Normal Life by Dean SpadeEverybody should probably go and get a copy of this book right now. The long title is Normal Life – Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law. Spade criticizes mainstream gay politics and suggests a more radical, less marginalizing politics that centers poor trans people of color. The book is amazing.

Best quotes:

“Lesbian and gay organizations have also generally followed a model of governance and efficacy based on private sector norms rather than social justice values. The most well-funded organizations have pay scales similar to the private sector, with executive directors often making three to four times the salaries of the lowest paid employees. Pay often correlates to educational privilege, which again means that the greatest share of resources goes to white employees from privileged backgrounds while the least goes to employees of color and people without educational privilege.” pg.67

“Trans populations are disproportionately poor because of employment discrimination, family rejection, and difficulty accessing school, medical care, and social services. These factors increase our rate of participation in criminalized work to survive, which, combined with police profiling, produces high levels of criminalization.” pg.89

“Three concerns about law reform projects permeate many sites of resistance. First, these projects change only what the law says about what a system is doing, but not its actual impact. Second, they refine a system in ways that help it continue to target the most vulnerable people, while only partially or temporarily removing a few of the less vulnerable from its path. And finally, law reform projects often provide rationales and justifications for the expansion of harmful systems.” pg.92

“The myth of legal equality in the United States is supported by the narrative that US laws used to exclude people on the basis of race and gender but now they do not. Supposedly, all is now fair and equal. However, our nation itself was built by the establishment of population-level systems of property and labor regulation that created and utilized racial and gender categories from the beginning. The population-level programs that were mobilized from their inception by explicit race and gender exclusions continue to do the work of distributing security and vulnerability along race and gender lines, just under the auspices of race and gender neutral criteria.” pgs.116-117

“[L]egal inclusion and recognition demands often reinforce the logics of harmful systems by justifying them, contributing to their illusions of fairness and equality, and by reinforcing the targeting of certain perceived “drains” or “internal enemies,” carving the group into “the deserving” and “the undeserving” and then addressing only the issues of the favored sector.” pg.124

“For those who have long articulated opposition to state incentivization and reward for heteropatriarchial sexuality and family structures and punishment for others, the idea that lesbian and gay people should seek marriage recognition rather than aim to abolish marriage and achieve more just methods of distribution is…problematic.” pg.126

“[O]ne might observe that the lesbian and gay rights agenda primarily operates to restore privileges of the dominant systems of meaning and control to those gender-conforming, white, wealthy gay and lesbian US citizens who are enraged at how homophobic laws and policies limit access to benefits to which they feel entitled.” pg.60

“We must not only refuse reforms that require dividing and leaving behind more vulnerable trans populations, but also try to assume that the most easily digestible invitations to be included are the very ones that bring us into greater collusion with systemic control and violence.” pgs.161-162

“[T]he legalistic approach of [law reform projects] has been linked to concerns about an unjust distribution of power and leadership, especially when the work is funded and directed largely by white, upper-class professionals who inevitably create an agenda that centralizes the concerns and experiences of people like themselves.” pg.172

“[A] challenging dynamic has emerged: social welfare has increasingly become dependent on private businesses and foundations. Corporate funders have become the sponsors and benefactors of social services… The situation translates into overreliance by many organizations on income from corporations and accumulated wealth stored in foundations.” pg.173

“Nonprofits serving primarily poor and disproportionately people of color populations are frequently governed almost entirely by wealthy white people with college and graduate degrees. Staffing follows this pattern as well, with most nonprofits requiring formal education as a prerequisite to working in administrative or management-level positions. Thus, the nature of the infrastructure in many social justice nonprofits often leads to concentrated decision-making power and pay in the hands of people with education, race, gender and class privilege rather than in the hands of those bearing the brunt of the systems of maldistribution… “This dynamic leads to the reproduction of the very same systems of maldistribution that organizations are purportedly targeting. Inside those organizations, white elites determine the fates of the vulnerable and get paid to make decisions about their lives while people directly impacted are kept out of leadership.” pgs.176-177

“Nonprofits are one way that wealthy people and corporations avoid tax liability. Most of the money that gets redirected out of the tax system by philanthropy does not go to social justice.” pg.179