Sex Is as Sex Does: Governing Transgender Identity


Product Details

New York University Press
Publish Date
6.06 X 9.13 X 1.02 inches | 1.15 pounds

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About the Author

Paisley Currah is Professor of Political Science and Women's & Gender Studies at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. An award-winning author, he is the founding co-editor of the journal Transgender Studies Quarterly and the co-editor of Transgender Rights and Corpus: An Interdisciplinary Reader on Bodies and Knowledge.


"Paisley Currah has written a clear-eyed and provocative book that places Trans Studies and histories of state power in a remarkably revealing dialogue. Sex Is as Sex Does has reshaped my understanding of governmentality, gender identity, and the complex relationship between the modern self and state institutions. It is a remarkable and unfailingly thoughtful book and a true pleasure to read."--Robert O. Self, author of All in the Family: The Realignment of American Democracy Since the 1960s
"Paisley Currah's Sex is as Sex Does is a fascinating investigation into the work that sex classifications do in structuring politics and policy. The book brilliantly moves away from a simple identification of transphobia as a cause of discriminatory policies. Instead, Currah asks a more nuanced and ultimately more informative set of questions about what we can learn from looking at how, when, and why state institutions collaborate in or thwart sex reclassification. From his answers to these questions, we understand much more about what sex does for state projects, and ultimately why gender pluralism can help to liberate our political imaginations - and our lives."--Julie Novkov, co-author of American by Birth: Wong Kim Ark and the Battle for Citizenship
"In this astute, powerful, and long-awaited work, Paisley Currah shows how sex-classification functions as a malleable instrument of governmentality, achieving different ends in different contexts. In doing so, he highlights the debt contemporary transgender activism owes to feminist efforts to overturn sex-classification as a means to deny rights to women. This is an important book for anyone who cares about gender, justice and social transformation."--Susan Stryker, author of Transgender History
"With scintillating intelligence and expertise, Paisley Currah makes the case that states' designations of 'sex' on birth certificates, drivers' licenses, Social Security cards and so on, today create and stabilize rather than simply register sex classifications-- and should be gone. His book takes the reader on a heady sojourn into trans issues and political theory, always crediting feminism along the way. Sex Is as Sex Does is wonderfully valuable for novice and scholar alike to think with and learn from."--Nancy F. Cott, Jonathan Trumbull Research Professor of American History, Harvard University
"Hands down, the best book on the history and function of sex classifications--and the injustices that they produce--that has ever been written."--Sonia K. Katyal, co-author of Property Outlaws: How Squatters, Pirates, and Protesters Improve the Law of Ownership
"Finally, a work that up-ends current debates pinning transgender existence on competing definitions of sex and gender! Through trenchant and always engaging analysis of key policy-saturated sites such as marriage, carceral systems, and identity documents, Currah centers not what sex is but instead, what sex does for state and community interests. Zeroing in on the contradictions and inconsistencies of sex classification and reclassification policies, he illuminates sex as a powerful and mobile technology of governance, simultaneously shedding new light on contemporary investments in how transgender is understood."--Finn Enke, author of Finding the Movement: Sexuality, Contested Space, and Feminist Activism
"Beautifully written and argued, Sex Is as Sex Does should be read by anyone who wants to understand why narrow attempts to include marginalized groups in various rights and recognition frameworks will not generate the liberation we so badly want and need. Paisley Currah's work is immensely sophisticated, challenging many widely held assumptions about the relationships between trans people and law, but at the same time argued with such clarity that it is a pleasure to read."--Dean Spade, author of Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During this Crisis (and the Next)
"Currah directs us away from these messy, interdisciplinary arguments (where no one side ever persuades the other) to look at what sex does each time it appears on a document. Reading Currah feels much like having someone come up and move your binoculars ever so gently to the left so that you suddenly see both the forest and the trees. When I see the terrifying arguments used by lawmakers to pass anti-trans legislation, I am convinced that Currah--for whom gender and sex are necessary to consider and understood to be complicated--[is] among our best feminist thinkers."--Helen Boyd "LIBER: A Feminist Review"
"This volume will change the way we think, talk about and work for (trans)gender policy and justice."--Karla Strand "Ms. Magazine"
"This book is essential reading, especially in the current political moment. Paisley astutely breaks down the complexity of sex and governance with immense intellectual and moral clarity. His core premise -- that to understand what sex *is* in terms of governance one must first step back and examine, with particularity, what sex *does* in certain settings -- is not only persuasively argued, but effectively framed as a crucial prerequisite to deep interrogation of how sex is used (and thus, in turn, what an emancipatory politics of sex really means). Profound in content, yet accessible in form, Sex Is as Sex Does is a monumental achievement, a joy to read, and an urgent political intervention. I cannot recommend this book highly enough."--Joshua Sealy-Harrington, Lincoln Alexander School of Law at Toronto Metropolitan University