of racial and class interests, and perhaps a fairly narrow gender variant orthodoxy. In a similar vein, Valentine (2004) cautions against taking Transgender as a self-evident category, and demonstrates that not everyone uses transgender in the same way, The category of transgender, "like any other category, simultaneously carry, enable and restrict meaningâ€¦ we need to be careful about what we mean by it, â€¦what meanings it can bring with it and what the consequences of these might be." Rather than accept the term, as a transparent carrier of meaning, Valentine interrogates its history and its use, or maybe more correctly, its non-use within some gender variant populations. He wants to know "how and to what effect is the concept deployed and what does it do?" (2004 p. 30).
This work is part of a larger project that deploys a mixed method of analysis that draws on extensive fieldwork in an urban setting as well as national transgender gatherings and conventions, participant observations and in situ interviews combined with a discursive analysis of websites from transgender organizations. The ethnographic component (while not the focus of this analysis is nevertheless crucial for several reasons. First and foremost, the ethnographic observations are a tool that are meant to highlight, or make visible the "assumptions and pre-suppositions" Fairclough, (2004:40) implicit in the discourse of the websites. Second, the ethnographic component illuminates structuration within transgender communities, specifically those sites that are able to be defined as spaces of an official "the transgender movement" were predominantly white and middle class. In contrast, most of the community sites in a large metropolitan area were predominantly African American and working class to poor. This bifurcation between the mostly white middle class movement, and the more localized urban queer of color communities, is an important structural hurdle that frames the way trans activism is performed, and how activists view their constituency, and what trans activism does. It is easy to see these two cultures simplistically as a division between the "haves" and "have- nots", but such an understanding based and focused on economic capital is flawed. While mainstream activists struggled for inclusion in community centers, bars and legislation, African American and Latino/a sex and gender dissidents carved out their own social spaces, organized in houses, wherein butches, or masculine females, femme queens (feminine males) and butch queens hung out, often shared living spaces and wandered the city together. While white GLBT people were more segregated along identity lines, African American and Latino/as knew each other more intimately across the range of identity formations.
When white trans people transitioned they often sought interaction with psychologists or psychiatrists that recommended them for hormonal therapy and eventually surgeons in order to access body modifications. When African American and Latino/as accessed body modification, they procured hormones through extra-legal means, and found neighborhood practitioners who injected them with silicone, non licensed non-professionals that set up neighborhood extralegal cottage industries. They did not access these transition technologies from medicine or institutions culturally charged with regulating gender or the body. Often the only "professional" the two groups would have in common would be the electrolysist for hair removal. These were strong patterns that ground the queer of color analysis that I attempt in what follows.
This work is a critical discourse analysis (following Mills, 2004) that is a politically inflected form of analysis that attempts to understand both the construction of the transgender subject within wider social structures, in particular racial and class formations. In what follows, I examine the 4 websites with regard to Fairclough's notions of assumptions and presuppositions
In this section I briefly describe the Websites I examine for this paper.
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE)
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) calls itself a national social justice organization located in Washington, DC, "devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people through education and advocacy on national issues of importance to transgender people" (http://transequality.org/) Its stated goal is "empowering transgender people and our allies to educate and influence policymakers .. facilitates a strong and clear voice for transgender equality in our nation's capital and around the country" http://transequality.org/.
The National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC)
The National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) was formed from members of GenderPAC when GPAC dropped opposition to the "GLBT" lobbying group, the Human Rights Campaign, when it was learned that HRC was lobbying against the inclusion of transgender specific language in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) a bill that was offer protection from discrimination in employment for LGBT people. It is a small group without an office, and much in the way of a discernable infrastructure. Their stated goal is to "provide a voice for transgendered individuals." (http://www.ntac.org). "We focus on a time when no transgendered individual will have to hide in shame. When marriage, family, career, housing is not longer a privilege but a basic inalienable right." (http://www.ntac.org)
The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP)
The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) is a New York-based legal advocacy organization named for a transwoman of color, who was at the stonewall riots, which are celebrated as the birth of the gay movement. The organization "works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence" (http://srlp.org) .SRLP is founded on the "understanding that gender self-determination is inextricably intertwined with racial, social and economic justice. Therefore, we seek to increase the political voice and visibility of low-income people and people of color who are transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming. SRLP works to improve access to respectful and affirming social, health, and legal services for our communities. We believe that in order to create meaningful political participation and leadership, we must have access to basic means of survival and safety from violence" (http://srlp.org).
The Audre Lorde Project (ALP)
The Audre Lorde Project (ALP) is named for the African American poet and activist of the same name. Unlike the other sites that engage with lobbying and legal recourse, the Audre Lorde Project is a "Queer of Color" community organization based in New York City: a "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non Conforming People of Color center for community organizing," whose various projects include": " â€¦. mobilization, education and capacity-building, we work for community wellness and progressive social and economic justice. Committed to struggling across differences, we seek to responsibly reflect, represent and serve our various communities" (http://alp.org) .
I use the term "fellow traveler" to point to the ways in which NTAC and NCTE focus on transgender travel when discussing the implications of the Real ID Act. It is also used to refer to the realm of the political, harkening back to the early days of the communist movement; it described people sympathetic to the goals of Marxism who never became official members. This articulates for me the current ambivalence surrounding identity movements, specifically having an affinity for a movement, while being troubled by the exclusions and limitations of adopting an identity. The early homophile movement in the United States was influenced by and organized like the communist movement, and "fellow traveler" also became a queer codeword. In another ironic twist, fellow traveler" is also the name of a website for gay travel.
Nearly two years after (9/11, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released its official advisory to security personnel. Reciting often repeated warnings about potential terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda, the advisory warns that terrorism lurks everywhere: "Previous attacks underscore Al-Qaeda's ability to employ suicide bombers - a tactic which can be used against soft targets and VIP's. Terrorists will employ novel methods to artfully conceal suicide devices. Male bombers may dress as females in order to discourage scrutiny" (DHS Advisory, 2003 emphasis mine). This statement, on its face, strikes me as absolutely ludicrous. Having attended various gatherings across the United States, wherein males dressed as females, I can never recall when such sartorial displays discouraged scrutiny, in fact, it usually resulted in quite the opposite. Nevertheless, with the warning issued to security personnel of the gendered ruse that terrorists might perpetrate, the Advisory inextricably links threat of deceptive terrorism with perceived gender transgression, marking particular bodies as deceptive and Threatenign. Two years later, the Real ID Act was signed into law.
In response to both the Advisory and the Real ID Act, the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition quickly pointed to the ways trans populations would be targeted as suspicious and subjected to new levels of scrutiny. Their primary strategy has been to advise trans people to openly present themselves as transgendered to security personnel who screen them at places like airports and border checkpoints. In response to the DHS Advisory, The National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) released its own security alert to transgender communities, warning that given the recent Advisory, security personnel may be "more likely to commit unwitting abuses" (National Transgender Advocacy Coalition, 2003). NTAC suggests that trans travelers bring their court-ordered name and gender change paperwork with them, noting that "while terrorists may make fake identifications, they won't carry name change documents signed and notarized by a court."
This response both assumes and constructs an idealized transgender subject that has transitioned, and transitioned through proper medical institutions. Trans people of color in urban settings who do not access body modification through medical or psychological authorities cannot obtain legal documents and lay outside the frame of NTAC's response. Ferguson argues that we must "challenge the idea that (non-normative) social formations represent the pathologies of modern society" and instead situate them as produced as the constitutive Other to normative formations (Ferguson, 2004, p. 11). The idealized transgendered subjects, fully transitioned with proper paperwork delegitimize other gender variant people who are unwilling or unable to access transition through medicine and psychiatry, and therefore cannot obtain the official paperwork through the courts..
Not all bodies "flexible" toeasily conform to the normative. Dominant notions of what constitutes proper gender presentaton are inextricably linked with normative ideals of whiteness, class privilege and compulsory heterosexuality, and individuals might be read as non-conforming depending on particular racial, cultural, economic or religious expressions of gender, without ever being classified as trans. For example, Siobhan Somerville historicizes the ways that black people have been medically and culturally understood to have racialized physical characteristics that directly connect to their perceived abnormality in terms of gender and sexuality. She, The construction of a racialized subject is constituted through gendered and sexual difference. Fo r example racist depictions of African American men rely on depictions of gender nonconformity ie hypermasculinity and sexual deviance, such as uncontrollable sexual excess. Joy James draws on this history to make a corollary with contemporary racialized state violence, arguing that state practices of surveillance understand sexual and social variation as racial difference, "some bodies appear more docile than others because of their conformity in appearance to idealized models of class, color, and sex; their bodies are allowed greater leeway to be self-policed or policed without physical force" (James, 1996: 26). These examples demonstrate that perceived gender normativity is inseparable from norms of race, class, sexuality and nationality. Therefore, people do not need to adopt a transgender label in order to be classified as gender-nonconforming. Bodies may be perceived as abnormal or deviant because their gender performances are understood through discourses of racism, classism, heterosexism, or Islamophobia.
By ignoring these other intersecting identity markers, NTAC can advises trans subjects to be visible to security personnel in order to ensure safe passage through security check points. In point of fact, they urge transgendered people to openly disclose their trans status to security screeners and to comply with any requested searches or other surveillance practices. Referring to potential violations against trans travelers as "unwitting abuse" suggests that these measures are a reasonable trade off to protect the public from the threat of terrorism, but neglects the everyday ways that a variety of identities are produced and read as "non normative" and policed at these sites as immigrants, ethnic or racialized others who are harassed and detained in the name of safety. It legitimates the policing of non-normative bodies. By eliding a larger critique of state surveillance or policing, NTAC reifies a legitimate transgender citizen at the expense of others gender variant formations. It ultimately supports the State and its violence against people of color, especially Arabs, South Asians and Muslims, etc. It also relies upon legality which is, of course, racialized as Puar , Reddy and Somerville argue, legality is an already racialized discourse. The use of legality as the marker to differentiate trans people from terrorists supports the state categories of citizen vs. non-citizen. The citizen is grudgingly "given" rights by the state, the non-citizen denied them.
NTAC's advice for transgendered people to come out rests on the assumption that withholding one's trans status is possible. Within this discourse, to reveal or conceal transgender status is entirely a matter of individual choice, and the cost and risks of visibility are never assessed in a way which takes account of differential social stratifications such as race, class, age, disability or religious affiliation. It is essential to ask for whom is it a matter of choice to reveal or withhold their transgender status? Certainly not the butch, whose bound breasts with be revealed in the full body scan, or the transman who either cannot afford or does not desire matoidioplasty or phalloplasty, or the femme queen that has breasts, but does not want vanginoplasy. It is also informative to ask, at this point if an a transgendered traveler who is a practicing Muslim of Iranian decent would attract more or less scrutiny with the NTAC recommended paperwork documenting their transgender status?
It also seems an implicit assumption underlying the advice to "reveal" oneself would receive a positive, or at least a non-violent, response-as if this kind of vulnerability is sure to be respected by otherwise unwitting abuses of power. Yet confidence in law enforcement, airport security, and the like points toward a confidence in one's other always already protected (normative) identities, for example, a reassurance that one retains the markers of symbolic capital, like whiteness, American citizenship, male privilege, class status, and so on. This allows a transgender subject within this configuration to feel entitled to State protection and immunity from State violence.
Jasbir Puar and Amit Rai cogently articulate how legitimacy is produced by othering in "Monster, Terrorist, Fag," arguing that the demand for patriotism in response to terrorist attacks produces "docile patriots," who normalize themselves precisely through distinguishing themselves from other marginalized groups. So the quest for symbolic capital is made through the deployment of symbolic violence, wherein one proves worth or value at the expense of another's value.
NCTE makes the claim that one should be able to wear whatever one wants:
"Transgender people have as much right to travel as anyone else and we have a right to express any gender we want, any way we want while traveling (with the exception of some head and face coverings). However, recent heightened airport security has meant increased scrutiny, harassment, and discrimination against trans people who fly. NCTE hopes this document will help make your air travel experience smoother" (emphasis mine) http://transequality.org/Issues/travel.html. Thus, while NCTE makes the case that airport security unfairly targets trans people, who should be able to wear anything they want, excepting some head and face coverings, is an indirect reference to Islamic practices around hijab observances (which vary by culture and region, and are not monolithic across Islam). This statement, while it places transgender interests more widely in within US rights discourse, ie, the right to travel, or the ability to make sartorial choices, it leaves intact the prohibitions against traditional Muslim sartorial enactment, and reifies the state prohibitions. But more importantly, the statement serves to exclude Muslims from the category of "Transgender" and makes it impossible to "think" that transgender and "Muslim" might exist in the same body. What might an Islamic transgender person (within the male-to-femalespectrum) wear if not the traditional head and face coverings from their region?
In many ways, Muslims and Gender non conformists share similar fates. Unable to fit within a binary gender system, somewhere between or outside of the linguistic categories of 'he'or 'she', trans bodies are often reduced to a dehumanizing 'it'. Likewise, orientalist understandings of Muslims place locate them outside of western rationalism, outside of a moral order, prone to terrorism, and therefore, non-human, in the category of "animal". Both are seen as threats to national security, the moral or natural order and so forth. In what follows, I want to more closely examine the websites of those organizations that explicitly speak to the concerns of gender non-conformity among people of color from poor and working class backgrounds.
The Re-Order of Things
The primary strategies and responses offered by transgender advocacy organizations NTAC and NCTE tend to leave increased state intrusions intact and exclude protection for all but the most narrow of trans populations. In the previous section, "Fellow Travelers," a play off of early gay and communist political organizing within the United States in the 1950's, layed out what identities were interpolated within transgender, and who was allowed to travel with the movement, i.e., who benefited from the gains of activism and who was excluded. Furthermore, it is important to note that whenever the Real ID Act is invoked within these sites, it was nearly always in relation to travel. NCTE, for example mentioned travel 93 times. A focus on citizenship and travel necessarily links these organizations to middle-upper classes that can travel, whether for work or pleasure.
In fact, when I first looked at these sites like the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SLRP) and the Audre Lourde Project, (ALP) it was difficult to find any reference to the Real ID Act. Using Google advanced search, outlined by Kimberly Lawless and P. G. Schrader (2008) I was able to find references to the Real ID. The two websites, both located in New York place the implications of the Real ID Act within a much broader context, and de-emphasized the relationship of the new regulations to travel; rather "travel" was displaced by a broader discussion of the impact of the Real ID Act on a range of issues..
Sandwiched between sections entitled "Trans Marriage Recognition" and "Asylum for Trans People", on a web page entitled: "Your Immigration Rights" is a segment called the "Real ID ACT" http://srlp.org/resources/pubs/immigration). It is noteworthy to mention that the "Trans Marriage Recognition" section is framed by a desire to have legal recognition for marriages for involving transgender asylum seekers. What is at stake in such determinations is much higher in this context than the context provided by NTAC's and NCTE's discussions of travel. In the quest for presenting the transgender subject as a "good citizen" these organizations elide discussions of asylum and immigration in connection to the Real ID ACT. This results in a failure to articulate the human suffering involved in state policies like Real ID. Without a discussion of the context under which transgender migration occurs, readers are left to assume this is travel for leisure. It is disappointing to lose a vacation, heartbreaking to be unable to live with a long term partner (in the case of immigration), or deadly if one is denied citizenship and sent back to a homeland where they will be injured or killed because of their gender presentation (in the case of asylum). Likewise the Audre Lorde Project works to articulate the human cost of both national borders as well as gender boundaries through various programming: "On Tuesday, June 3rd, there will be a special panel discussion following the 8:10 PM screening of the documentaryâ€¦on "Immigration & Asylum." Drawing from panelists of a wide range of experiences who work with immigration and asylum, this discussion will seek to explore questions regarding immigration in the film, the fears of the Real ID Act and increasing state surveillance post 9/11, the emotional impact of immigration and asylum" â€¦ (http://alp.org/node/214).
The implications of identification standards are wide ranging and often in everyday ways that are more fundamental than travel, and the queer of color websites better articulate a wider range of social problems a lack of access to a recognized identification card presents. As the Sylvia Rivera Law Project points out, without access to recognized identification, trans subjects could be denied access to social services: "â€¦ if an ID does not meet the [federal] standards, the holder of that ID may be turned away from federal benefit providers like Medicaid and Medicare, barred from getting on airplanes, and barred from entrance into federal buildings" http://srlp.org/resources/pubs/immigration).
Neither website discusses the impact of the Real ID Act without discussing the problems it presents to immigration and asylum seekers. For example, the Audre Lorde Project mentions the Real ID Act in a general statement about Real ID Act the organization makes a position statement: "We oppose the guest worker program, the Real ID Act, enforcement provisions to build more walls and give greater powers to the Department of Homeland Security, increased barriers for asylum seekers, the HIV ban and other anti-immigrant policies that continue to divide our communities" (ALP) http://alp.org/node/173. It is clear to see that Real ID is not separable from immigration policies and the needs of asylum seekers.
Likewise, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project more explicitly draws the connections between the The Real ID act and immigration, placing it within an anti-immigrant discourse, as part of: "The ongoing attack on immigrant rights â€¦ and it also further clarifies the dire need for our anti-oppression work" (http://srlp.org/files/October%202006%20newsletter.pdf). SLRP views Real ID as part of a larger historical project within the United States to maintain normative privileged status hierarchies: "The political agenda behind recent anti-immigrant bills, specifically H.R. 4437 and the REAL ID Act, is parallel to all historical agendas that sought to oppress people who are not the "ideal majority": white, male, straight, non-trans, and wealthy" (Ibid). In stark contrast the NTAC and NTCE that expend much of their ideological labor and invest much of their political capital constructing themselves as the legitimate transgender subject in opposition to the threatening foreigner/terrorist, SLRP unflinchingly asserts: As an organization that serves transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex people who are low income and/or of color, SRLP stands in solidarity against the anti-immigrant agenda that helps fuel the "War on Terror" (Ibid). http://srlp.org/files/October%202006%20newsletter.pdf
The representations of gender variant people of color that circulated before 9/11 already mapped well onto the figure of the terrorist. The most widely-circulating images of gender variant people of color were on daytime talk shows like the Jerry Springer Show. Springer's producers, as Gamson (1995) discovers, had adopted a dominant narrative for every show, a story of the "wild and wacky relationship" - a concept stolen from Riki Lake, in an effort to "young up" their audience, and increase ratings. Trans people of color appeared with the most regularity in the talk show format, but also on this particular version. The show's master narrative demanded an unconventional relationship, and routinely featured trans people as sex & gender grifters, concealing their "true gender" (i.e. their "sex") to gain the trust of a normative gendered person. The trans/gender grifters reveal their transgender status - or more correctly, their sex assignment at birth, to a jeering audience and a traumatized partner. The widespread circulation of this narrative locates fraud, deception and victimization not in the institutional practices of television, medicine or law, or in the gender-normative behaviors and relationships they enforce, but instead in individual trans people's apparently fraudulent personal lives. The trans-as- gender grifter robs his or her lover of symbolic capital, by taking from the lover, or calling into question their heterosexual status. This narrative plays out in the legal arena in cases dealing with murder against gender variant individuals often revolve around the victim's responsibility to disclose their trans status or birth-assigned sex. Such cases imply or outright claim that the individual's dishonest concealment of their "true" sex was the root cause of the violent actions taken against them. This approach is clearly demonstrated in the narratives constructed around transgender teenager Gwen Araujo's murder (and sexual relationships) in 2002. (Westbrook) Legal arguments, news articles and made-for-television movies converged to situate Araujo's murder in the context of a "trans panic" defense, centralizing the shock of discovery and frequently faulting Araujo for not revealing her assigned sex.
Post 9/11 representations of gender-nonconformity among people of color that circulate most widely in the US include Ru Paul's Drag Races (LOGO) as well as Appearances from Willy Ninja (from the House of Ninja) on America's Top Model. Many would argue that this represents a radical break in representation for gender non-conforming people of color. Ru Paul and Ninja, after all, are Jerry Springer's children, those cross-dressing street kids who made good. Rather than practicing "craft" on the unsuspecting citizenry of New York, the both seem to have found legitimate employment in the fashion industry and as the ultimate of achievement, celebrities. A more critical look would examine these images as part of the same visual political economy of neoliberal capitalism. Neoliberal capitalism no longer simplistically stigmatizes gender-nonconformity, and in fact, celibrates it and relies on it. One could argue that gender ambiguity of the metrosexual serves the neoliberal interests buy finding new a new market for grooming and cosmetics. In the context of reality television, the talents for fraud and illusion-the naturalized traits of trans people of color, are repurposed to serve neoliberal capitalism. If RuPaul and her minions can use their skills of illusion to fashion an outfit that makes viewers' waists appear slimmer than they actually are, so much the better. The narrative of success naturalizes competition, and elides any social structural constraints locates failure in individuals who did not work hard enough or believe enough.
While RuPaul is the embodiement of the hypervisible, The Audre Lorde Project and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project do not advise gender variant people to come out, to reveal themselves. If we regard racial and ethnic identity as a mostly visible trait, the concept of "coming out" is required when one's identity is hidden or invisible. Perhaps, the ambivalence that queer people of color have to "coming out" as a political strategy is foregrounded by the experience of already being visible. Since some racial and ethnic markers are visible, bodies so marked have always been visibleyet this has not haulted racism. SLRP notes these troubling times lead "to the polarization of communities that could otherwise work in coalition," as individuals attempt to divert surveillance onto other marginalized groups. The Law Project suggests that assimilation - "going stealth," or claiming status as a good transgender citizen - has become a primary tactic for escaping state surveillance, targeting or persecution
The Queer of Color websites re-order conceptual models, and decenter normative ideals that both NCTE and NTAC accept as self-evident. The least of which is the category of "transgender" itself, as with the case of the Audre Lorde Project, that lists an alphabet soup of indentifications "LGBTSTCNC" rather than transgender, not to exclude transgender, after all, it is one of the 'T's, but to work against its ossification. Both websites work to decenter the citizen, as the subject deserving of rights, by bringing into view the non-citizen in extended discussions of immigration and asylum seekers.
In their focus on the local, both websites decenter the national, and are therefore more analytically capable of grasping the global. As Leti Volpp has noted in "The Terrorist and the Citizen," that national identity has undergone a radical reformation: "post-September 11, a national identity has consolidated that is both strongly patriotic and multiracial" (Volpp, 2002: 1584). Noting that the Bush administration appears "multi-racial" and "inclusive" it systematically excludes those racially marked as potential terrorists, Volpp argues that "American" identity and citizenship are in fact constructed against the figure of the terrorist. The terrorist is the American citizen's constitutive other, the terrorist makes possible the the constitution of a national identity, providing a contrast that the citizen is formed in opposition to.
NTAC's concern that non-threatening transgender travelers could be mistaken for terrorists, the responses from NCTE refuse to critically engage the discourse of terrorism, which reifies the current state and medical regulation of gender more broadly. The organizations' statement not only avoids a critique of state surveillance measures, but also asks for rights and state recognition on the basis of "legitimacy." For trans populations, such a label is already infused with the regulatory norms maintained by medical science and government policies. Legal legitimacy is typically based on identity documents, most of which require sex reassignment surgery for a change of gender marker. Yet in almost all cases, surgeons request a formal diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder - a diagnosis that itself turns on the language of correction and normalization. Moreover, none of these organizations' responses to new security measures address the fact that pervasive surveillance of gender-nonconforming bodies is inextricably linked to the racialization of those bodies. Within the framework of the statement from NCTE, which bodies can be read as legitimate, and which bodies are always cast as suspicious?
It is, I believe, a worthwhile project to analyze the ways that this new surveillance apparatus affects transgendered people. It is also important to make note of the ways in which the discourse of terror serves to regulate national borders, but to police the boundaries of the normative within the state. As Ferguson cautions, the entrapment of normativity is a "technique of discipline rather than a vehicle toward liberation." These "regulatory regimes" exclude people from legitimacy while "inspiring conformity." (Ferguson, p. 65, 2004). It is tempting to give into the fear and align oneself with the dominant. At the same time, the primary strategies and responses offered by the national transgender advocacy organizations tend to leave increased state intrusions intact and exclude protection for all but the most narrow of trans populations. Thus in the pursuit of the symbolic capital of the normative, transgender activists squander social capital, and alienate other racialized groups affected by state surveillance that they might coalitions with. Perhaps it is time to imagine a politics of coalition.