Building an Abolitionist Trans and Queer Movement

Summary and Question

The authors begin with a recounting of the Stonewall Rebellion, which happened when police raided a nightclub for LBTQ+ citizens and attacked them. In this chapter, the authors are proposing a more radical vision of equality. They want systemic change. What does that mean? It means that instead of approval of same-sex marriages for the purposes of getting health coverage and giving same-sex partners rights in making health decisions, they want universal health care for everyone. Instead of hate crime legislation, they want to address the causes of hatred: poverty, police violence, mass incarceration, and housing shortages. In other words, these authors are seeking change beyond their interests as members of the LGBTQ+ community. A more free society–in immigration, support for families, providing adequate housing and health care, might end all of the -isms–not just sexism and anti-gay attitudes. They posit that we need to eliminate the “oppression wars.” You know what they are: My story of slavery is worse than your story of anti-gay and violent attacks because of how you move in the world. Or, my story of genocide, (thinking about indigenous and First Nations people), is worse than your story of slavery and yours of anti-gay policies. Suffering is suffering. We end it for one group, we can end it for all. Being an abolitionist means ending mass incarceration–ending it, not mending it. It means the end of individualism and the beginning of collective responsibility and caring. Do you think that this is impossible? Why or why not?

4 thoughts on “Building an Abolitionist Trans and Queer Movement

  • March 22, 2020 at 4:57 pm
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    I really enjoyed this chapter. I found its criticism of the corporate-like structure of non-profits and ‘mainstream’ gay movements very refreshing. I am arguably biased as a queer, immigrant woman, the worst experiences of my life have been less about having pride or being out, as they do with the material hardships of financial insecurity, homelessness, and violence; these are issues that disproportionately impact queer youth. So I really connected with the frustration of the authors as feeling like the movement is “sleepy,” with all the concessions it has made to win ‘symbolic’ victories rather than structural ones to help the most vulnerable parts of the community, particularly trans people of color.

    In regard to the question of ‘impossibility,’ I thought the ending section was beautiful. The authors offer the idea of prison abolition as a conceptual space. A space to truly think and reflect about what the values of a society must be to reach it, what would this new world look like? The language of this section is very similar Robin Kelley’s book “Freedom Dreams” and other writers of the Black Radical Tradition. The push for the conceptual space (i.e. prison abolition) is a challenge; a challenge not to limit ourselves to what can be negotiated with the establishment, but to demand what one is owed, to open oneself to the possibility of a free world for everyone, and to begin asking the questions needed to work towards it.

  • March 22, 2020 at 11:59 pm
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    In this chapter, Bassichis, et al includes a chart of the diverse radical lineages that have paved the way for today’s work in trans justice and prison abolition. One point from the chart that stood out was the push for “‘Trickle Up’ change!” The whole idea of “trickle-up” change is spot on. Perhaps the best approach to achieving social justice would be to prioritize those who would be considered the lowest of the low on the social chain. The fight would need to be for the people who are considered ” social problems” with multiple jeopardies, multiple routes of intersectionality. “The changes required to improve the daily material and spiritual lives of low-income queer and transgender people of color would by default include large-scale transformation of our entire economic, education, healthcare, and legal systems.”, insist the authors. It is disgraceful to even think of how exhaustive the list must be in order for millions of individuals to receive justice. This list appears to check off each box of oppression, yet there are a few left off including those pertaining to ableism, religious affiliation, ethnicity, and skin-tone/complexion (just to name a few).

    To answer the last question, I believe that it is definitely possible for individualism to be pushed aside and for collective care and responsibility to rise to the surface. Americans are raised in a culture of individualism, in which everyone is taught to pursue everything they desire in a “dog-eat-dog” fashion. So, the process of reversing the curse of all-time individualism will not be easy at all. Actually, I consider it to be one jeopardy that oppressed and non-oppressed (wealthy, heterosexual, Christian white men) share and would have to overcome as a mindset/ideology. Depending on a person’s willingness and tolerance to learn and grow, the process of reversing (or at least dialing down) the mental focus on individualism may happen immediately or take decades.

  • March 23, 2020 at 4:08 pm
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    I enjoyed this article because it critiques governmental control and dismissal of the LGBT* community. Instead of feeding into what they have been told by the government and certain non-profits, the authors of this article find solutions to the problems faced by the LGBT* community beyond focusing on crime and marriage, by focusing on the cause of the issues, such as poverty, homelessness, etc. I liked how the article discusses government involvement in these issues and how the government tries to undermine radical movements in order to keep their power by doing things like legalizing same-sex marriage as an answer to all of the problems. The authors of this article refuse this from the government noting that changes, such as legalized marriage, are great, but they do not address deeper problems faced by the LGBT* community such as poverty and violence.

    When thinking about the final question you posed, I believe that it is possible to move from individualism to an idea of collective responsibility. Recently, I watched a movie about this prison with different levels and the food had to last each level, with the ones above eating before the ones below. Constantly, the inmates on the lower level did not receive food until, one day, two inmates made sure to ration the food so that all people could have it. This movie symbolizes a move from individualism, eating as much food as possible with no regard for the people below, to collectivism, making sure that all people are able to eat. Similarly, we can move towards an idea of collective responsibility with change. By having people fighting for and instituting this change, it is possible. To do this, we need to have conversations and spaces where we can build this type of abolitionist movement. So, yes it is possible to create an abolitionist movement to move towards collective responsibility and caring, but we need people to back the movement because only people can make these changes.

  • March 23, 2020 at 4:39 pm
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    In this first chapter, Bassichis, Lee, and Spade do a good job explaining how abolition related to LGBTQIA+ current day initiatives. I personally feel that to move forward we need to acknowledge the past . The quote specifically struck me, “It is important to be clear that none of the strategies of the ‘New World Order’ are new. They might work faster, use new technologies, and recruit the help of new groups, but they are not new. Oppressive dynamics in the United States are as old as the colonization of this land and the founding of a country based on slavery and genocide. However, they have taken intensified, tricky forms in the past few decades—particularly because our governments keep telling us those institutions and practices have been ‘abolished'” (26). It is possible to rid mass incaracereation and create a system of caring, but transformative practices need to be made and not just creating new methods from old thinking.

    In a class, I am taking on cutural anthropology, we have been disussing the issue of identity and collective action. Specifically, how it relates to race and gender, there is this commonsense of racism that everyone feel oblivious too and that is likely the same with trans and queer movments. Individuals believe in identity should be addressed by biologically or naturally, but fail to see how it addresses cultural assumptions or social inequity. So, as it stands now can a new world be created, can mass incarceration end, I do not think our society is at this point of acceptance yet.

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